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How Interior Designers Can Put Their Talents to Use Outdoors

Outdoors is becoming an extension of the inside of a home, so here are some tips to help designers capitalize on this often untapped space.

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Henck Design
Henck Design's outdoor space on Ave of the Arts in Philadlphia.

Are you connecting your design clients with the top quality in outdoor living?     

It’s easy to focus inside of our client’s homes, and it’s relatively frequent that designers forget to upsell clients on outfitting their outdoor spaces. Specifying outdoor furniture for a design project is a great opportunity to add at least 10-20% to a proposed scope of work. Many times designers and clients are so focused on what’s happening indoors, their open-air spaces become an afterthought.

There are a few important considerations to make when selecting patio furniture and decor, deciding on what outdoor kitchen, and dining layouts are the best fit. For some immediate gratification, take a look at this Pinterest board for the best outdoor living inspiration, no matter what your locale.

Whether a homeowner has an urban or suburban lifestyle certainly makes an impact on their outdoor spaces. Clients with homes in sprawling suburbs tend to entertain more often than those in remote areas, and typically have a wide variety of opportunities to lounge with friends and family. Most times, suburban clients are the best candidates for introducing the idea of an outdoor kitchen, although rooftop kitchens are a possibility for urban living. 

Outdoor kitchens are more than a built-in grill and outdoor sink. For a designer, they’re an opportunity to increase a job’s profitability, and they represent an upgraded lifestyle for the client. One of my favorite product lines in the outdoor kitchen space is Coyote Outdoor’s ready-to-assemble Bar Island and Grill Island series. They come with a few different stack stone looks in a range of sizes. 

Odds are, that if the client has a great garden, he or she is looking for an excuse to create a space to sit back in a lounge chair or hang out on a porch swing. This is a way to add value for a homeowner whether they’ve got a new home or are upgrading and existing space. 

Lounge furniture is the most versatile for outdoor seating arrangements on the market. Soft cushions make for lasting comfort outside. Frames are often made of metal with a vinyl wicker look, or built from solid teak. Because lounge furniture can be fashioned into a living room layout, an outdoor coffee table can be replaced with a fire pit, ottoman, or even set of 2 low side tables. Don’t forget, outdoor rugs have come a very long way in recent years. Designers now have more resources than ever and consumers enjoy the look of outdoor rugs coupled with their (super) low maintenance qualities.

However the outdoor area takes shape, it is critical to gather information about clients’ needs during design meetings. This will inform decisions for whether lounge furniture is right or if it’s a better to have family gatherings to dine al fresco. Whether your design client is more likely to eat or play outside will decide what sort of layout is needed for their lifestyle. 

Don’t forget to incorporate outdoor lighting whenever possible. In addition to the classic strung bistro-style lighting, there are options to hardwire light fixtures when an architectural feature like a pergola or covered area is possible. When outdoor lighting is integrated, outdoor spaces visually tie with the adjacent interior and each becomes an extension of the other.  

The U.S. has a wide variety of town, country, and everything in between. Our country is such a large place and climate plays a huge factor in how homeowners use their outdoor patios and decks. For those on the East Coast and in Midwestern areas, people want outdoor living to be a continued option in late fall and early spring. In cooler climates designers must incorporate patio heaters, fire pits, and other ways to keep cozy. Residents in other warmer regions have to focus on having plenty of shade, a nearby refrigerator, and those on the West Coast, well, the rest of us are just plain jealous.

Designing for you,

Christina Henck, Henck Design – Philadelphia, PA

Christina Henck on beige chair

Christina Henck is an interior designer and founder of Henck Design. Based in Philadelphia, Henck is known for her "Classic Modern" aesthetic, which honors architectural styles and time periods while mixing old motifs with modern touches. 

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