DesignGardenHome Improvement July 17, 2022

5 Decorating Secrets to Make Your Outdoor Space Your Favorite Room

Beautiful outdoor living spaces—think outdoor dining set-ups and sun-soaked seating arrangements—can be some of the most relaxing areas of your home. Unfortunately, decorating and creating such a space can be anything but relaxing. Even experienced home decor aficionados can struggle to put together a cohesive, gorgeous outdoor space: Somehow, it seems like the rules of indoor decor don’t always apply outdoors.

Patio decorated by @kwendyhome

But what if they did? We turned to Wendy Lau of @thekwendyhome, who just transformed her own patio into a lounge area worthy of a seaside resort, for her best tips for creating an outdoor retreat that feels like an extension of your home’s interior—and that you’ll love spending time in.

1. Pick a Purpose

“I think, for outdoor spaces traditionally, there are two things that people want to do: They either want it to do al fresco dining, or they want to do a lounging area,” Lau says.

Acknowledging that most people likely won’t have room to do both, Lau recommends going all in on your desired use of the space.

“You need to figure out what will suit your family and friends more,” she says. “Are you going to be the type of family that hosts and eats outdoors? Then a dining set would be something that you should look into first.”

For her own patio, Lau knew she wanted a lounging area—and that she only had room for that. So, in her words, she went big: She invested in oversized sofas and plush cushions so she and her guests would have plenty of space to stretch out and relax. The final arrangement fills up the entire space in a way that feels intentional. By not trying to squeeze in sofas and a dining table, Lau made sure that her space is completely dedicated to her preferred function.

Decide how you want to use your outdoor space and then fill it with furniture and decor with that function in mind.

2. Bring the Indoors Out

Let go of that belief that your outdoor space is completely separate from the rest of your home. An exterior wall may separate your deck and your living room, but that doesn’t mean these spaces have to look completely unrelated.

“Treat [your outdoor space] as an extension of your indoor space, and you can bring some of the elements out,” Lau says.

dave and jenny marrs outdoor pillows from walmart


By taking some indoor elements outdoors (like patterned throw pillows), you create a clear visual connection between the interior of your home and your outdoor space. You could use the same pattern on your patio umbrella and your living room curtains, for example, or match the metal of your dining table to the metal finishes in your kitchen. This extension ensures that stepping outside simply feels like moving into another area of your home, rather than walking into a completely different space.

Lau’s patio sits outside her dining room, where she has two hanging basket lights. Picking two Better Homes & Gardens rattan lanterns (from $20, Walmart) for her patio, then, felt like a natural application of a material she already knew and loved on the inside of her home.

“I was already drawn to rattan lanterns, so that’s why I picked up two,” she says. “I knew that was echoing the indoor space outdoors, so it doesn’t feel just tacked on. You’re bringing elements that you already have in your home, that I’m sure you love already, outside.”

Lau recommends identifying materials, colors, or textures that you already have in your home and looking for items that echo those characteristics for your outdoor space. If you can’t find the right pieces, just bring some indoor items outdoors. Lau incorporates indoor pillows and layered rugs into her outdoor space to help it feel much more like part of her home.

3. Plan for the Effects of Weather

Rain, wind, sun, and more will fade wood and discolor fabrics over time, but that doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to purchasing new outdoor furniture every two years. The trick is to pick the items you put outside intentionally.

“When you are purchasing for outdoors, think about whether you can protect [the item] or not,” Lau says. “If you can’t, are you OK with letting it patina?”

Lau stocked one part of her outdoor space with a wooden potting bench, accepting that its appearance will change over time. Acknowledging and planning for that weathering, she chose colors and materials that will age in ways she will like, so she’ll like the look of her bench for years to come. She recommends checking that the materials that make up the items you plan to put outside will age in ways you like: If you don’t like the look of aged copper, for example, don’t incorporate copper elements into your space.

If you absolutely must have a material that won’t stand up to rain and wind well, take the necessary steps to protect it. Consider those items an investment in your enjoyment of your outdoor space and do what you have to in order to protect them. Accepting that you may need to cover some items gives you more flexibility in what you can put outside.

In Lau’s case, she knew she wanted teak and fabric sofas outside—so she budgeted for a durable covering that she can pull over those items when the weather’s stormy. “To me, it’s worth it,” she says. “Sometimes it means that you have to cover it up.”


4. Create a Mood Board

If you truly want to create a space that you’ll love for years to come, you may need to take a step back and accept that decorating your space could be a long process—but that doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to a patchwork collection of furniture gathered over time. Instead, you can create a mood board that will guide your furniture and decor curation.

“Not everyone has the budget to buy a whole [furniture] set, so having a mood board really helps,” Lau says. “Knowing your own style inside and letting that guide you for the outdoors is going to be super helpful, because you are going to pick out things that you naturally will use at home that you can bring outside.”

deck with low-slung sectional

A mood board can keep you on track while you’re choosing decor large and small. This visual guide will remind you of your final vision or goal for the space, so every purchase you make contributes to that eventual look. With this decorating roadmap, you can pick up furniture over time without worrying that it will all look disjointed when arranged together.


5. Consider the Lighting

“I think, for a lot of us regular homeowners, lighting is a challenge, and it’s almost like a second thought, but it’s definitely something that we should think about when we’re lighting our outdoor space for evenings,” Lau says.

dave and jenny marrs walmart collection woven lanterns


You probably try paint color swatches at home to see how the color shifts throughout the day: Apply that same care to setting up your outdoor lighting. If you need to hang string lights or pick up Better Homes & Gardens battery-operated lanterns (from $20, Walmart), plan for that before you furnish the space so you can incorporate the necessary lighting elements into your deck or patio organically. Whatever you do, don’t forget lighting altogether, or you may not be able to see your guests clearly once the sun sets.

Check how the light outdoors shifts throughout the day, too. Does direct sun hit the deck in early morning, exactly when you like to sit outside and sip your coffee? Place the umbrella so it blocks the sun from that angle, or arrange the furniture so you can sit with the sun at your back. If your patio gets no shade all day long, plan to invest in a large umbrella (try this 9-foot version from Better Homes & Gardens, $45, Walmart) early on, so you can truly enjoy your space.

Paying attention to light and shadow—or the lack thereof—is just another way that you can plan your outdoor space intentionally. By compensating for anything outside your control that may impede your enjoyment of the space, you can truly make your outdoor room a place you want to sit every day.