How to Make the Most Out of Your Outdoor Space in Fall

published Sep 15, 2019
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People often think of patio season as starting and ending with summer, but it doesn’t have to be that way. With the right tweaks, a patio can be usable up until the first snowfall of the year, design experts say. 

“Definitely get out there and enjoy this space and the outside as long as possible,” says Bevan Talbott, residential interior designer and founder of Bevan & Co., based in Old Greenwich, Connecticut.

Here are tips for transitioning a patio or terrace from summer to fall, according to design experts.

Rearrange your furniture

In the summertime, you probably eat dinner, host get-togethers, and lounge about on your patio. In the fall, you’re likely going to use the space differently, maybe for drinking coffee or wine or reading a book under a comfy blanket, and you’ll want the layout of your furniture to reflect that change. 

“You can get cozy by bringing the furniture arrangements in [for] more intimate seating,” Talbott says. She recommends placing sofas and chairs around a central piece of furniture, like a coffee table topped with candles or lanterns or, if possible, a firepit. “You can sit around that and get toasty,” she says. 

Pick lighter hues to complement year-round neutrals

While dark purples, reds, and burgundies may be the first colors that come to mind when you think of fall, Talbott suggests using lighter tones to decorate outside. That way, as temperatures drop and the sun begins to set earlier, you can keep the space looking and feeling as warm as possible. She recommends complimenting neutral bases—like beige, tan, brown, or eggshell white left over from summer furniture—with yellow, orange, and green, and maybe throwing in a pop of navy blue. 

Provide additional sources of warmth

You’ll of course also want to make sure the area literally feels warm. If you don’t have a firepit, fireplace, or heated floors, consider a heat lamp. This will “really extend the life of an outdoor area,” Talbott says.

Additionally, you can amp up the design and coziness level by providing throw pillows and blankets for people to wrap themselves in. Talbott suggests dual-use, indoor-outdoor throw blankets, which are light and portable but warm enough to withstand low temperatures, or soft materials like cashmere and wool blends, if you can commit to bringing the blankets inside after each use.

Add lighting  

Because the number of hours of sunlight your patio sees will decrease as fall goes on, providing additional sources of light will ensure that the space can be used in the evenings and on dark, cloudy days. Talbott suggests string lights, lanterns, and candles as options for durable outdoor lighting that are both decorative and useful.  

Use plants, but wisely 

No patio is complete without a few plants, but finding ones that will survive through the cold can be tricky. Jeffrey Erb, landscape designer and founder of Jeffrey Erb Landscape Design in New York City, specializes in landscape design for urban terraces, rooftops, and patios. He suggests decorating with ornamental gresses, like sedum, and tall flowers, like canna lilies, both of which turn shades of orange, yellow, and purple in the fall. 

Flower and plant arrangements can be used as focal points in the center of your patio, or around the edges to make the space feel smaller, more contained, and cozier. Wherever you put them, Erb says to think about how they’ll look against a fall sunrise or sunset. 

“If you’re positioning them in a way that sunlight is hitting them from behind, they’re going to look like they’re glowing in your garden,” Erb says, adding that this is particularly true of ornamental grasses.“You can spend a lot of money on landscape lighting, but [this naturally creates] such an incredible effect.”