Tips for decorating your deck and terrace

terrace with the lake view

Most people love their personal outdoor space – decks, terraces, balconies and backyards. And no wonder. With long cold winters, we’re always eager to spend more time outside to watch the flowers and trees come alive. And we want to stay out there, listening to the birds, the gurgle of a water feature, watching the sun set and connecting with friends and family.

As the pace of life quickens and our house sizes shrink, the outdoors is literally the last frontier, and the reason why we’re spending so much more on making our backyard, deck or balcony a destination oasis.

So, I say, out with the white plastic chairs and plexiglass tables, and in with the fire pits and heaters, deep-seated sectional sofas, teak dining tables and chairs, carpets and strings of lights to give us a more enjoyable time outside. Outdoor furniture manufacturers have been happy to provide a wider range of options to meet our need to linger outside, with furniture that has longer-lasting frames, fabrics that retain their shape and are water-resistant, and cushion foam that stays comfortable.

Who needs a cottage when you have a space like this?

Here’s what you need to know

  1. Plan out your space according to how you intend to use the deck. If you are a big reader or sun tanner, but don’t like eating al fresco so much, then give more space to living room-type furnishings, and tuck a small dining table, maybe with leaves, off to the side and out of the way.
  2. Carefully check out materials. There’s teak or treated pine, as well as metal mixed with wood, solid aluminum and wrought iron. Of these, teak and aluminum last the longest, and are probably the most expensive. Teak you need to baby a bit, while aluminum just wipes clean.
  3. Consider modular furniture, pieces that fit together as a sectional or stand alone as chairs. You can change the seating arrangement to suit the occasion or your mood.
  4. For privacy, especially on a condo balcony, create a privacy “wall” by positioning a row of evergreens in matching containers along the edges of your deck. You can also erect lattice or bamboo screening, then add wall-mounted planters and a water feature.
  5. Decks aren’t just for daytime. Small white lights are magical when strung from house to tree. Add candles around the edges of your deck or terrace; flameless ones are safer. An ethanol fire pit not only creates mood, but keeps your feet warm. And the best thing? It can be moved around.
  6. Music really adds to the ambience, as background — not too loud so your guests can’t hear each other or that the neighbours will complain.
  7. Don’t forget the floor – wood flooring tiles are easy to install, and create an immediate room setting. Add an outdoor rug to pull it all together.
  8. There’s nothing like dining al fresco, and if you’re the type who likes tons of people over, an expandable table might be the best choice. Classic wrought-iron tables look great and last forever but are pricey. There’s always teak, but it’s pricey, too, so check out the budget-friendly teak alternatives, which work equally well. If your deck is small, go for stackable dining chairs.
  9. Stow outdoor dining essentials, such as table mats and napkins, covered lanterns or candle holders, near the back door or in a waterproof storage bench. Make sure to keep throws handy to ward off the evening chill.
  10. An umbrella will shade the table from the sun and rain; one on a tilt arm can be adjusted to follow the sun all day. The new pergolas do the same and more, especially when fitted with a retractable canopy system, or are screened against bugs.
  11. As for styles, the sky’s the limit. Fancy a week in the Hamptons? Check out sectionals in whitewashed and weathered greys made from resin wicker with East Coast fabrics such as navy and white stripes (in water-repellant fabrics). Prefer a Park Avenue brownstone? Then wrought iron with deep charcoal cushions set amidst a row of boxwoods might be better for you.
  12. Depending on the space you have, hammocks are worthwhile for the down time they afford – snoozing or watching the stars.
  13. Containers are the way to go for gardening. Depending on the direction they face, condo balconies are ideal for herbs and tomatoes but they need a lot of water, so make sure you have proper drainage. Tropical plants love sun and add a festive air to your deck. If you have less direct sunlight, fill tall tapered containers with ornamental grasses for a clean, modern, minimalist look.
  14. Just like inside, the deck is made livelier with the addition of some artwork, such as wrought iron grills, architectural salvage, or window frames (with or without mirrored glass).
Lisa Rogers
Lisa Rogers

Lisa Rogers is executive vice-president of design for Dunpar Homes and has shared her style and design expertise on popular television programs such as Canadian Living TV, House & Home TV.

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