How to Design a Safe, Social, and Serene Outdoor Living Space

Spring has sprung in NJ, and we've opened our windows and moved family life outdoors here at Carol Lang Interiors! Fire up the grill, dust off those cushions and let's talk outside living!

For my family and many of my clients, having a comfortable and functional outdoor space has been a lifesaver over the past year. It has been where we could see friends and family safely and it also gave us an extra space to recharge.


With that in mind, today we are walking through the process step-by-step of creating the outdoor living space you’ve been dreaming of. Let’s get started…

Step 1: Determine the Designated Use of the Space


From a quiet retreat for morning coffee and breakfast, to an outdoor shower after a day at the beach, or even a big table to accommodate extended family dinners in the open air, you can make the space you have work for you!

There are so many ways to take advantage of outdoor spaces, regardless of the size of your yard or patio. Just like a space plan helps you determine what fits in your living room, a space plan for your yard also makes sense. How big can your table be? Can you really fit that sectional you've been eyeing? When in doubt, grab your painters tape and tape it out on the ground. Don't forget to leave room for circulation and a spot to store covers and cushions out of the rain.

Step 2: Layer Lovely Furnishings & Fabrics with Longevity


We treat outdoor spaces the same way we treat indoor spaces at Carol Lang Interiors. We select smart, hardworking furniture with performance fabrics and durability as our base, then layer in textiles, rugs, accessories, and lighting. You all know my love of marine grade Sunbrella for anything outside - this is a perfect time to use it for cushions!

Step 3: Pick Pieces that will Remain Pretty with Age


The style and layout of your outdoor furniture should be an extension of your home and personal style.

If you love earthy, soft materials inside, think about teak for your outdoor furniture. It will patina and age over time into a beautiful, earthy silver.

If you enjoy textures, think about an all-season wicker. Pro Tip: For all-season wicker, aluminum cores will weather better (without rusting!) than steel interiors.

Step 4: Beautify with Blankets & Pillows from Quality Brands


Often, outdoor furniture is "matchier" than your interior furniture because it comes in prefab sets.

One way to dress it up is to layer in outdoor pillows or blankets. I have a number of go-to sources for these that will feel soft and comfortable, versus the rough and tough ones that might appear on some of the big-box shelves.

Some of my favorite retail brands are Country Casual teak (their umbrellas are pricey but perfect!), Eastern Accents for pillows, Jaipur Living for rugs, and even good old Pottery Barn for outdoor pillows.

I can also help you select custom fabrics for reupholstery of outdoor furniture and fabrication of new pillows or bolsters.

Step 5: Finish Up the Space with a Few Seasonal Flowers


Once you've layered in the furniture and fabrics, don't forget to plant a few seasonal flowers around your space to bring in more color and life.

I've built a garden over the years that blooms from March through November, but if you're not feeling like you want to commit, swing by your local garden center for a pre-planted pot and swap it out as the seasons change.

  • Pansies, ranunculus, hyacinths, and daffodils are cheerful and bright in the spring.

  • By early to mid-summer, heat tolerant flowers will be your friend. Marigolds, geraniums, lambs ear, and salvia are all great. This is an easy season to plant in, as your choices are vast.

  • For the late summer, I'm a big lover of dahlias and they'll keep your garden growing through the first frost. Plus, dwarf varieties can thrive in a pot!

Pick a color scheme and stick with it in your garden. I love pink, purple, yellow and white together and generally avoid red or orange. Knowing what colors you love and sticking with them will make plant shopping easier and give you better results than just grabbing anything that catches your eye.

Don't forget to check your natural conditions - plan for deer resistant plants if that's an issue and drought tolerant plants to the greatest extent possible to keep your watering down. Know your zone (we're in 7A in coastal New Jersey) and choose native plants that thrive in your environment. Building a garden for pollinators will keep you and your kids observing, admiring and talking about the garden all season long.

If you're looking to move outside for the season and want some help coming up with a layout or sourcing outdoor furniture, reach out at to set up a call!



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