How to Create an Outdoor Space that’s Basically a Second Living Room, According to 4 Design Experts

published Jul 17, 2019
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Ella Fitzgerald was onto something when she sang about livin’ being easy in the summertime. Summer means no driving in ice and snow, no bundling up to walk out the door, and lots of impromptu gatherings you can throw together at the last minute.

You can be ready for those outdoor get-togethers (and cozy evenings spent solo or with your significant other) with a space that looks and feels a lot like a living room. People are increasingly dressing up their patios with upholstered furniture, coffee tables, painted flooring, and curated decor, which means it can act as a second living room that just happens to be outside. Doubling your living space? Yes, please.

We’re so on board with this summertime trend, and so are the four designers and bloggers we spoke to about it. Here are their top tips for creating an al fresco living room of your own.

Credit: Monika Hibbs

Cozy & Breezy

“The goal was to create a space where our family could hang out and relax and also set up a covered area for us to entertain, even if the weather was not ideal. One of my favorite things about the covered deck is the addition of the heaters. They allow you to cozy up on the couch with a good book even into the cooler months.

My advice is to find one or two daybeds or outdoor couches that will work size-wise in your space. A round coffee table looks great and gives more room, which is perfect for entertaining. Lots of pillows add comfort and personal design style into a space. If you have the option, outdoor heaters are a great investment and allow you to enjoy the space year-round. Small potted trees and planters filled with seasonal greens or flowers complete the space and make it feel more like home.” —Monika Hibbs, Founder and Creative Director of

Credit: Love Grows Wild

Pretty & Vintage-Inspired  

“I only had a tiny pad of concrete to work with to create an outdoor living space in my backyard, so I wanted to make the most of the small square footage. I added a seating area with a wooden bench and cozy wicker chairs and a coffee table made from old barn beams. I kept the colors light and neutral since the space is small and let the potted plants and flowers provide a little bit of color.

Treat your outdoor space as you would any of your indoor spaces, adding textiles, art, and lighting to create a cozy atmosphere. Use a mix of both new and vintage pieces. Add different textures like wicker and woodgrain to keep a neutral palette interesting. Think of the purpose and how you want to use this space before you start designing.” —Liz Fourez, Creator of Love Grows Wild

Fun & Fanciful

“We created this patio for lots of outdoor entertaining in New Orleans. My favorite thing is probably the faux painted tiles. We were going for a modern Mediterranean feel. 

Make sure to use exterior paints and primers for your patio. There is elastomeric paint which is really durable and also exterior acrylic paint. First, I power-washed the concrete slab and let it dry. Next, I primed it with an exterior primer. This helps fill in small cracks and helps smooth out the concrete a bit. I let that dry for a day. Then I painted the entire slab white with an exterior paint (Sherwin Williams Snowbound) with a ¾-inch nap roller. I let that dry for another day or two. Now comes the fun part—stenciling! I used a stencil to create a faux tile look. I used a smaller roller with ½-inch nap. I picked out two exterior acrylic paint colors (Sherwin Williams Adriatic Sea and In the Navy) for the concrete. I made sure to give the stencil a quick wipe-down after every pass to prevent excess paint from getting onto the concrete. After that’s done, I let it dry for a day. I applied three coats of paver sealer to protect the freshly-painted concrete. And that’s all!” —Dabito, Designer at Old Brand New

Cool & Classic

“This outdoor oasis was inspired by the home itself, which features expansive steel doors and windows throughout, blurring the line between interior spaces and their exterior counterparts. The goal of this design was to create a living room-worthy exterior space, utilizing materials and silhouettes traditionally found within the home.

One of the quickest ways to elevate your patio space is with pieces that combine the elegance of indoor furniture with the durability of outdoor furniture. Aim for design details traditionally found indoors, including tailored slipcovers and cane detailing. Forget about matching sets—when it comes to creating a cohesive arrangement, it’s all about the mix! Layer accessories to bring your al fresco setting to life. Throw pillows crafted from weather-friendly materials, like hide, can bring the perfect homegrown charm to your outdoor space. When temps drop, sprinkle a couple of plush throw blankets throughout the area to keep your guests cozy. Need more seating? Pull out a bench or ottoman from your living room or bedroom that can be easily repurposed.” —Marie Flanigan, Principal of Marie Flanigan Interiors