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Bringing the Indoors Out
By Tammy Minn - Inland Empire Magazine, May 2004

Expand your living quarters beyond the confines of your walls by choosing exterior furniture that reflects your style as well as your entertainment needs when friends drop by.

Good design doesn't stop at the back door, especially in a region like the Inland Empire where outdoor living is nearly a year-round activity. Ruth Ann Chafin uses her San Bernardino home as an example: "I have 24 feet of glass across the back of my house. You can see outside when you're in and inside when you're out. The two spaces need to complement each other," she says.

As owner of Interior Network, Inc. in Loma Linda , and as an interior designer and licensed contractor, Chafin knows that good planning from the beginning can save a lot of money in the end. This is true for the outside of your home as well as the inside.

"I like to involve a landscape architect from the get go. That way, color scheme, themes and long-term plans are clear," she says. For example, if you want to add a patio, an outdoor kitchen or permanent water features, gas lines, electrical connections and possibly grading need to be considered.

"It's not just about what would look pretty in a planter. It's also about the full concept of this extra living space you want to incorporate into your home and lifestyle," she says.

The first step in doing that is to consider your budget. As Don Beets of Taylor Appliances in Riverside points out, "You can easily spend $20,000 on an outdoor kitchen." But that might not include flooring, furniture, water features or other landscape amenities-like plants.

Once you've settled on the budget and the overall design scheme, making the yard blend with the indoor living space is accomplished through the little things, Chafin says.

"You repeat details. For example, you might use wonderful, artsy glass tiles in the swimming pool and then use some of those same tiles in the kitchen backsplash or at the bar. Or if you have square edges on the furnishings inside, like a dining table, you can find outdoor furnishings with square edges," Chafin says.

The same principal can be applied to the use of color. "Repeat the same colors. Treat the patio as an extension of the family room," she says. Choose cushions that blend with your interior, add garden art that matches the theme of your décor or tie plants into the indoor theme by picking up colors from interior fabrics or artwork indoors. Repeat those colors in the plants and flowers outside.

Chafin says to remember that what you do outdoors can affect the indoor look as well. Adding patio covers will diminish the light that comes inside, which may cast a whole new look on your paint and furniture. Take that into consideration when adding patio covers or other shade products.

Another benefit of including your outdoor space in your indoor decorating plans is that it may save you money on excess patio furniture. While a quality five-piece set is a good investment, you probably don't need several of them-except on special occasions.

"I don't need a lot of chairs outside all the time. But when I'm entertaining, I might need to add a few. I have a black patio table and black kitchen chairs. It's easy to combine them and not have it look like a mishmash," she says. Just remember to bring them in when the party's over.

As for furniture style, that varies with homeowners. Some prefer a formal look, while others go for a laid-back feel. Wrought iron, wicker and wood are popular choices, but wrought iron may be the best for staying put in high winds and for resisting the ravages of Inland Empire summers.

O.W. Lee of Ontario has manufactured wrought iron furniture since 1945 and has dealers throughout the world. A number of finishes are available, and cushions can be upholstered from about 45 different fabrics. Styles range from sleek modern to elegant Old World . A five-piece set ranges from about $1,800 up, depending on where you buy it.

If you prefer wood, teak or redwood are good choices. Teak can be found in most patio specialty stores, in catalogs and on the Internet. A five-piece teak dining set can cost about $1,800.

As for wicker, manufacturers have improved its durability over the years. A vinyl version that stands up to the weather is available. Still, experts suggest you should consider how much sun, wear and tear wicker pieces might get. As with wrought iron and wood sets, wicker dining sets can cost about $1,800.

Swings, gliders and chaise lounges make great places to unwind and enjoy a cool summer evening. Wooden swings start at about $175. Gliders and lounges vary greatly depending on what they're made of.


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