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Doctor of design

Prescriptions for ailing outdoor rooms

Margi KyleMargi Kyle
WHEN SOMEONE LOOKS OUT ONTO THEIR PATIO, YARD, PORCH, DECK or lanai and yells, "Medic!," Margi Kyle comes running. She has spent more than four decades advising clients, teaching designers, working as a consultant and reaching out to the public via her television appearances as well as articles in newspapers and magazines. Many of the outdoor design dilemmas she has to diagnose are as familiar and fixable as the common cold, while others are space specific in nature and require individual treatment. Whatever the case, the good doctor is sure to be on call.

Q:   Dear Dr. Margi,
My husband and I just bought our first home and have a wonderful backyard. It is very private and we don't know where to even begin as to decorating it. We are newly married and plan to have a family in the coming years, so it needs to be pretty, child-friendly and an expression of who we are. Our funds are limited and we know that we can't do it all at once. The area in question is a wooden patio floor and fence which needs to be painted or stained - we are not sure of which. We added on to the patio, have waited a year for the wood to settle and need to blend the new wood with the old. Help us please ... where do we start?

Margo and Harry,
Raleigh, N.C

A:   Dear Margo and Harry,

The design doctorThe design doctor prescribes a neutral palette for decking to expand space or a bold shade to create a focal point.
I so remember those days and just putting stuff out to fill the space. Today, our outdoor living space is just as important as the inside. A lot of thought needs to go into the planning of the space. Let's start with the flooring and walls - or as we say in the design business - the "shell of the space." The old wooden floor and fence need to be pressure-washed to kill any mold or mildew. Let it dry thoroughly and then decide if you want paint or stain. If you want a solid color, paint will do that. You will see no wood grain at all. For a more natural look, stain is a good option.
     Color is your next dilemma. Do you want it to blend into nature or be the focal point? To expand space, blending it into the area is a better choice. You might want to go as neutral as possible, allowing your pretty accessories and plants to do their own work.

Q:   Dear Dr. Margi,
We have a very small patio and need to furnish it on a very tight budget. Can you direct us as to where to spend our money and where we can skimp a bit?

Mary and Frank
Cary, N.C.

A:   Dear Mary and Frank,
I have always said, "Never skimp on where you walk, sit or sleep." Having said that, start with your flooring. Make sure you have protected the deck to give it not only a new look, but to add years of enjoyment.
     Your sitting area is another place where I feel you need to spend your money. This is an area where you want to be comfortable and relax. Having purchased a lot of furniture over the years, I have also replaced a lot of furniture. It doesn't pay to buy quick fixes. If you can't buy it all at once, buy three seating pieces and then you can add to it as the budget allows. If you have room for a dining area, it doesn't have to match the seating areas. Create your own style and make it interesting. The table isn't as critical as the seating. If you have a card table, you can use that temporarily, with a cloth to the floor and seating as needed.
     When looking for areas to save your money, end tables and coffee tables can also be created using large pots, glass tops with lighting or artificial plants inside. Those make a great addition. Don't forget to put pots of flowers around and look at your walls. Artwork on the blank wall gives a very finished feeling. If you are very creative, buy a large stretched canvas and create your own art work. Today you have so many affordable selections of large pieces of all-weather art work for the outdoors. It will change the look and add color.

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