Winter is Over.
I enjoy crisp weather and brisk air and it’s no secret among my closest of friends. I love a light rainfall and I simply adore the memories of the year’s first snow. Why, one would never guess I come from a tropical island: not with my preference for colder weather. No, you would never know… Until the first sign of Spring!
The first sign of Spring is not when it’s here and the world is in bloom.
It’s when we start to cleanup the potted flowers and sweep up the old debris left by “Old Man Winter” and his sidekick Jack Frost. It’s when we first think of our gardening plans and what we should do to prepare for the season. It’s when we start to glance sideways at our patios and think of ideas regarding entertaining company and splendid nights in dimly lit outdoor dining areas and outdoor living spaces. I say dimly lit because it provides an ambience that draws us together and makes the evening a touch more intimate.
There are steps to enjoying your patio and with our busy schedules, sometimes we don’t feel as though we have enough time to spend outside with family and friends. I find this to be the case almost every year but something changed last year. I realized that while we prepare for every other season with ease, Spring was the one that was simply overlooked. When it came to enjoying the patio and inviting friends over for brunch, wine, tea or an evening dinner party,most of us were behind.
Being as busy as we all currently are, this was a great excuse.
This year, I promised to not only continue making this an excuse, I also promised to blog about the steps to ensure my friends and I would be ready to receive company, the friends, the laughter and make the memories without rushing about at the very last minute. So where do we start? With Winter and the last few weeks we have to plan it out. Right now. We all want to sit back and enjoy the patio instead of working on it during spring so let’s get started.
The Primary Plan:
1. Step Back and think of what you want it to feel and look like once it is completed.
2. Make a short list of things you want to do on the patio throughout Spring, Summer and Fall. Our goal is to think and plan ahead instead of rushing through everything.
3. The last weeks of winter, plan to browse through your local home improvement stores or consult with your designer regarding these changes. You need time to find the right articles and accessories. Structural upgrades take great time so now is a good time to start that process. Line up maintenance regarding your patio and landscaping.
Outdoor kitchens and tile-setting both take a bit of time and planning, as do custom outdoor cushions, drapery and pillows. Depending on your design needs, Fall and Winter may be the best times to meet with your designer to get this going, even if it’s just for a design consultation or idea.
Once you have the primary plan, set a secondary plan that you can tackle. This one should only take you a few weekends and only a few hours per weekend to complete each step.The trick here is to do it gradually without stress or pressure from outside forces.
The Secondary Plan:
1. Clean and perform any maintenance on your grill or outdoor kitchen as well as purchase any new cooking accessories before they disappear mid-spring. I have noticed that the promo prices on the newest accessories are usually out of season, always better the season before because its down-time. The demand is actually lower in Winter than it is in Spring.
2. Do away with any stagnant water sources. If you have a pond, now is a great time to perform maintenance tasks on the pump and other working parts. Mosquitoes love to nest here however, we don’t love them…
3. Sweep up any debris left to you by Mother Nature. We have a bird’s nest under our patio eve and so we end up scrubbing and power washing our patio every year.
4. Touch up any worn finishes on your furniture. Note: Newly purchased iron furniture is primed black. This is not a finish. In other words, you should decided which color you would like your furniture to be and spray paint it to prevent rust. Make sure you cover all sides of the furniture, not just what you see because humidity is all around us and it will kickstart the rusting of iron if the metal is not protected with a final finish.
5. Purchase the correct size cushions and pillows for your furniture if you want to make it feel like an outdoor living room. Keep in mind that a trick to saving wear on these soft pieces is to put them away when they are not in use. Furniture covers are great but they are not meant to extend the life of the patio cushions or pillows. Remember humidity? Yes, that is all around you in the air and it will creep beneath any cover you use outside. Bring them inside and store them in a spare closet if you have one or in a storage container in the garage. It doesn’t matter where, as long as you don’t leave them outside. This also applies to outdoor umbrellas. Closing them and leaving them out will not keep them from fading nor will it protect them from strong gusts of wind.
6. Decorate sparingly. Be considerate of the events you will be having outside. Think of the dinnerware and serving bowls and glassware that will take up the tables. These look great in magazines but we’re not talking about designer spreads, just setting the tone for you and your guests.
Dinnerware takes up quite a bit of space…
7. Outdoor rugs: Oh, they are just lovely. They really take away the cold, hard feel of the patio by softening up what’s under our feet. These really make a space an outdoor living room, don’t they? I say, yes, purchase one of those if you really want that bring-the-indoors-out feel!
8. Lighting: If you have patio umbrellas, you may want to consider the patio umbrella lights. LED battery-powered or plug-in, whatever you decide, consider the power source and extension cords or the Lumens on the battery-powered ones. Lumens are your light output. The higher the number, the brighter the light. Candles are another source and so are tiki torches, just consider their placement and wind factor but you can mix and match from early evening and sunset to night-time entertaining. If you plan on having one long dinner table across the yard, stringing Christmas lights overhead makes a great source of lighting for that evening.
Be certain to measure for the correct linear coverage and for an outdoor extension cord to carry the power out to the location. Don’t skimp on the cost. The thicker the cord, the better. Electrical power tends to weaken through greater distance, hence the thicker extensions. Check your total consumption and consult with a local pro if you just aren’t sure.
9. Necessary accessories are the drink dispensers, citronella candles and the mesh domes for covering your foods. These are great items to have to keep pesky critters away while outdoors. Nothing ruins a fabulous evening outdoors than a mosquito or june-bug attack!
10. Fire pits. Whether on a table, gas or wood-burning, or an actual fireplace, check the parts and the supplies. Preventing an accident is always in your best interest.
I hope this post serves to inspire you to get started so that you can enjoy the full seasons of Spring, Summer and Fall on your patio. Entertaining guests at the last minute can be stressful and let’s face it, no one likes to feel stressed. As a design professional, I usually consult with my clients regarding their patios with adequate time and oversee their spaces. The goal is to make it naturally inviting and pleasant. Setting a plan in motion before the outdoor season begins is an excellent course of action for anyone planning to entertain outdoors. Get started today and in no time, you’ll find yourself able to sit back and enjoy your outdoor living space…Who knows, you may just be able to take a siesta outside, one lazy Spring afternoon…Enjoy!