Outdoor Spaces

With the spring season soon rounding the corner to summer, thoughts turn to enjoying the outdoors and sharing moments with our friends and family. Almost as important as these moments are the places we gather to share them.  An outdoor patio setting is a great place to create a warm and welcoming environment to share a cup of coffee, a glass of wine and great conversation.

It doesn’t matter if your outdoor space is a townhouse patio, the deck on a condo, or the veranda off a large home, an inviting space can be created anywhere with just a few basic principles:

  1. Define your space - Just like walls define a room, plants and planters can be used to achieve the same effect. By establishing a border using plants and planters, it creates a frame for you to develop your outdoor space.
  2. Area Rugs – An area rug can bring the whole area together and is a great way to add to the frame we just created. There are many styles, sizes and materials available now, so weather is no longer a big concern. Prater Mills Makes a great reversible outdoor rug made out of recycled plastics.
  3. Furniture Placement- Keep in mind you want conversation to flow. You need to be able to look at your guests comfortably, so place your furniture accordingly.  There should be room for at least a small table or cubes in the center for glasses and a candle or two.  
  4. Add colour - Add some colour to the groundwork you’ve already laid with toss cushions and cozy throws for those cooler nights.  The colours you choose do not have to be an extension of the interior of your home.  Have some fun! Get bold, go blue for a change.  
  5. Finishing Touches – A sheer curtain is a lovely way to filter sun and calm the breeze, this is what we refer to as a “soft” element. Votive candles are a great addition as well, and work well giving good, low light.

Let this space you’ve created have its own personality, and allow it to show a different side of you. Enjoy!

The Great Indoors

With their vibrant colours, sophisticated patterns and proven durability, outdoor fabrics have been recruited to preform inside jobs. They can be soft and supple for use as accent cushions or upholstered dining chairs. I have put them to work covering a window seat bench in a laundry room where I wanted both colour and durability.

A sofa, accent cushions, an ottoman or occasional chairs can be upholstered in these durable fabrics for that family room where the living includes rough and tumble kids, pets and those Super bowl parties. The soft, supple yet durable fabrics are up to the wear and tear.

Using the outdoor fabric indoors allows greater possibilities to carry the inside scape to the patio in one continuous colour flow enhancing the feel of spaciousness and comfort. On the other hand, since outdoor fabric style, texture and colour styles have exploded in recent years, meshing an existing indoor colour scheme with the outdoor living space can be a creative adventure to have fun with.

The qualities of these fabrics are:

  • fade resistant
  • water and stain resistant
  • breathable 
  • mold resistant
  • easy care

For an extensive selection of styles, patterns and colours visit the Robert Allen website at robertallendesign.com.

A Custom Headboard

The idea:  

To create an interesting headboard for a guest bedroom, simple, but interesting.


Design passed on to the water jet company where a seamless, nearly perfect finish was obtained.  Painted in a high gloss finish, along with a solid backing piece.

The finished product:

The headboard was installed with a matching white backing.  All in all the effect is terrific with a great "bring the breeze block inside” look.  The side tables were a great find and also painted to match the headboard.

An Innovative Wine Cellar

Many homes are building in or adding larger sized wine coolers, actual spaces that will accommodate more then the standard wine fridge. These are becoming areas that are not necessarily relegated to the basement, but become a feature in a designated area in the home.

I recently installed one in a home where the client wanted to store between 250 -300 bottles. The glass incased unit measures approximately 5’wide, 7’ high and 18”deep.  

Since there needs to be a vapor barrier, there was some room to have a little fun on the back wall of the unit. I collected several wooden wine boxes of varying sizes, separated the sides and lids and formed an eclectic collage with them. These boxes came with the vineyard label or the type of wine burned into them. Many are works of art. To take the idea even further, I had several of the client’s friends donate one or more of their boxes because the wine that came in it would be a favourite of the givers. Each signed it with a black felt pen and some made fun comments to go along with the signature.

After the glass was installed I tossed all the corks my client had saved over the years onto the floor of the cooler.  The project was an immense hit and is a great topic of conversation.