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Backyard Getaways - Make Your Home
An Everyday Vacation!

by Gail McCauley

The solitude and comfort of home spells relief for today's hectic lifestyles.

This year, instead of a costly vacation that leaves merely fond memories, why not invest in the creation of an outdoor living space that exudes the ambiance of a permanent vacation in your very own backyard! Imagination as well as the investment of time and creativity is the key to formulating a retreat that entices lingering outdoors. Contrary to popular belief, a homeowner does not have to be a design expert to create an exterior living space that is functional and fashionable. Fashion an appealing outdoor space by combining a few select amenities with personal touches that reflect individual style. Determining how the outdoor area will be used is a crucial step in the journey toward taking pleasure in outdoor living.

Cozy wraparound deck with adirondack chairs

The addition of a garden trellis, decorative screen or tall shutters maximize outdoor solitude where neighbors reside in close proximity. In addition to shielding the area from unwanted sights and sounds, these decorative enhancements allow for the introduction of interesting pattern and exciting color within the space. Depending upon their fabrication; trellises, screens and shutters may be painted with exterior paint that harmonizes with the exterior facade of the home. Wood surfaces may be treated to solid opaque or semi-transparent colored stain, depending upon the look you are trying to achieve. High quality exterior wood coatings enhance the natural texture of the wood and are formulated to resist peeling, blistering, fading and the growth of mildew. For superior exterior durability, use 100% acrylic coatings - flats, gloss or semi-gloss - to create the look and feel you desire. Today's exterior paints and stains are available in contemporary color palettes ranging from vivid or washed tones to updated neutrals or natural, earthy hues.

Consider furnishing the petite outdoor retreat with a small accent table and a couple of airy, open back chairs; just enough to enjoy a morning cup of coffee or a good book. Remember... these can be painted in complementary or matching colors too, using high quality acrylic paints. Even vinyl or other plastics can be painted, provided you use the right surface preparation and choice of paints.

Specific considerations must be given to roomy exterior spaces that are designed for frequent entertaining. Multi-functional furnishings provide smart and chic answers to outdoor seating vignettes. For instance, storage benches offer group seating as well as a home for seat cushions during increment weather. Backless benches may be used for "in a jiffy" extra seating, or as a decorative plant stand. Storage ottomans provide not only storage, but can allow for temporary seating and serve as makeshift tables during impromptu parties. Decorative paint techniques such as borders and motifs can be applied to furnishings either freehand or with stencils to accentuate a desired outdoor theme or harmonize with existing exterior paint and trim.

Decorative elements may be utilized to enhance both oversized and compact outdoor retreats. The popularity of outdoor fireplaces offering warmth and ambiance (particularly during evening festivities) continues to surge. If the fireplace does not offer a built-in hearth that accommodates seating for a group of guests, consider the addition of a built in bench, comfortable outdoor swing or rustic twig loveseat. Convert an outdoor fireplace into a focal point with the application of a fresh paint palette that contrasts with the exterior color scheme belonging to the home. The addition of a glass topper to two pedestals or a large resin planter transforms decorative pieces into a functional serving table by imparting a touch of the unexpected. If the existing outdoor living space consists of furnishings that reflect a weathered look, consider distressing the pieces with a special effect paint finish to lend the appearance of age.

Regardless of whether the outdoor retreat consists of a petite iron balcony that adjoins the master bedroom suite or an expansive cedar deck that wraps around the perimeter of the entire home, an exterior living space can be regularly enjoyed, often year round. Practical and aesthetically appealing backyard getaways can be manipulated to blend with various styles of décor, diverse layout and any size space. By gradually introducing furnishings and accessories, a homeowner can produce the ultimate in customization for the outdoor retreat.

Gail McCauley for the
Rohm and Haas Paint Quality Institute
Paint Quality Institute logo

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