March 8, 2019

10 Tips to Bring Sophistication to Your Outdoor Living Space

Outdoor living is all about comfortable entertaining in a backyard oasis. “There’s nothing better than an outside grill and bar area where people can gather and enjoy each other’s company,” says NKBA Insider, Richard T. Anuszkiewicz. “I love the idea of making this a fully integrated living room-like setting, where everyone can hang out and enjoy the experience.”

The NKBA Insiders, a cadre of kitchen and bath professionals each with his or her own specialty, ruminate on what makes an exterior space great, while sharing insights into some hot new products and pitfalls to avoid when creating an outdoor dreamscape. 


Nature. You’re already outside — take advantage of what Mother Nature has provided.

“More fresh air, sunshine, and birdsong,” says materials expert Grace Jeffers. “I love designs that incorporate the local nature. I recommend using native trees and plants, local furniture makers, and designers.”

Photography courtesy of Sandra Gjesdahl, Bristol Design & ConstructionNKBA 2018 Outdoor Kitchen Design Award Winner.

Light. “Lighting and comfortable seating that’s cozy and good for conversations. Outdoor spaces should not be over-lit,” stresses designer Rebekah Zaveloff, CKD. “And I love a super-long table that can seat 16+ people.”


Choosing Products that Won’t Hold Up. “Be mindful of choosing the right outdoor products,” says Anuszkiewicz. “Certain appliances, cabinetry, and counters are not made to withstand outdoor conditions.”

Too Much of a Good Thing. “Too much hardscaping—the whole point of a successful and welcoming outdoor space is to be outdoors, not in a stone or hard surface jungle,” says Zaveloff. “Include lots of plant beds and ornamental trees and bushes.”


Connectivity. “I love the seamless capabilities smartphones have these days,” says tech guru Ryan Herd. “Imagine reflecting on a recent family vacation around your fire pit in your backyard. With a few taps, your phone turns into a remote and can project straight onto your outdoor TV. While the music surrounds you, you can relax with your favorite drink and watch all the videos you took on that vacation. Technology should complement your lifestyle, not complicate it.”

Phillips Collection Outdoor Table. Photography courtesy of Stephen Karlisch.

Party Pieces. “The best thing about a great outdoor space is being able to entertain friends and family. We love functional furniture, like the outdoor table from Phillips Collection,” according to Pulp Design partners Carolina Gentry and Beth Dotolo. “It has a built-in well for ice and drinks, which is a great party pleaser — it works for prep and as another beverage station.”

Hybrid Fire Grill, Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet.

Comfort Zone. “Outdoor wicker and outdoor fabrics have come so far,” Zaveloff enthuses. “Outdoor wicker land rope materials for furniture look real until you touch them, and outdoor fabrics blow my mind these days, we use them inside for dining areas, they’re so soft and luxe. Also, the outdoor grills from companies like Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet are off the hook.” 


Think green. “Plantings and landscape are important. Be mindful not to overload your outdoor space with impervious patio or decking, as this can make a space seem too austere,” says Anuszkiewicz.

Photography courtesy of Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet.

Set a Mood. “Bee lights, candles, and Sonos are all you really need,” says Zaveloff. “It’s all about lighting and music to create a great ambience.”

Pulp Design Studio. Photography courtesy of Stephen Karlisch.

Color It Your Way. Color outdoors is an easy way to express yourself simply, but keep in mind it can fade easily in the sun.

When colors are in sunlight, they appear lighter than when indoors. An example is black, which is fairly bold indoors when used in large scales, but it disappears outdoors.

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