With snow already starting to fall in some parts of the country, you may be thinking of spending more time tucked comfily indoors. But just because Mother Nature is giving you the cold shoulder, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your outdoor retreats! Read on for our guidelines on creating an oasis for all seasons.
Shelter from the elements
Keep inclement weather from ruining an al fresco dinner by adding a roof or even a pergola to block rain and snow. Gazebos and other enclosures can also provide some cover. Beware of “summer solutions” like sun sails, patio umbrellas, and canopies—they can keep things dry for an evening or two, but they often aren’t designed to withstand cold or wet weather conditions for the long haul.
Think, too, about what direction the wind is most likely to come from. Conifers make great winter windbreaks, since they keep their foliage throughout the year—and they provide the additional bonus of removing moisture from the air. Other options include heavy outdoor drapes and decorative accent walls.
Furniture made from synthetics or with a powder-coated finish handle winter’s weather much more effectively than their traditional organic or metal counterparts. For cushions and other textile elements, look for durable, quick-drying fabrics that are UV-treated and won't fade. (We love Sunbrella fabrics for these reasons.) Decor that’s made of glass, stone, or ceramic is easy to care for, and outdoor rugs woven from recycled plastics are bright, cheerful, and less prone to trap moisture—a definite consideration for wooden decks.
Heat things up
Whether your favorite way to beat the chill is to cuddle up near an open fire, or to bask in radiant heat, there are options for everyone—and for every budget.
Fire pits and bowls are ever more popular, and there are even a number of tutorials available online to help you DIY something of your own. Other options include Mexican chimeneas and heat lamps. While a commercial, free-standing heat lamp can set you back a pretty penny, they have a radius of up to nine feet, as do many wall-mounted versions. A more wallet-friendly choice is available with tabletop designs, though they cover a smaller area.
Shed some light on the subject
Lights add some dazzle and romance to a summer setting, but they’re absolutely necessary for winter’s longer nights. For overhead illumination, you’ll have plenty of design choices in outdoor string lights: twinkle lights, Edison bulbs, even “smart” color-changing bulbs. LED candles offer a lovely ambient glow when grouped together, especially in vintage or contemporary standing lanterns. And don’t forget lights for your paths or stair treads to guide your feet safely after the sun has gone down!
Blankets, throws, and cushy pillows add texture and color to your design and keep you and your guests cozy. A cheerful color palette also contributes visual warmth to chilly evenings. Consider investing in a weatherproof storage bench to keep them close to hand when they’re not in use. Add a cup of hot cocoa or a warm adult beverage to wrap your hands around, and you’re all set!