Here’s the Problem with Furnishing Outdoor Rooms



Memorial Day Weekend is upon us! And since it’s the unofficial start of summer. (they say), what better topic than to discuss furnishing outdoor rooms and spaces.

So, what’s the problem?

Well, it used to be that pretty much all you could get was the kind of stuff you see with lots of curly cues and fake looking, plastic-y molded metal. And everything matched.

And that’s kind of what we’re not about.


But now, there’s so much out there for outdoor rooms and spaces, it’s a little overwhelming!


Plus, the kinds of outdoor spaces vary too. Mostly, this is about patios and garden areas; not porches and sun rooms or rooms that can switch from indoors to outdoors. Otherwise, we’d be here until Tuesday.

However, the really great news about outdoor rooms and the furniture that’s available is that so much of it is so good-looking, that it can just as easily go inside. And that’s pretty awesome, because if it can weather the exterior elements, it should fare pretty well at the mercy of your messiest family member.*

*a little foreshadowing of things to come. :]


But these days, some exterior spaces are really more like living rooms, just outside.


Are there any rules we need to know about furnishing outdoor spaces, Laurel?


Well, yes and actually, they’re all quite logical and you really already know them, but we’ll go over them anyway.

The most important thing is that the outside is an extension of the inside. So, if you have an orange and purple color scheme inside, you shouldn’t do a red and green exterior.  Okay? ;]

But what if your furniture is more formal inside, but one wants a more appropriate exterior.

Well, I wouldn’t do weathered teak in that case.

I would pretty much copy Mark D Sikes. We talked about him a lot last year which you can see his incredibly elegant patio and my attempt at recreating it for us mere mortals.

The other thing is… let’s say that you have an art collection that you want to feature inside. In that case, I would keep the exterior more neutral, or pick out the primary color as an accent.

There’s a lot of logic in this business! That’s what my old boss used to say.

mutchnick- Elle decor - photo William Abranowicz-outdoor rooms - design by Mutchnik - luscious outdoor space

Or just create a luscious jungle like this incredible outdoor room in Elle Decor


That looks like the garden of heaven.


And then, it depends on the house. Some homes, especially in the south yield far better to blending the interiors with the exteriors because people probably spend more time outside.

Here are two beautiful examples of this.


Cameron Schwabenton - designer -Trevor Tondro photo outdoor rooms Charleston

Gorgeous patio design by Cameron Schabenton in House Beautiful

This house and the one below are both in Charleston, SC


Jill Sharp Weeks

What a fabulous outdoor space for entertaining! I wonder what happens in that little house in the center. Maybe it’s a cabana, because the pool is probably close by.

In both of the links, you can see the rest of the house the designers created.


An attractive mix of materials makes for an inviting little eating area by Andrew Howard.

Teak is very popular wood for outdoor furniture, but I often like to mix it with an outdoor wicker.

Mark_D_Sikes_Marin_County_outdoor rooms - extension of living room - outdoor rooms

Mark D Sikes’ seamless transition from interior living room to outdoor living room


I came across this garden stool and hunted it down. I think this has to be one of the prettiest blue and white garden stools I’ve ever seen.

It’s too much like my Chinoiserie ginger jars that are now located in my bedroom. If you’d like to see that, please check out my instagram.  (but come right back!) ;]

And if you’re not following me there, please do so. Some of the pics posted on there are not on the blog. I only use insta for inspiration, not “here’s what I had for lunch aren’t you glad you’re wasting your time looking it?”


In the widget below is the little greenhouse above from Terrain. (use code: FURNITURESALE) They have an extraordinary collection of outdoor furnishings and of course, everything to do with gardening and it’s all on sale this weekend.

But, don’t you just love that little greenhouse? The woman says that everyone thinks it’s an antique.

The only question I have is can you use it as a real greenhouse, or is it just a decoration or a place to store your peat moss?


You can find a lot of beautiful exterior and garden accessories here.  (a lot of it is on sale too!)


For more ideas about exterior spaces, please check out this post

And this is a post with some great pergola ideas.


Below is a widget from numerous vendors who are all having sales right now on their outdoor (and other) furnishings.


In fact the entire world is on sale this weekend…

***so, don’t forget to check the hot sales pages.***


There are some phenomenal deals, for real like Serena and Lily’s 20% off sitewide sale and Nordie’s half yearly sale with up to 40% off!

Please enjoy the furnishings I found for you. There are some unusual pieces mixed in. A lot of this could be mixed and matched. And most items are very affordable. A few are more expensive, but almost everything is on sale right now.



Please have a wonderful rest of your holiday weekend!





7th edition rolodex-post-graphic - November 2020 - A unique shopping guide with hundreds of sources created by Laurel Bern

  • Mary - May 31, 2018 - 8:02 AM

    i Love Terrain but $900 is more than I was willing to spend on a copper fire pit. I found the same fire pit on Grandinroad for half the price and I love it. Great quality and it kicks out a huge, warm fire. Plus the lid makes it double as a coffee table. Couldn’t be happier with it.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 31, 2018 - 8:50 AM

      Hi Mary,

      I checked out the fire pits and each one says that it’s exclusive to that company and then when I look more closely, I can see that they are very similar, but there are differences in size and some of the details of the tray, handles and size. The Terrain pit is also boasting that theirs is hand-made, but in the scheme of things, I’m not sure if that matters. Great find!ReplyCancel

  • Margaret - May 29, 2018 - 6:38 PM

    Hi Laurel The goddess, please write about how to make teinting ceilings like Mark d Sikes does! I’m not a big fan about covering them with a fabric, but i love the idea, shape, it looks so elegant, imo. Just thinking about what options do we have with 8 feet ceilings. I’ve googled your pinterest board and read you amazing blog about ceiling treatments, but i want more and more!!! Forgive my bad English mistakes, greetings from moscow.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 29, 2018 - 7:25 PM

      Wait. Now, you’re Russian??? hmmm…ReplyCancel

      • Laurel Bern - May 29, 2018 - 7:27 PM

        BTW, how are you able to see my blog if you’re in Russia? My server has blocked Russia because there are too many hackers. It’s a very real problem for everyone.ReplyCancel

  • Margaret - May 29, 2018 - 6:29 PM

    Hi Laurel, please write about how to make teinting ceilings like Mark d Sikes does! I’m not a big fan about covering them with a fabric, but i love the idea, shape, it looks so elegant, imo. Just thinking what options do we have with 8 feet ceiling. I’ve googled your pinterest board and read you amazing blog about ceiling treatment, but i want more and more!!! Forgive my bad English mistakes, hi from japan.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 29, 2018 - 7:24 PM

      Hi Margaret,

      Well, your English is a helluva lot better than my Japanese. haha. Do you mean a “TENTED ceiling?”

      I honestly don’t know how to do that, but I wouldn’t do it on anything less than a 9 foot ceiling. Otherwise, the ceiling will only look lower. The only exception would be a very small room that one wants to look like a jewel box of sorts.ReplyCancel

  • Lorri - May 27, 2018 - 6:08 PM

    You know what I’ll never do again in the great outdoors? I will never have one of those outdoor area rugs.

    I got a gorgeous name-brand rug that sat underneath some outdoor wicker armchairs. The rug ended up disintegrating in a short time and it was a pain to keep the decking clean since leaves and debris collected onto the rug, around the rug, and under the rug.

    Now I just let the outdoors be the outdoors, and don’t attempt to turn it into a copy of an indoor space complete with a rug.ReplyCancel

  • Ava - May 27, 2018 - 12:58 PM

    Hi Laurel,
    I love your blog and have for some number of years. I thought this article might be about the real problem with outdoor furniture and particularly the cushions. You need massive storage spaces to store the cushions away from rain, humidity, pollen, and dirt. And you need the discipline to always store them away from harm, because the neighbor’s cat will always throw up on your cushions if you leave them out.ReplyCancel

    • Mary51 - May 29, 2018 - 2:04 PM

      Totally agree, Ava. I once had outdoor furniture with cushions on our open deck, but never again. Frequent summer rain showers in my northeast locale meant either plastic covers (pain in the …) or removing the cushions between use (also a pain). Sling mesh is now my go-to: comfortable and dries in an instant so always available for a spontaneous sit down. Just wish they used it in nicer looking furniture.ReplyCancel

    • Betsy Ristroph - May 28, 2018 - 11:59 AM

      I totally agree! I learned long ago to only buy outdoor furniture that can be comfortably sat in WITHOUT the cushions.
      That way it is always available for a quick moment of relaxation. A quick swipe with an old towel will remove most of the pollen, debris and moisture. I keep one cushion for my favorite chair handy for use on chilly mornings.
      The pictures shown are gorgeous but not at all practical except for the Luytens bench and the metal chairs.
      Sorry Laurel.ReplyCancel

      • Laurel Bern - May 28, 2018 - 12:59 PM

        Hi Betsy,

        Why are you apologizing? This is your experience, and you are welcome to share that, but I rarely adhere to blanket statements, because it’s too black and white for me and I don’t see the world that way.

        A lot depends on location. If one lives in a place that doesn’t receive a lot of rain, and there are mostly succulents and palm trees, it is a completely different situation. Or maybe an outdoor area has a roof, but is open on the sides. Or it’s on a porch or a screened in patio or porch. Or a Lanai. In those cases, I don’t see a major problem having cushions unless there’s a hurricane, tornado, sandstorm, or some other violent act of nature.

        Or maybe someone is well-off and has someone maintaining their exterior space. But of course, like we clean the inside of our homes, we can’t expect to do nothing outside and have it remain clean.

        And in a heavily wooded area with deciduous trees, especially in late April-May, there’s going to be a lot of stuff falling from the trees. And then, it starts again in Sept-Oct. But in those areas, between June-Sept, unless it rains, things should remain fairly clean for a few days.

        The other thing is that everyone’s threshold for practicality varies. I had an all-white living room for 17 years with two grimy-messy hyperactive little boys and it all stayed quite nice looking for quite a while. Someone else would’ve had a nervous break-down. But I respect their right to freak out. :]ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 27, 2018 - 5:08 PM

      haha! I did forget to mention that many of the sources sell covers, but……… of course, ya have to remember to put them on and who does that unless maybe you know that you’re going away for a while, or a really big storm is coming up? Okay, there may be a few out there, who do put them on regularly, but I doubt most of us can be bothered. Well, for sure, I know that I can’t.

      Gearing up for Tuesday’s post. Yes, dropping little hints. It’s going to be a revelation.ReplyCancel

  • Cindy - May 27, 2018 - 12:31 PM

    Inspiring, as always. *swoon*

    But really, I thought the problem you were going to address was outdoor furniture coated with so much pollen I can’t make out the original color scheme, and certainly don’t want to sit on it. *sob*

    Why must reality intrude on my fantasies?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 27, 2018 - 5:02 PM

      I hear ya on the pollen and all the other bright green crap that falls from the trees and stains everything. That’s why I don’t get, getting an expensive umbrella, if one has a lot of big leafy trees around.ReplyCancel

  • Cathlin - May 27, 2018 - 12:28 PM

    It’s the monogrammed tote bag. Until I have the ubiquitous monogrammed tote bag I’m underqualified and outnumbered 😄 I’m sure Misters Google, Pinterest and YouTube agreeReplyCancel

  • Cathlin - May 27, 2018 - 9:46 AM

    Donna, for what it’s worth, I’m such a visual person that if a space stumps me I google images of that type of space* (“patio stucco wall”) and look and look for what I like. Then I figure out what I like about it 😄 you could probably just ask your friends and neighbors about their spaces and get free supper invites for the summer just to admire what they did 😉
    *it’s how I found Laurel’s blog after all ❤️ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 27, 2018 - 10:05 AM

      That’s great advice Cathlin! And ya know, every blog post creates an intimate bond between Mr Google and me. And often Mr. Pinterest too. Both are great sources for finding out whatever you want to know. And if it’s a tech question, there’s Mr. Youtube. He has all of the answers and a lot of interesting characters too!

      Why are they all “Mr?” dunno; they just are.ReplyCancel

  • Cathlin - May 27, 2018 - 9:41 AM

    Wait so the problem is that there isn’t a problem? 😄🙌🏻 Because so much pretty all in one place! I think next year might be the year I get to spring for the outdoor furniture – I get to be a grown up like that now, right? 😉ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 27, 2018 - 10:02 AM

      Yes, after having three children, you get to be a grown-up. Although, I remember the first time I felt like a grown-up was when I attended a school board meeting. And I was well into my forties.ReplyCancel

  • Susan Davis - May 27, 2018 - 9:40 AM

    Summer Classics is a good source for really nice outdoor living (rooms!) We recently bought a couch on clearance that is probably nicer than any of our indoor seating haha The cushions are amazing! My understanding is SC makes a lot of furniture sold by high end retailers. (They also sell indoor furniture!)

  • Donna - May 27, 2018 - 8:06 AM

    How about patio wall art? We live in Florida and have a covered lanai with stucco walls painted cream. Would love some iron type wall hanging, but not something that would look tacky. Need helpReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 27, 2018 - 8:53 AM

      Hi Donna,
      Good luck with that. I’m no longer consulting, but there’s probably someone in your area who can help you.ReplyCancel