Having Fun with Outdoor Living Spaces

Posted Wednesday, Jul. 03, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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When the sun beckons, it’s nice to reply by lying in the shade, accompanied by a drink and a snack, and a bit of entertainment. The most comfortable way to take in the sun is to view it from under the roof of a well-appointed room, and that is exactly what today’s outside rooms offer — the same amenities as the great indoors.

That’s what Fort Worth interior designer Joe Minton crafted for Period Homes builder Kevin McGinnis’ Riverhills spec house, designed by Dallas architect Larry Boerder. The outdoor living space is as luxurious as any you would find inside.

“It is a large room with a wood-burning fireplace, so we made a furniture arrangement around the fireplace, with a nice-size table to seat six to eight people for dining,” says Minton.

He found an iron wingback chair at Ellouise Abbott in Dallas, and an antique French convent daybed that he transformed into a sofa by having back supports welded to the frame. He covered the seating in an indoor/outdoor mildew- and weather-proof Duralee fabric in a subtle gray stripe. The small side table with a limestone top and dining furniture are from his Minton-Corley line of furnishings. The chandelier is one he designed, as well, and he has used it in a number of his projects.

The sheer portieres (curtains that hang across a doorway) add extra calendar days to the use of the room, as they can be drawn to keep out the chill when the weather finally begins to cool. You might remember the last time you heard the word “portieres” was when Scarlett O’Hara repurposed her mother’s green velvet curtains into an over-the-top frock in Gone With the Wind as Mammy shrieked, “Not with Miss Ellen’s portieres! Not while I got a breath in my body.”

Minton’s outdoor room has great staying power. “Everything that is out there can stay outside. It might not withstand a tornado, but nothing is fragile,” says Minton. The only liability is squirrels. They seem to like to destroy upholstered cushions. Minton has found a suitable repellent — pepper spray. He spritzes each cushion a few times to keep the squirrels at bay.

This completely turned-out room has found a lot of admirers. McGinnis put photographs of the room on Houzz.com, a remodeling website, and it received an award from the site for most page views, indicating the appeal of a fully furnished and accessorized outdoor space.

More minimal

The contemporary design of Genelyn Conti’s house demanded a more minimalist decor, especially for the outdoor spaces. The Conti family, a fan of contemporary architecture, had Fort Worth architect Ken Schaumburg build two homes, the first in Arlington and subsequently this one in the Stonehenge area of southwest Fort Worth.

To furnish her large outdoor room, Conti searched the Internet and found furniture from a resource in California. She added a flat-screen television over the bar and a sculpture from Cantoni over the fireplace and she was done.

In a space so spare, the people become the colorful accessories.

Having fun with outdoor furniture

Chairs are a designer’s playground, and lately the outdoor chair has become the most innovative and colorful addition to the designer portfolio. When creating an outdoor room, start with the seating. It’s the essential ingredient.

>> Nothing is brighter or more fun than the Queen of Love chair by Italian designer Renato Pigatti made of recyclable polyethylene in 11 knock-your-eyes-out colors, all of which are UV resistant. The oversized Louis XV style, with accentuated curves and details, can sit two in a snuggle or give a single sitter plenty of room for lounging. Available through www.luxeobjects.com. $618.

>> Designer Gaurav Nandahas used the geometry of Amish barns for the back of his Farmhouse chair. The former car designer is now making a line of powder-coated metal chairs that have a lovely linear look that works just as well indoors. They come in happy colors of orange and teal, or basic white and black. His company is Bend Seating, and Farmhouse chairs, $495. May be ordered through info@bendseating.com.

>> Herman Miller’s Spun chair, designed by Thomas Heatherwick, is so sculptural is could pass for an objet d’art, but it is perchable. Children can probably make it rev up to several miles an hour; the more sedate might find it a challenge just to make it stay still. It, too, comes in more than basic hues — bright red, dark purple, gray and white. From Herman Miller, $635.

>> Another sculptural piece with more chairlike attributes is Ligne Roset’s Fifty chair, which was inspired by Hans Wegner’s metal and rope chair from the 1950s. It has a strong lineage and stronger lines. The black metal frame is woven with brown or black rope and is designed for outdoor use. Available at Ligne Roset, $1,470.

>> Another 20th-century rethink is Swiss architect Stefan Zwicky’s take on Le Corbusier’s famous chair. The 1929 design – chrome tubes that frame square leather-covered cushions – has never gone out of style, and it is still a favorite when furnishing a contemporary home. Zwicky took Le Corbusier’s timeless idea to the garden, and used rebar and cement slabs for an outdoor-worthy replica. Zwicky’s version may not be as comfortable, but it might last as long. Available through www.stefanzwicky.ch. Price upon request.

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