In this post: If you enjoy treating your exterior spaces like outdoor rooms, you will be inspired by the evolution of our patio decor and where it’s headed next.⇒
Has this ever happened to you?
You move into a new space. You pick a room and decorate it from top to bottom in one go. Upon completion, you step back and look at it and think, ‘yep, that’s perfect’. Then you live with it exactly as is for years and years.
Yeah, me neither.
Now, for those of you who said yes, that has happened to you, this post may seem curious. But for everyone else, it will be quite familiar.
This week is 8 years since we moved into our townhouse. It’ll be the 9th summer here and I’ve changed my patio at least that many times. Well, sort of.
In reality, the planning I did that first year was exactly what I needed it to be. I got the bones right. I laid the foundation for a comfortable outdoor space that would make the best use of our limited area and function in the various ways we wanted it to. I also left room for versatility, so that I could easily update the decor each season, winding up with outdoor rooms that looked different each time I was itching for a change.
In the photos above and below, you can see the empty patio we started with, as well as the very first pieces we bought. Hardly a decorated patio, that first summer, we were happy to have a place to sit and to have a chance to get to know our space.
Given that we live in a townhouse, this is our main outdoor space and hence it needs to serve several purposes, from eating to sunning to entertaining. What follows is how it has evolved over the past several years leading up to my current plan for the upcoming summer. I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can rifle through my collection of pillows and outdoor decor and come up with something a bit new, without necessarily buying much to create the fresh look.
But that wasn’t always the case.
The most important decision I made for our patio was that it would be dominated by a sectional couch and coffee table. This would allow for a conversation area for entertaining and we could always lay on the cushions for sunbathing. We could also eat a casual meal around the coffee table.
That first year I chose an off white rattan sectional and a teak table. These were my investment pieces so I went completely neutral. I did get a few blue and white pillows, but that was the extent of my color commitment.
Later that summer I added a small bistro table and chairs to the opposite corner of the patio. I wanted to have a proper table for having our coffee outside, as well as small meals. Again I went neutral with the furniture pieces so that I could dress the table any way I wanted for a given event.
We also added a whitewashed bench for additional seating, which has since been moved to our front portico.
The second summer I was determined to add accessories that would lend a hint of rustic character to the patio. I used grain sack pillows and chambray accents, a galvanized tray and lavender plants. I also added white drum side tables to hold the planters framing the couch.
I enjoyed using vintage pieces with an English country feel, but I began to wonder whether the space, in its summer iteration, had been consistent enough with the French-style of the inside of our house.
I used shellfish plates for serving, as well as vintage soda bottles, and the effect was very cute, but the net result was more New England beach cottage than French farmhouse.
Find the details here: Preparing The Patio For Summer Entertaining.
The third summer I was still wrestling with the identity of the patio decor and tried some new accessories in another color feeling. Inspired by lilac season I experimented with lavender and buttery yellow accents, using serving pieces and antique bottles. I loved this color feeling, but when the serving pieces were put away, there wasn’t much left to tell the story.
This was the summer I finally realized that to truly finish my outdoor spaces properly, they needed to be treated like outdoor rooms. I needed to commit to more than just a throw blanket and a few serving pieces. I talk about the one piece that finally pulled it all together in this post: How One Piece Can Pull Your Patio Decor Together.
Spoiler: the outdoor rug made all the difference in the world!
Once I was committed to the blue and white, it became a matter of using different pop colors when the seasons changed. That fall I added rust as a pop color in pillows, flowers and a throw blanket. In Outdoor Fall Decorating Ideas: Serving Hors d’Oeuvres on the Patio you can see how lovely this outdoor room turned out.
The next summer I added fuchsia and yellow pops to the blue and white patio, for a vibrant and refreshing touch. It was both pretty and very upbeat. (See it here: Updating The Patio With Summer Color and in the photo above.)
But I also felt I had moved further away from the French vintage look I so love.
I seemed to be alternating between embracing neutrals and adding back vibrant pops of color. I guess the beauty of my neutral base is that it allows me to change on a whim. And so my next direction was to reign in the color, but not obliterate it altogether.
I replaced the blue rug with a neutral beige and tan, softened the palette of the plantings using pale pink and lilac, and mixed a subtle chambray in with my neutral pillows. Texture became more important, as did the rustic aging of my planters.
As another year went by, I stayed faithful to the neutral rug, added a classic French bistro set and livening up the color of my florals. The richer tones in the plants led me to add vibrant green throw pillows. These looked lovely with the summer greenery.
The following summer, I went all in on color and I’m sure I completely overdosed on it. I brought the blue rug back, doubled down with blue and white chinoiserie planters, but used citrine and fuchsia accents to set the look apart from the past.
I added a white concrete coffee table to replace the teak one that didn’t age well and this further underscored the vibrant brights.
The combination of three bright colors was simply too much. By the end of the summer, I couldn’t stand looking at it anymore. It was perky, yes, but not in the least bit tranquil. I knew my next look would be a big change.
Which brings us to this past summer, my favorite look so far. My motto was rustic chic and it brought with it a new neutral rug, textured natural pillows and other rustic accents. I replaced the round coffee table with a better sized rectangular one and enjoyed adding color only via the florals.
This year, I’m thinking I’ll stay with this general look and add only a few touches of blue. I plan to shop my own closet first before purchasing anything new, as I want to add only enough color for dimension, but I love keeping the patio looking serene. I’ll be sure to share the new look when it’s done, along with some soft and elegant plantings.
To get the look, click on the items below for direct links to the products. Where actual items were no longer available, I’ve provided similar options. If an item is out of stock but may be restocked, I left it on the list.
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