Creating A Cozy Backyard

 This post is sponsored by TIKI Brand. All opinions are my own.

Bigger is always better right? I mean come on?!… Right? Hmmmmm…

Well, as you know in many instances this is truth, but in some cases, you just don’t need all of that. Whatever “that” is… It’s like having an entire Las Vegas buffet in front of you, but really you are just looking for a small plate. When we have large plots of land it can be difficult to parcel that into a space that is more suitable for two, instead of 200.

I think this is a job of refocusing. We use design to deliberately focus on specific features when we design a room. If we have a beautiful piece of art we want to focus in on, we make sure to let it have as much breathing room as possible, so it garners attention because nothing is there to take away from it.

When you are at the theatre and there is a powerful monologue or solo scene, do you notice how the entire stage may not be lit, and it becomes a series or maybe even a single beam of light illuminating the actor set against darkness. This is a powerful tool with lighting designers use to their advantage, which is quite a simple concept, with a powerful result.

When we apply that principle to a large outdoor space, we can focus attention on a specific area. I chose a forgotten part of a friend’s yard that was probably meant to be a feature, but has fallen into just being an unused, unloved portion of the yard. This was specifically built in as a fire pit, which the family quickly realized wasn’t something they maintained the way they thought they would. It was carved into the tiered levels of the yard nicely, but again, there was nothing enticing.

The last time the pit was swept and wood was chopped, then artfully arranged and lit was eons ago. So, this was literally a seating area to look at a hole. Blech!

I simply laid 2″ x 6″ planks cut to length to give us a finished top and get rid of the eyesore of a pit. Voila! Simple and now we have a surface! We could literally use a couple of my favorite things, the TIKI Brand Clean Burn tabletop firepieces and call it a day. That is essentially what the space was meant to be, a place to hang out around an open flame, but with the portable and easy-to-use tabletop firepiece, it is so much easier to maintain than a traditional pit! But, this still does not solve the problem of feeling like you’re sitting alone in state park.

This is where we use light to our advantage! I decided to use an assortment of Clean Burn Firepieces and flanked the lower areas with the Cordoba Patio Torches. The flames instantly defined the area, despite it architecturally already being designated. The warmth of the flames will make it more intimate and cozy. The power of light! YES! It seems so simple, and it is, but also something that is often overlooked.

And let’s not forget that a bit of pattern softens the space and makes everything happy, so mixing in a few Shibori patterned outdoor pillows and a handful of potted plants finished things off to perfection!

Light up the firepieces and patio torches as soon as you get out, so as the sun sets you’re already set! With the Clean Burn torch fuel, the firepieces emit dramatically less smoke and soot than traditional petroleum-based fuel, so it just bathes you in a warm glow as twilight begins.

We have defined our area with the flickering of the flames and made that large yard feel like it didn’t exist. All of the focus has now been redirected to a much more manageable footprint. Just as we humans inhabit the earth and like to celebrate our own piece of the universe, on a much smaller scale, we too, can create our own little star in the vast galaxy we call our backyard!

 

Backyard Makeover Made Easy

This post is sponsored by TIKI Brand. All opinions are my own.

Tackling an outdoor project can seem intimidating, but there are a few key things to keep in mind that will ensure a swoon-worthy outcome! This was the anxiety and stress lifestyle blogger Melissa Williams was feeling when her young family moved into a new home with a large completely open backyard.

She and her husband had plans to lay a stamped concrete patio area, but past that point… Well, nothing. So that’s where TIKI Brand and I stepped in to see what I could do to help create the perfect outdoor oasis!

I will admit I was not familiar with this material, but Stamped Concrete is literally what is says. It’s poured out like traditional concrete, but then “stamped” with different profile textures to mimic the look of natural stone, then a pigment is applied over that to alter the color! It really was quite a lovely effect. It literally looked like a slate patio, which would have easily been 3 times the cost! It was really quite nice!

So, our blank canvas was ready! The plot measured out approximately 13’-0” deep x 19’-0” wide. I had a pretty lengthy conversation with Melissa about her style and what she wanted to accomplish. She is the mother of two small children and really just wanted to be able for the family to hang out. Since she works from home, even a space to have a morning cup of coffee and work on her laptop was ideal. She loved a Boho inspired vibe and was very receptive to the use of color even though it wasn’t within her own personal comfort zone to make choices like that.

One of the things I immediately noticed was the patio was wonderful, but completely exposed to her neighbors from all sides. So, we thought a small slatted partition wall just on the outside corner would give a bit of privacy but still allow visual access to the areas of the yard behind it. That ended up being a weekend project for her husband and father.

Now it was furniture and space planning! The fun stuff! Since she had a family of four I needed to provide at least that many spots when they were all outside. I also wanted to give the space zones if you will. A lounge area then a small bistro, work zone. The easiest way to define these specific areas is through rugs! They will provide a visual and textural footprint for the two areas. And if you know me, I LOVE to layer rugs! The lounge area was not quite large enough with just one rug, so I used two of them, layering the smaller over the outside corner of the larger to increase that zone!


Melissa initially mentioned a loveseat, and I just thought, but then where are the other two butts going to be planted? So I found a wonderful modular sectional! I made sure to specify something in a neutral color so that we could use pillows to really bring in a pop of color and pattern! I did this especially because of Melissa’s uncertainty with color, so because we left the large furniture piece neutral, in this case a beautiful light grey, this gives her flexibility in the future to switch things up or embrace new trendy colors or patterns though the pillows whenever she wants to!

I angled up a sculptural wire chair to complete the lounge area since the sectional alone despite it accommodating four people, needed an accent chair to promote conversation, and give a guest an option to sit opposite the family.

At the other corner opposite the sectional, I found the perfect bistro set, again, anchored with a rug for Melissa to work outside on nice days, or to have a romantic dinner with her husband on summer nights.

And, of course, as the sun begins to set, what’s the most important feature? Lighting! We can have the most amazing furnishings and architectural details, but if you can’t see it, then… Well, you can’t appreciate it! I used a combination of products from TIKI Brand, including traditional torches to define the space and added a variety of table top torches and patio torches to give the perfect amount of illumination and ambiance. By mixing different levels of lighting you’ve made what is essentially a large open outdoor space feel cozy and intimate. These torches are such an affordable way to transform your space into your own personal oasis and the dancing flame is truly mesmerizing.

So just remember my three tips:

  1. Lay rugs to define spaces
  2. Keep large furniture pieces neutral in color so you can pop with accent pillows
  3. Use various levels of lighting to create a cozy atmosphere

The space was a ton of fun to create with Melissa, and I know her family will be enjoying this new part of their home for years and years to come!

To watch our entire makeover Click Here!

Best Outdoor Party Décor

This post is sponsored by TIKI Brand. All opinions are my own.

Throwing a party is one of those things in life that no one teaches you how to do… there’s no elective “Entertaining 101” class you can sign up for. It is kind of a matter of trial and error, also seeing what others are doing, and what you end up enjoying when you go out to a party.

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I really think there are a few easy things that could make any gettogether fun and festive when talking décor.

So first, flowers and greenery. It is such a simple and small touch, but it literally and figuratively livens up the place! Grab two or three inexpensive bunches of flowers and just make really informal tiny arrangements and place them where ever. Super simple, but so effective and eye catching! If you’re not a “flower person,” then how about an assortment of fresh herbs? They are not only delightfully fragrant but could actually serve as part of the meal! Hehe!

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Second, seating… I know, I know, what are you talking about Tyler? Well, parties are generally places where people come to stay awhile. Standing only parties will quickly dissolve because, face it, we’re all lazy and tired! Hehe! Now I don’t mean for you to pull every last chair out of your house to give every guest a place for their tush, but options are key! If you have a large outdoor area, try just laying out a few rugs and throw pillows alongside what’s already there. Yes, they can be “indoor” items, because you’re not leaving them outside forever, but I think the notion of an informal, make yourself comfortable, almost picnic-type setting could be more engaging than you might think. When you give people the literal option to “kick of their shoes” and really get comfortable, they will stay. You’ve created an environment like they are in your home and part of the family. Face it, sitting on the ground is kind of fun, like a super chic grown up picnic!

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Lastly, lighting! Lighting is key to any great interior setting, and the same holds true for outdoor settings! Mixing and matching lighting, like the TIKI Brand table torches with citronella candles gives you that perfect glow. You never want a party, especially as the sun starts to set, to seem like it’s under the eye of a search light, which is what a lot of backyard lights feel like. Added bonus – when you fill the torches with Bitefighter torch fuel, you’ll guarantee an evening free of buzzing and biting!

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The flickering flames positioned in various spots around the party space gives it the ambiance that will surely have your guests laughing and enjoying themselves into the wee hours! And I guarantee, they will be taking some mental notes from YOU on their next party!

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Happy Entertaining!

From Inspiration to Execution

So you know you have a project ahead of you, but not a clue as to where you start… No worries, there are a ton of places out there to help guide you along like Pinterest, Houzz and resources like ideas.kohler.com, which takes you from design inspiration to the next step of your bathroom or kitchen project. But really you might have the inspiration for a design project in the most unlikely of places, like a trinket sitting on a shelf, or a vacation you took 10 years ago!

I really like to pull inspiration from what I know, things I love or places I’ve been… This is by far the most authentic way to develop the bones for a successful project! The reason being is that it means something to you! So often we see beautiful spaces, but can’t connect, and that might be because there’s nothing that personally speaks to you.

Here are just a few examples of my initial inspirations and how they were transformed into their completed realizations so you see what I’m talking about…

 

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NYC Design Student Mixer

I am excited to announce the 1st Annual Student Mixer “Design Connext” on September 8th! This was the brainchild of the NY Chapters of AIA, IIDA & ASID. This gives the students studying Interior Design, Architecture, Urban Studies and Landscape Architecture the opportunity to meet and mingle before the rigors of school gets into full swing! 

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For The Love Of Leather

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Okay, we all know that leather is simply amazing and a wonderful material to use on furniture. It cleans up easy, gets better with age, always looks chic and is pretty much timeless…BUT, you can run the risk of overdoing it.

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Presentation Is EVERYTHING!

So it’s definitely that time of the year when we all are going crazy trying to figure out, who wants what… What are teenagers actually into?… What is the new “it” gift?… Why am I always rushing and running around till the bitter end, like I had no idea that Christmas actually fell on December 25th this year, and every year prior?…

Anyway, I digress… So besides the act of purchasing the “perfect” gift for all your loved ones, a major component to a successful present is the package that the item is given in. I’m such a sucker for awesome, and well executed wrapping… It just shows that besides the thought that went into the gift there was some time and effort put in to make sure that it looks gorgeous!

Here’s just a quick breakdown of the most simple of wrap jobs, but a few tips that I think make it it super chic!

 
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Adrian’s Pound Cake

My husband doesn’t come from a long line of remarkable chefs or bakers, but what did trickle down is freaking awesome! One of the things that he makes very well is pound cake. This is a revamped recipe from his grandmother that he’s tweaked several times over, in many a trial and error taste test on my part. The recipe is basic enough that you can start to play with the proportions to suit your taste. 

One of my favorite variations of this recipe is the Pistachio pound cake version where a cup of the flour is more or less swapped out for Pistachio Pudding, and come on, who doesn’t love that?!

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Holiday Gifts well under $100

I don’t know about you guys but I completely dread the Holidays… It’s like instant anxiety and frustration trying to figure out what people want, what they are currently into, or what style of whatever it is you need to understand and purchase. I just throw my hands up most of the time, and give LOVE… Yeah, love… It works, but doesn’t always get the desired reaction when they open up a box only to be greeted with… LOVE. 

So, I’ve actually done a bit of thinking and put together a simple list of items that would appeal to both your male or female gift recipients, and I totally believe they would get a kick out of it!

The thing is, so many of us look at items, and never purchase them because they seem more like “excess” items than “need” items. I’ve found seven gifts, all well under $100 that everyone could find really thoughtful, of course beautiful, but and the end of the day, useful!

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The Well-Worn Sofa

As a designer, one of the most agonizing pieces to decide on is the sofa, and it’s completely understandable, as in most spaces, it is the focal point of the room. There are countless numbers of styles, sizes and textiles that can wrap the piece, but I have to say, there is something so sexy about a well worn leather sofa… Now I’m not talking a $499 deal for a 6-piece “Bonus Leather” winner (and if you act now we’ll throw in the coffee table and floor lamp), hell no… I’m talking leather that looks like a broken in baseball glove… Like a great pair of jeans, that have been molded to hug everything in the right places, the same holds true for the leather sofa…

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