In Hawaii, an outdoor living room is a natural extension of the home, given the limited space and warm, year-round weather here.
Whether you have a generous beachfront terrace, a screened-in porch, a covered lanai or simply a small deck, it makes sense to take advantage of the space outdoors. Your outdoor living room can even blend seamlessly with your indoor living room.
Interior designer Jill Braden recently launched Outdoor Spaces, a company focusing on outdoor rooms, kitchens and courtyard gardens.
A few pieces is all it takes to create a comfortable, stylish living space outside, she said. It can be as simple as a bistro table with two chairs and a few potted palms, or a full dining area and daybed beneath a custom-designed pavilion.
It all depends on whether your focus is dining, entertaining, just relaxing, or a combination of all three. The options in furnishings, fabrics and accessories are plentiful.
Choices in outdoor furniture today are no longer limited to teak.
Besides powder-coated aluminum, there’s bamboo, Australian wood, synthetic rattan and marine-coated stainless steel originally designed for yachts. Reclaimed teak is also a popular choice.
Woven plastics now come in bright colors, patterns and different types of weaves, according to Isla Schmidt, designer at So’mace Lifestyle on Young Street.
"I think people are finally opting for items that have a little more spunk to them, as opposed to the more natural teaks and neutral weaves," she said.
Many furniture pieces in Hawaii are designed to go both indoors or outdoors, according to Allison Fetzer, designer for Pacific Home. She recommends investing a little more into quality outdoor furnishings that will last a long time.
Create a conversation area with a table and two to four chairs, or a love seat clustered with chairs set on an outdoor rug. For larger spaces, try a modular sofa, coffee table and side tables, plus a separate dining area.
Fetzer recommends a Southeast Asian daybed, dressed up with colorful silk cushions, for sitting or lounging on a lanai or screened-in porch. Shade, provided by an awning or umbrella, also is important for outdoor living.
If you have a small space, choose a few quality pieces that will serve what you want to do outdoors — a chaise lounge for relaxing, or a high bistro table and barstools for dining. If space is extra tight, consider foldable pieces that can be stowed away when not in use.
On the more whimsical side, Pacific Home has unique pieces like a bubble chair or orbit lounge, an oversized love seat with a canopy shade.
Walk into Johnny Mango at the Gentry Pacific Design Center and you will find two full rows of indoor-outdoor fabric.
Outdoor fabrics have come a long way, according to Johnny Mango owner Brett Sowell. Today there are thousands of choices in florals, stripes, prints and other patterns for between $20 and $400 a yard, depending on the designer brand name.
Nearly all designers, including Candice Olson and Calvin Klein, offer their patterns in outdoor lines.
Technology has engineered fabrics that are not only water-, mold- and mildew-resistant, but won’t fade in the sun and are easy to clean with a garden hose.
The three main outdoor fabrics include spun polyester, solution-dyed acrylics and olefin, a synthetic fiber used in wallpaper and ropes. Sunbrella, originally used as a fabric for outdoor umbrellas, is probably the most well-known trademark, but there are dozens of other brands.
Textures vary, but make no mistake — these fabrics can be just as soft as regular fabrics.
"They can be plush," Sowell said. "They’re refined fabrics."
In Hawaii, many people find it practical to use outdoor fabrics for an inside living room.
"I like it when you can make an outdoor space look like an indoor space," he said.
Sowell recommends long-lasting woven fabric, and going with neutrals, solids and small stripes for the main furniture pieces and bold prints and colors for cushions. When seasons change, it’s easy to create a whole new look just by changing the cushions, he said.
Green is the most popular color so far, he said.
Sowell has another rule of thumb: Do not compete with nature. For instance, if you have a sofa set in a garden full of birds of paradise, go for a solid print instead of floral.
"Don’t compete with nature, because nature always wins out," he said.
Absent an ocean view, swimming pool or pond, you can always enhance your back yard with a water feature, according to Laurens Laudowicz of Tropical Garden Accents in Kailua and Kapolei.
Whether it’s a bubbling fountain or large bowl filled with watergrass, "water adds a theme of tranquility," Laudowicz said.
Pottery is also a fine accent for an outdoor living room, he said. Choose either one large, striking piece or a cluster of three or more pots.
Cacti and succulents can be grouped in colored pots and add a fun, modern flair to any space, according to Schmidt.
For accessories, Fetzer of Pacific Home loves natural materials — a bamboo tray, driftwood or a hurricane lamp filled with candles, sand, rocks or shells.
Tropical Garden Accents’ pots are handmade in China, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia, and coated with ceramic glaze, which helps them endure outdoor heat. They range from 8 inches to 8 feet tall.
After water features and pottery, Laudowicz recommends what he refers to as "garden spirits," which include stone statues and sculptures of Buddha, frogs, gargoyles and other figures.