Cottage Culture




How to make the most of your outdoor space

How To Make The Most Of Your Outdoor Space


As we start to see and feel hints of spring in the air, I know I begin to dream of living outdoors again, as do many in our beautiful Southwestern Ontario, I’m sure! And we’re not alone, as reports indicate that in 2023, outdoors is the new indoors! Is there anything nicer that sitting outside with friends on a warm summer evening? Or perhaps you’re recalling a wonderful outdoor long-table feast in an orchard or olive grove in a far-flung destination during a special vacation? And now we’re dreaming of recreating that warmth and ambience in our own environment!


Our outdoor environments are becoming increasingly important to us and the line between indoors and outdoors is blurring, especially as architects and designers are both renovating, and building new homes, with multiple patio/terrace doors to create seamless living between indoors and out. What used to be a simple patio now becomes an extra living room where life unfolds: we relax, cook and socialize throughout the day and long into our wonderful summer evenings and well into our gorgeous autumns.


Never before have we enjoyed our outdoors spaces as much as in recent years. Most of us have been spending a lot more time at home, so it has become even more important of late that we can truly enjoy it. During the pandemic we had to find new ways to meet and socialize, and had moved many activities that we used to do indoors to gardens, courtyards and patios. However, this is a trend that started even before the pandemic. I don’t know about your choices, but this idea of being outdoors in nice weather started for me many, many years ago, in a different job. I had to put in extra time on weekends and would choose to sit at my outdoor table, working on the computer, just so that I might enjoy the warmer temperatures, with the sun shining and enjoying the sounds and scents of late spring. And the desire to move our indoor spaces outdoors – outdoor homing – has only grown stronger, increasing post-pandemic. More and more people are creating patios that extend the season and become an extra room that can be used even when it’s raining or windy.


But how to get the most out of your outdoor space? Let us at Cottage Culture help you create your perfect outdoor environment to enjoy, both in summer and during the cooler months of the year. The secret is really to think about how you want to use your outdoor space, what features you need and how you can turn the room into several rooms.


The following framework of ideas on design, form and function, what to consider and how to best decorate to suit your lifestyle is a starting point for your consideration.

  1. Let your house lead the way.

  2. Available space and ‘zoning’.

  3. Functional Considerations - lifestyle?

    1. Family – kids and dogs?

    2. Entertaining?

    3. Time for maintenance?

  4. Colour and mood.

  5. Finishing Touches.

Now to expand on these a bit:


Letting Your House Lead the Way

We all live in different kinds of homes, whether single detached residential homes, country properties, condos, town homes, high rises or vacation properties. In addition, they have all been built at different times, and reflect, at least somewhat, some of the architectural style detail of their era. In this way, the style gives you a lead on the style to consider for your outdoor space.


Many Older homes have more ornamented style and are set in mature gardens, which are quite possibly lacking a purpose-built patio. However, there is likely a use pattern that has emerged over time, which defines the common outdoor converging space or spaces. That’s why a furniture set that’s easy to move to different places in the garden would suit this environment. Depending on available space, it could be a round cafe table with compact chairs or a large modern solid-wood table with synthetic rattan chairs. Country properties are likely to fit this category, with similar architectural detail, but perhaps fewer organized garden spaces.


Townhomes and townhome-style condominiums are likely to be more streamlined  in terms of both construction and floor plans. Lots of outdoor space is more rare, so consider smaller arrangements here. You don’t need to choose furniture styled to the era of construction; rather, choose something based on the feel you want to create.


Functional highrises tend to have understated architecture with clean shapes and no frills or decoration, in contract (and perhaps reaction) to the ornate home design which preceded it. Balconies tend to be streamlined as well, with limited space for furniture. Here, you might choose powder-coated metal furniture, or for a cosier feel, choose wooden furniture instead.


Modern single detached homes share many similarities in architectural style to the functionalist buildings of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Possibly more angular structures, lots of large glass windows, patio or garden doors and open concept floor plans are typical. These homes are more likely to have one or more generously sized outdoor spaces facing different directions, and perhaps constructed of differing materials, whether wood decks or stone or concrete patios. With more choices for space, you can afford to assign different functions to the different spaces around your home: a bigger dining set adjacent to an outdoor kitchen, a generous seating area for socializing, some sun loungers with umbrellas clustered together – perhaps near a pool, or maybe a few lounge chairs and side tables in a pergola to the south.


Older cottages, built many years ago, tend to be simple in shape, with a gable roof which may have lower profile pitch, and may be wood-sided or built of logs, with smaller windows. The outdoor space here is similar to the turn-of-the-century house – a mature garden that doesn’t necessarily have a purpose-built outdoor space. Here, classic wood furniture is an excellent choice. However, along the Lake Huron shore, many of these old cottages are now being torn down in favour new ‘Cottage’ builds which tend to resemble the modern home, noted above, with a number of generous outdoor spaces facing different directions.

Cottage Culture has a wide selection of outdoor furniture styles, from classic, traditional, tailored, to streamlined modern pieces for all home styles and tastes.


Available Space and ‘Zoning’

As noted above, consideration of our home’s style will have given many clues to the availability of space, as well as style, for outdoor furniture. You also need to ask yourself if you are planning to add any deck or patio space to what exists? Or are you planning a pergola, or expanding a garden area for seating of some sort? Defining your dimensions will help refine the scale and amount of furniture for your space. Depending on the number of outdoor spaces, you can consider creating separate spaces or ‘zones’ for different functions.


Now you need to consider how you your family and friends will use the space. Fortunately, Cottage Culture’s outdoor furniture cushions are made with Olefin fabric, the European version of Sunbrella, which is sun and stain resistant – good for kids and pets!


Do you have a core group for most meals, but need to expand sometimes? You might wish to consider an extendible table, which comes in two sizes, making it easy to accommodate more people at your dining table. Since Scandi design is know for it’s fabulous eclectic style, feel comfortable in mixing various style chairs, dishes and glassware to accommodate more people at your table - it will be unexpected but perfectly designed!


Consider, also, your available time and appetite for any maintenance of your outdoor furniture. Would you rather spend your time entertaining than oiling your teak table, or covering or storing cushions? You may wish to choose a metal table rather than teak, and metal or synthetic rattan chairs or ones with textilene, rather than chairs with cushions. The following is a quick summary of various materials’ Features and Advantages to help you think through your choices.



  • lightweight and vary stable

  • essentially maintenance-free

  • sustainable

Stainless Steel:

  • rust-resistant   

  • robust with high stability               

  • easy to maintain

Synthetic Rattan:

  • essentially maintenance-free                   

  • natural appearance with an aluminum frame

  • highly weather-resistant

Teak, and other woods:

  • beautiful natural material                           

  • each wood type has unique properties                                  

  • requires care

  • highly weather-resistant


  • natural material             

  • should be kept under a cover    

  • easy to clean with water and a little liquid dish soap

Colour and Mood

The most-used Scandinavian colors are neutral and monochromatic – bright, warm whites with black and oatmeal, which provide design longevity for your outdoor furniture investment. Splashes of color are added as accents: lush pinks, true blue – think the semi-precious stone, lapis lazuli grayish blues, and colors rooted in nature, like sage, are the most popular in Scandinavian design, but choose what suits your environment.


Lighting can help you set the mood and create cozy spaces as the evening gets dark. You can hang a string of small outdoor lights or a woven pendant light over your outdoor table, or choose woven floor model lighting for more ambient uplighting.

Finishing Touches

Make your outdoor spaces even more inviting with an outdoor rug, and a few throw pillows and blankets to complement your furniture – a trick that will make your space feel relaxed and cozy. For you dining table, Chilewich placemats are easy-care and available in a variety of colours to add vibrancy to your table, and the Turkish cotton napkins, also in a variety of colours, are easy-care and sustainable.


In summary, by taking the time to think about your home, and develop the ‘big picture’ for your space, with a strong, edited point of view, all the larger pieces of furniture and smaller details will fit together beautifully. Then, let your home grow outdoors, with space for both relaxation and socializing! We at Cottage Culture are happy to help!

Janet Baird-Jackson at 3:44 PM
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