Living it up outdoors

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If the lockdowns of the past years taught us anything, it is that we need to love where we live. If you must spend all the time in your home, it’s best that your home answers all your wants and needs. And an inviting, relaxing private outdoor space is crucial in this pursuit.

The patio, the backyard deck, the rooftop terrace – anywhere where you can enjoy the outdoors in the privacy of your home – have become essential not only during the lockdowns but in our daily lives.

Whether one lives in a townhome with a limited yard, a condo with just patio space, or an estate home with an expansive outdoor area – what matters is how one approaches its design.

Today, the private outdoor space has become an extension of the living room, with lots of seating arrangements and multi-functional tables.

It can also be outfitted with an outdoor fireplace or some other heating appliance to keep guests warm during the cooler months, a barbecue is integral for many chefs-in-the-making, and even a hot tub if space (and budget) allows. It’s the best place for entertaining lots of guests – especially when keeping a safe distance is important to you.

R+D Alberta spoke with Julian Riley, co-owner of Calgary’s Maria Tomas, Indoor & Outdoor Living, and an expert at designing private outdoor living spaces. He gives us some expert tips in coming up with the best outdoor living room environment for today’s needs.

According to Riley, it doesn’t matter where your outdoor space is, what matters is what you intend to do in that space.

“For us at Maria Tomas, Indoor & Outdoor Living, we are seeking the ‘Right Solution’ for our clients. First and foremost, one needs to determine how they are going to use the space. Lounging? Dining? Sun or shade? A combination of all? How many people? Space limitations, etc.”

Riley says Maria Tomas prides itself for “functional and stylish furniture layout that allows a seamless transition to life outdoors when the summer season arrives.”

He is keen on options that will perform “double duty,” so to speak. This includes lounging sofa/chairs, that also act as a chaise so owners can bask under the sun. “Some lounging seating is high enough to also act as dining height options,” he says.

“Next would be appropriate scale and quantity of potential seating. Its more about the right solution for whatever space one has. Followed by ease of care of materials used.”

Riley says most of what customers look for these days is comfort in outdoor living. “Comfort is the number one request of clients. This usually means ‘plusher’ seating. Sofas. chairs, motion furniture (rockers, etc.) and multi-functional pieces - sofas that can turn into a chaise, for example. Second is ease of care. Cushions require more work. Lounging is generally more popular than dining. Our cooler evenings make eating outdoors difficult. and if you don’t have room for both, comfortable lounging usually wins out.”

Riley also recommends sling-based outdoor furniture. “Sling-based is easiest to care for and can be fairly comfortable.”

He also favours aluminum frames over wood for ease of care and maintenance. “Resin/vinyl wickers have evolved over the years and are generally no longer the thin brittle ribbon strips woven flat. It is still holding its own with these style/quality advancements.”

But he says the hottest trend these days may be the rope-style outdoor furniture. “Rope styles are becoming the hottest, most popular trend these days. Available in many styles, shapes and colours. Low slung, Contemporary euro styled outdoor.”

Maria Tomas is a full service, brick-and-mortar store in Calgary with custom indoor and outdoor furnishings, paint, wallpaper, rugs, accessories and more. It has everything needed to furnish the home inside and out in its over 7,000 square feet design centre.

“We are not a big box store that relies on off-shore made, container-stocked patio set kind of store, and we aim for higher end and very customizable outdoor products,” Riley says.

Expert Tip for Outdoor Living Design

Julian Riley of Maria Tomas has some advice for designing the outdoor area.

  1. First is how the space is envisioned to be used and for how many people.
  2. Set a Realistic Budget of how much you want to spend. Quantity versus quality. Longevity of the product. Made in North America or Imported? You get what you pay for.
  3. Realistic timing expectations. Today or tomorrow? Supply chain issues will continue, leading to shortages and huge Inflationary impacts for I would estimate another 3-5 years.
  4. Comfort level and ease-of-care/maintenance of the products. Cushioned or not?
  5. Educate yourself. Go shopping, so to speak. Sit, feel, touch and ask questions, understand the difference in materials and quality. What’s right for you? Google!
Pepper Rodriguez, Editor Calgary/Edmonton
Pepper Rodriguez, Editor Calgary/Edmonton
A Reno + Decor Influencer
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