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Lesson in outdoor living

Martha Stewart Living magazine

The end of summer draws near. And how did you use your backyard? Did you only sit on the patio, within mere feet of the screen door (and practically within reach of the refrigerator), ignoring some of your home’s most valuable real estate? Maybe you didn’t realize that neglected corner could become a shady spot for reading and sipping sangria, or that your deck could be a chic gathering space for two or 20.

We turned to landscape designer Judy Kameon, and her work on Susan and Tim Anderson’s Los Angeles backyard, to see the best ways to turn your garden into an outdoor version of your home, with separate zones for eating, lounging, napping – and dreaming.

Pull up a chair – or a sofa or bench. Comfortable furniture invites lounging and lingering. This cushion-covered banquette is actually made of plastered concrete, and it helps define the corner of Tim and Susan Anderson’s backyard in Los Angeles. (Concrete a little too permanent or imposing? Try low sofas.) Lightweight butterfly chairs are easy to move around as more people join the conversation, and lanterns and throw pillows add punches of color. Tall, sculptural plants such as giant birds-of-paradise and spiky brown cordylines create a wall of sorts, giving the corner an intimate feel.


Create a green welcome with simple plant solutions like ficus. Fast-growing vines such as these will quickly cloak walls and soften a rustic wooden gate, which is the entrance to the Andersons’ small front garden.


Don’t scrimp on dimensions in the great outdoors. The extrawide seat cushions on this banquette allow plenty of room for casual groups, as well as a serving surface for a tray of appetizers. (Since it’s outdoor fabric, spills wipe off easily with water.)

Picks: Paradise punch pillows in Multi, $295 each, by Trina Turk, from horchow.com. Vintage hand-hammered brass tray, $350, e-mosaik.com.


Declutter a small patio by switching out a cluster of chairs for two modern, comfortable benches upholstered in outdoor fabric. Instead of bringing in bouquets for dinner parties, try a potted plant as a permanent centerpiece.

Picks: Canoe pot in White, $125, by Home by Sunset, bauerpottery.com/sunset. Dining bench, stainless steel frame, powder coat, in Espresso, with Jake Stripe fabric, in Lotus, $1,800; and dining chair with arms, stainless steel frame, powder coat, in Espresso, with Sunbrella cushions, in Cocoa, $850; plainair.com.


A shady green part of the garden seems a world away even though it’s really just a few steps from the kitchen and all the hubbub of the backyard play area. Use a colorful low coffee table and sculptural hoop chairs instead of a traditional cafe table and folding chairs to reinforce the feeling of a mod secluded den.

Picks: Hoop chair, steel frame, powder coat, in Cream, with Taupe cord, $450; and coffee table, stainless steel frame, powder coat, in Espresso, with glass mosaic tile in Tangerine, $4,000; plainair.com.


Develop a distinctive mix of colors and patterns that marries outdoor upholstery, throw pillows, and ceramic tiles to play off what’s happening in the flower beds. Pink, orange and yellow tones really pop, but they’re also grounded by the earthy neutrals of stone tiles and brown-leaved succulents and grasses.


Place a comfortable daybed on the patio, instead of an ordinary and expected chaise longue. (Here, it’s right off the master bedroom, so the toughest weekend decision is whether to nap inside or out.) Striped pillows echo the striated leaves of the potted cordyline flanking the door. An outdoor rug helps define the parameters of the “room” and softens the stone and concrete underfoot. A ceramic stool serves as a handy side table and does double duty as an extra seat when you’re entertaining.

Picks: Daybed, stainless steel frame, powder coat, in Matte Black, $4,400, plainair.com. Thick-stripe decorative pillow in Orange, $198, jitidesigns.com. Fretwork all-weather area rug (#01260) in Sand/Coffee, $257, by Martha Stewart Living Collection, from homedecorators.com.


A fire pit is a focal point for a seating area; plus it extends the outdoor entertaining season beyond the warmth of summer. This model has a gas hookup that can be easily switched on with a key (hidden from the kids), but a wood fire in a concrete vessel also works.

Picks: Deep Wok fire pit, $429, pottedstore.com.


Emphasize rich brown, gray, and silver leaves rather than flowers, which can come and go quickly in the garden. Informal flower beds can be anchored with a larger sculptural plant such as this blue agave, and a grouping of other colorful drought-tolerant succulents.


When topped with cushions, a low wall adds valuable space for extra seating for a larger gathering. Tiles bring an unexpected dose of pattern in a poolside space that might ordinarily just be plain concrete.


Light-colored fabric can be tricky to keep clean outdoors, but this cotton canvas butterfly chair cover can go right in the laundry or can be folded up and stored indoors when not in use.

Picks: Butterfly chair, Black frame with White cover, $218, circa50.com.


Don’t let hard-to-use spaces like this narrow sliver between the end of the pool and a sunken utility area go to waste. Use one space-saving double chaise instead of two separate ones, and arrange decorative stools (used as side tables) in the same symmetrical way you would in your living room. Hang electric lanterns from a large tree to complete the feeling of a stylish outdoor room that’s cool and shady during the day and romantically secluded at night.

Picks: Zebra bamboo pillows in Yellow and White, $295 each, by Trina Turk, from horchow.com. Cotton pompoms throw in Vibrant Yellow, $58, karmaliving.net. Medium Rosslyn pot, in Bauer Orange, $300, bauerpottery.com. Case Study double chaise, stainless, with linen cover in Basil, $2,650, modernica.net.


Watch Judy Kameon give more tips on outdoor living the Martha Stewart Living iPad edition. Find it in the iTunes Store.  Landscaping by Judy Kameon, Elysian Landscapes, elysianlandscapes.com.


Nia Knowles

Realtor, Community Advocate, Mother, Leader, Innovative Thinker, Idea Generator,

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