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  • Writer's pictureEric McQuiston, PLA

Crafting Al Fresco Bliss: The Art of Elevating Outdoor Living Spaces

An Outdoor Oasis
Image by Eric McQuiston

Picture this: a warm breeze, the soothing hum of nature behind soft ambient music, and an outdoor space that beckons you to unwind. As a residential landscape architect, I've witnessed the transformative power of high-quality outdoor furnishings and accessories. From tables and chairs to loungers, grills, and art, each element contributes to the creation of a harmonious outdoor haven. In this article, we'll explore the magic that unfolds when these components come together, delving into considerations such as color, texture, materials, and maintenance requirements.


Tables and Chairs: Where Functionality Meets Style

Let's start with the basics – tables and chairs. More than mere functional pieces, these outdoor essentials serve as the foundation for creating inviting spaces that encourage relaxation and connection. As a landscape architect, I often emphasize the importance of selecting furniture that seamlessly blends with the surrounding environment.


  • Material: Opt for weather-resistant materials like teak or powder-coated aluminum to ensure durability.

  • Style: Choose a style that complements the overall aesthetic – whether it's modern, rustic, or eclectic.

  • Flexibility: Explore modular furniture or pieces that can be easily rearranged, allowing for versatility in creating different seating arrangements for various occasions.


Loungers and Sectional Furniture: Unwinding in Style

To truly elevate an outdoor living space, consider adding loungers and sectional furniture. These pieces not only offer comfort but also create designated areas for relaxation and socializing. I utilize loungers to encourage moments of repose and sectional furniture to facilitate intimate conversations.


  • Cushions and Fabrics: Select high-quality, weather-resistant cushions and fabrics that are easy to clean.

  • Layout: Plan the layout strategically to maximize space and create flow within the outdoor area.

  • Durability: Opt for materials like synthetic wicker or aluminum frames for sectional furniture, ensuring longevity in various weather conditions.


Grills: Igniting Culinary Adventures

No outdoor living space is complete without a grill. Beyond its culinary functionality, a high-quality grill becomes a focal point, inviting friends and family to gather around for shared meals and cherished memories.

Outdoor Cooking with family
Image by Eric McQuiston


  • Size and Type: Choose a grill size and type based on the homeowner's culinary preferences and the size of the outdoor space.

  • Integration: Seamlessly incorporate the grill into a designated cooking area, ensuring it complements the overall design.

  • Durability: Select materials resistant to rust and corrosion for the grill's longevity.


Pergolas: Shaping Ambiance and Aesthetics

Pergolas are the architectural marvels that tie an outdoor space together. Providing shade and a touch of grandeur, they elevate the overall ambiance and aesthetic appeal of the landscape. I think of pergolas as functional opportunities to infuse personality and style into outdoor designs.


  • Material: Choose materials that resonate with the homeowner's preferences and withstand the local climate.

  • Greenery Integration: Enhance the pergola's allure by incorporating climbing plants or vines, creating a natural and inviting atmosphere.

  • Lighting: Consider integrating lighting features into the pergola to extend the usability of the outdoor space into the evening.


Planting Containers: Green Oases Amidst the Outdoors

Planting containers are not just vessels for greenery; they are miniature gardens that contribute to the overall aesthetics of the outdoor environment. I love to use these containers strategically to introduce bursts of color, texture, and a sense of connection with nature.

Palm in a cobalt Blue Container
Image by Eric McQuiston


  • Variety: Experiment with different materials and styles of containers to add visual interest.

  • Plant Selection: Choose plants that thrive in the local climate and complement the overall design theme.

  • Mobility: Use containers to create flexible landscaping, allowing for seasonal changes or rearrangement based on the homeowner's preferences.


Art: Elevating the Outdoor Gallery

In the realm of outdoor design, art isn't confined to walls – it becomes a part of the landscape. Sculptures, installations, or even murals can infuse personality, creating an outdoor gallery that reflects the homeowner's unique taste and style. Art can even be functional!


  • Scale: Ensure the size of the art pieces harmonizes with the outdoor space, avoiding visual imbalance.

  • Weather Resistance: Select materials that can withstand various weather conditions for the longevity and aesthetic appeal of the art.

  • Theme Alignment: Choose art pieces that resonate with the homeowner's preferences and contribute to the overall design theme.


Color, Texture, and Material Harmony:

For a truly cohesive outdoor living space, the harmonization of color, texture, and materials is paramount. Whether it's the cushions on the furniture or the finishes on the pergola, a thoughtful approach to these elements ensures a visually appealing and inviting outdoor environment.


  • Color Palette: Select a color scheme that complements the natural surroundings and aligns with the homeowner's preferences.

  • Texture: Introduce a mix of textures – smooth surfaces against rough, natural materials – to create visual interest.

  • Maintenance: Balance aesthetics with practicality by choosing materials that are not only visually appealing but also easy to clean and maintain.


Pergola over a Pool Patio
Image by Eric McQuiston

As a residential landscape architect, my satisfaction lies in crafting outdoor spaces that transcend the ordinary, where every element serves a purpose and contributes to the overall tapestry of outdoor living. From the functional allure of tables and chairs to the grandeur of pergolas, the intimacy of loungers, and the artistic expression of outdoor art, each component plays a crucial role. By considering color, texture, materials, and maintenance requirements, these elements can be seamlessly woven together, resulting in an environment that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also a true reflection of the homeowner's lifestyle and personal taste. In the hands of a skilled designer, the outdoors becomes a canvas waiting to be adorned with the art of harmonious design.

If you would like more information or to discuss your outdoor Oasis please give me a call!


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