Summer entertaining is unique. Fireflies, balmy evenings and lazy talk woven together with seasonal foods make summer nights special. Watermelon, plump berries and melting ice cream come to mind. Buttered corn on the cob and hamburgers are best eaten outside. Casual is the watchword for summer fun, indoors and out.
You are lucky if you have doors that slide open to connect your interior space with a patio or balcony. Door and windows not only cool the interior spaces but also open your room up to the environment. We throw open our sliding living room doors and screens to the backyard. I ignore the flies. I would rather have guests freely walk between the living room and the back of the house. There is seating for just two on a petite slider. I have a rocking chair and two stacking chairs in order to accommodate a total of six people. All of the seating is anchored by a patterned indoor/outdoor area rug. Dining happens at a rustic pine worktable that I keep covered during the winter. It recently received a good coat of Thompson's WaterSeal to protect it for the summer months. Durable textiles now make it possible to offer guests soft pillows and colorful seating.
Know that your color schemes, inside and out, should work together to unite the spaces. I chose all brown and black for my exterior room that is balanced by Southern California drought-resistant plantings. Plants bloom in yellow, gold, red and purple. Consider that you have control over colors one sees from the interior. Here we see a jungle-like yard that becomes a part of this Coconut Grove, Florida, living room. The hunter green of the banana leaves work well with the turquoise of the contemporary painting above the sofa. Immediately, the room becomes a tropical retreat through the water-like color in the artwork. Serene white and naturals serve as a cool start to a very modern style that balances intriguingly with the organic view outside the windows.
Daytime use of outdoor living rooms must take into consideration ways to shield from harsh sun and heat. In extreme conditions, such as you could find in Tucson, Arizona, or Palm Springs, California, misters are popular in commercial and residential spaces. Home models come in portable versions and there are do-it-yourself kits for entire patios or yards. They can lower the temperature by some 30 degrees. I have installed plenty of ceiling fans in solid covered patio ceilings to move the air that can become stagnant. Sometimes, furniture has to be protected from excessive sun as well as from moisture during summer months. Don't forget that if you live on the coast, evenings can be a bit cool and the use of a propane or electric heater could be appropriate. Some hosts offer lightweight shawls to guests instead. Remember that the more comfortable you and your guests are, the more you will use your outdoor space.
If you have a pool outdoors, pay special attention to the durability of your flooring inside. It's great if you own a pool house, but if not the wet feet will invariably pad across your family room or kitchen. Relaxing entertaining is built on stress-free materials. The secret to capturing an exterior space as a part of your entertaining area is built on the fluid style connection and removal of unnecessary worry about fabrics or building finishes being soiled or spoiled.
Whether your primary focus is on the interior room or the outdoor area, the main take-away is that the two spaces are connected in both style and function.
Christine Brun's weekly column, "Small Spaces," can be found at creators.com.