Dreaming of an Outdoor Oasis This Summer? Steal These 8 Ideas From Chic Boutique Hotels
When it comes to my backyard, I want it to feel like a perma-vacation during the summer—I’m talking cozy places to lounge, a great view, and a constant stream of frozen drinks handed to me hourly.
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I realize those are some big vacation-ready flip-flops to fill, but I am nothing if not a dreamer. And while an on-call bartender is pretty out there, a backyard that feels like an escape shouldn’t be. As my partner and I were planning our mini budget-friendly backyard makeover this spring, we toyed with the idea of modeling it after the hotel we stayed at on our honeymoon in Bali. It was truly other-worldly, with sleek teak lounge furniture, plants that provided plenty of privacy, and the smell of frangipani wafting through the air. While we ultimately went in a different design direction, it got me thinking about all the ways we can make our homes our escapes this summer.
Whether you have a tiny balcony to call your own or sprawling acreage that feels like a national park, there are a few unexpected places to look for inspiration when designing the outdoor space of your dreams. You’ve probably guessed my favorite by now: boutique hotels. Not only are they design-forward and special, but they also typically boast some really great ideas for how to make the most of your outdoor space. So grab your daiquiris or your virgin coladas, we’re about to make every day feel like vacation.
Get some stylish shade.
I would love for summer 2021 to see the death of the boring patio umbrella — can we make that a thing? When it comes to outdoor decor, you’re often limited in the places where you can really inject some design personality, so you definitely shouldn’t give them up to boring khaki coverage that does nothing to add fun to your yard. Swap in some stunning shade in the form of a retro-inspired umbrella or cabana, like this charming pink striped style spotted at The Goodtime Hotel in Miami. One of my favorite companies producing unique shade products is Business and Pleasure Co.—they have a preppy pink candy stripe pattern available in a cabana, umbrella, or beach tent that would help you perfectly recreate this adorable look.
Buy: The Premium Cabana in Lauren’s Pink Stripe, $399 from Business and Pleasure Co.
Forgo formal furniture.
When it comes to backyard entertaining, a formal dining set is not the only way to show your guests a stylish (and comfortable) time. Take this outdoor dining space spotted beachside at Nomade Tulum for example. Instead of the typical scene of outdoor dining table and chairs, they styled up a decidedly more chill zone with low tables and an eclectic mix of floor poufs. Can’t you totally see yourself hanging here having sunset cocktails with your crew? Me too.
Buy: Moroccan Pouf, $184 from Morekesh via Etsy.
Go for a swing.
There’s nothing more charming to me than a porch swing. It never fails to make me feel like I’m the lead actress in a straight-to-streaming Lifetime movie, and I am here for it. However, I sometimes feel like porch swings can feel a bit… forgotten? Like someone just hung them there, but didn’t take the time to truly blend them in with the rest of the design. Not this one from The Edgartown Inn on Martha’s Vineyard. I love how the swing plays a larger role in the small porch scene, creating a cozy mini lounge area for guests to hang. Mimic the look with your own porch swing (I love the one below from Polywood, which is totally weather-resistant and made using recycled plastics), plus a low coffee table and a few additional chairs.
Buy: Vineyard Porch Swing, $409 from Polywood.
Play with paint.
One way to guarantee your outdoor space feels fun, playful, and full of life? A quick coat of paint. Don’t be afraid to go bold in your backyard, even if it doesn’t perfectly match your home’s design. You can think of your outdoor space as its own entity that should blend with — but not match — your overall design scheme. If you’re feeling really gutsy, coat an outdoor fireplace, wall, or garden trellis with an eye-catching color combo, like this tangerine and lipstick pink duo spotted at The Saguaro in Scottsdale. Want to score this exact look? Sherwin-Williams’ Obstinate Orange is almost a dead-ringer for that cool shade.
Make the most of a small space.
Just because you don’t have a sprawling backyard to play around with doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the fun. The key? A flexible outdoor scene that does double — or even triple — duty, depending on your needs at the moment. I love this cozy chill zone spotted at Hotel Ynez, nestled in the heart of California’s wine country. The guest rooms boast a small footprint of outdoor space used to the max, including modern Adirondack-style chairs, a charming little bistro set, and, perhaps most genius, a hammock. Lest you think that hammocks are only meant for the surfer set or island dwellers, allow me to encourage you to rethink this versatile outdoor addition. It’s a great way to make the most of a small space — just string it up for a place to lounge and read when relaxing alone, then easily move it out of the way when hosting a group of friends.
Buy: Juana Hammock, $118 from Anthropologie.
Extend your living room.
If you’re stumped over how to lay out your outdoor space, opt for an arrangement that closely mimics what you would do in a traditional living room (especially if you have enough square footage to do so). The dreamy scene above is from The Life House Hotel on Nantucket, and I love the way it closely resembles an indoor hangout zone. Two sets of rattan couches and a few strategically placed side tables face each other, all centered around a focal point — only instead of it being a television, it’s a roaring fire pit. The end result is a seating area just begging for a crowd to show it a good time.
Buy: Britanna Patio Loveseat, $450 from Target.
Go bold with lighting.
Instead of opting for traditional bistro lights for your outdoor space (as charming as they are), why not make a statement with a personality-packed light fixture? A bold choice, like the natural wood fixtures seen poolside at The Rockaway Hotel, will act as a piece of art in a sunroom or deck space, drawing the eye up and making the whole scene feel deliberate and thoughtful. If your outdoor zone isn’t protected from the elements, just make sure you choose a waterproof fixture and electrical components.
Buy: Suru Pendant Lamp, $199 from Article.
When in doubt, add some plants.
At the end of the day, nothing sets the scene like greenery, and you can disguise almost anything (your outdoor oil tank, your neighbor’s ugly fence, a less-than-perfect view) with a well-placed plant. Case in point: Le Sirenuse in Positano. The entire pool deck is covered in a variety of foliage, from fruiting lemon trees to sprawling vines and potted flowers. While much of its splendor has to do with the million-dollar view of the Italian coastline, I think we can all agree that it would feel a little empty without all that greenery. Take the lead from the Italian hotel, and cover your backyard space with strategic hits of plant life for a look that’s private, indulgent, and totally vacation-like.
Buy: Bamboo Palm, $195 from Bloomscape.