Airy Al Fresco

The patio is an extension of your home; get it ready for a summer’s worth of dining

Vail Design at Altitude column
By Andrea Georgopolis

Glorious summer is almost here and as we all know – there is nothing like summer in the Rockies. Since summer is so short, yet sweet, here we tend to nurse every minute out of it. My family and I try to eat outdoors every night – watch the sky go from bright blue to the fiery pinks and oranges at sunset, and all feels right in the world. To enjoy dinners al fresco, though, requires a bit of prep work. Now is the time to set the stage for outdoor dining.

Just like any home project, set aside some time and make a small investment now so you can just relax later. Treat your outside space, whether it’s a patio, deck, garden or green space, like the interior. Assess it with a critical eye: what does it need to look good and make you feel good? It’s hard to enjoy outdoor time if the flooring is uneven and wobbly, the chairs are rickety or the paint on the table is chipped.

If you have a wood deck, it’s worth the time to sand and stain it. Power wash the patio, level the pavers. We laid tile outside a home in Denver to truly make the outdoor space feel like part of the interior. An outdoor rug in a fun or funky color totally changes the feel of the space – it truly makes it feel like an extension of your home. And, if you’re more into neutrals inside, this might be the perfect opportunity to try a bold dash of color.


Coordinate the outdoor rug with other fabrics. Make sure cushions and throw pillows are in an outdoor fabric, but this is another chance to use color – make the space light and airy and unexpected. Fabrics are made to last, but it doesn’t hurt to cover them on a rainy night or put a coating of Scotchgaurd on them. Older patio furniture can easily be revived with a coat of paint and upholstery freshened up by reupholstering cushions.

Even a small deck can be transformed into several different seating areas. Put the dining set in one area, add two more robust sitting chairs with a sidetable in between for a conversation nook and, if space allows, an outdoor chaise or bench. Tight on space? Have the furnishings do double duty – many have storage areas built right in for pillows and cushions. For homes with kids (or grandkids), add an outdoor foosball or ping pong table for family fun outside.


If space allows, create an entire outdoor kitchen with permanent grill with burners and even a wine refrigerator. Keep the area stocked with outdoor bar glasses and plates to make entertaining even easier. Add in a fire pit for and accompanying Adirondack chairs for perfect place to unwind.

Lighting can be trickier but adds so much to the area. Magical, twinkling fairy lights just beckon your guests to sit longer. Candles on the table or in slender, encased holders placed into the grown add an ethereal touch. If the porch is covered, use the ceiling for additional lighting so the space can be used well into the night… but turn off the lights to stare at the stars before bed.

We’ve been teased with a few days of beautiful weather this spring; we know summer is around the corner. Take the time to see some of your favorite outdoor looks and incorporate them into your life this summer – you’ll be glad you did when you’re stargazing with friends.

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