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Issue 9
by she she me & Shop Girl
June 17, 2005

A Room With A View

Cool, early morning breezes filled with the scent of freshly baked croissants from the patisserie around the corner. (Hello! Carbs are back!) Window boxes bursting with brightly colored flowers. The sultry melodies of a jazz band playing at the outdoor café down the street. The really cute guy who lives across the courtyard and likes to lift weights on his balcony...These are all things that can be enjoyed from the privacy of my stylish little terrace!

Outdoor rooms are all the rage. From a cozy little balcony with a bistro table and chairs to an elegant rooftop terrace with garden arbor, pebbled paths and a gazebo, people everywhere are making the most of their own little slice of nature. When I first bought my cute little condo the realtor kept yammering on about the limitless possibilities of my "outdoor space." Having seen how some people turn their balconies and terraces into storage bins for bicycles, sports equipment and rusty barbecue grills, am determined to make my boy-watching aerie the epitome of stylish al fresco décor. Think Under the Tuscan Sun with a splash of Melrose Place.

I began scouring the pages of home design and decorating magazines. Started noticing what neighbors had done with their courtyards and terraces (decided NOT to seek inspiration from lunatic downstairs who has dead cactus collection and recycling bins on patio). I even went through a couple of model homes to steal ideas. Finally, I happened upon a little flower boutique a few blocks from here. The owner had created a fabu botanical courtyard in what had once been a pantry at the back of her shop. We bonded over herbal tea in this cozy little courtyard and she gave me a basic gameplan for any outdoor transformation:

How to Create Your Perfect Outdoor Space:

  • Determine your outdoor style. Is it the formal elegance of a European garden, with trellised vines, a mosaic table and a bubbling fountain; or is it more casual, a teak table, wooden loveseat with plump colorful cushions and a copper fire pit in the corner?
  • Size matters. Are you going to be working with a large garden or patio area, or is your space limited to a balcony, deck or terrace? Don't overpower an intimate courtyard area with too large or too much furniture. Keep it simple. A wicker chaise lounge with brightly colored cusions, a small tea table and a few well placed plants on a bedroom terrace provide the perfect place to relax and unwind after work. If, however, you have the luxury of a large garden or patio, break up the space with cozy seating groupings--a garden table and chairs for outdoor breakfasts, a loveseat and comfy chairs around a low table, and a couple of Adirondack chairs under a shade tree.
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  • Create a focal point. Perhaps you have a soothing water feature, or an outdoor fireplace. You may have the luxury of a fabulous view; make the most of it. Arrange your intimate seating areas around your strongest focus (weight-lifting boy). Or perhaps you have a really great balcony, but it overlooks the neighbor's courtyard full of Little Tykes toys. A woven palm screen still lets the light and the breeze in, but helps filter the view. Strategically placed potted plants also do the trick.
  • Furnishings. Patio furniture is passé. With the endless selection of furniture that can be used outdoors, why settle for a couple of stackable resin chairs or (heaven forbid!) the folding kind with woven nylon seats? It's not even retro enough to be chic! Today's outdoor furniture is all about personal style. From functional wicker with cushions to distressed wooden plank tables and benches, or perhaps contemporary wrought iron with stone garden urns, find the style that will complement your home and make a very chic statement about you.
  • Plants! What is an outdoor space without greenery? Make use of large colorful pots and planters, window and ledge boxes, and even hanging foliage. Create a tropical jungle or a restful wisteria-covered hideaway. Bear in mind that things-that-grow are also things-that-must-be-taken-care-of. Factor in planting, watering, weeding, pruning, fertilizing...because plastic flowers and astroturf are NOT an option! However, could perhaps hire young whippersnapper á là Desperate Housewives to come take care of garden. No?

I followed the advice of my newfound friend, and now I have a comfy, stylish area in which to entertain or just kick back and relax. My terrace is quite long, so I have divided it into two separate areas. A darling bistro table and two chairs sits atop a lovely braided area rug. A baker's rack against the open end rail provides privacy screening as well as a great home for several flowering plants. And my new favorite-place-in-the-world-to-be is relaxing comfortably in a chaise lounge with an icy beverage, smooth tunes and a really great book.

I've also noticed that the cute boy across the courtyard has been lifting weights outside quite a bit more often since my terrace has become so stylish...


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