Creating a Vibe in Outdoor Design


“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations.” — Mark Twain

The same concept can be applied to outdoor space design, where we can draw from a multitude of ideas to create a space that feels fresh and unique, and that has a vibe all its own. Creating a distinctive vibe or atmosphere can be tricky, but there are some tried-and-true ways to do it. Once you’ve determined how the space will be used, follow this guide.

• 1 • 

Think Systematically.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the scope of a project and all the details, small and large, that go into it. The best way to create a beautiful, functional design is by taking a step-by-step approach to planning, starting with the fixed features and then moving on to color palette, material and fabric selection, and, finally, outdoor furniture and accessories.

• 2 • 

Match the materials to the space.

Is it hip and industrial? Then stick to sleek silhouettes and materials like steel, concrete, marble, and aluminum. Is it lively and playful? Choose colorful, lightweight materials, like aluminum and synthetic rattan furniture, that are durable and easy to pick up and move around into new configurations. Is it peaceful and contemplative? Then stick with natural materials like wood and stone for your outdoor furniture, which will complement the organic feel. 

• 3 • 

Make your design cohesive, but not matchy-matchy.

Just like color palettes can be layered with complementary and contrast colors, furniture can be “layered.” Think about different shapes in similar sizes, varying heights in the same silhouette, or the same styles in different colors. Invest in high-quality outdoor furniture that has frames and tops that are smooth to the touch, cushions with equal distribution of filling, and a polished character that can go from indoors to outdoors with ease.

• 4 • 

Keep it open.

The space between outdoor furniture and objects is like the white space on an artist’s canvas; it allows the eye to appreciate each piece, while also creating a memorable whole. The sheer number of objects will also play in to the overall vibe of the space. For example, a laid-back, bohemian feel might call for extra chairs and sofas with layered accessories like throw pillows, while an ultra-modern vibe will more likely be minimalistic, with a focus on statement pieces like long benches or stone-topped tables.

Learn more tips and ideas for outdoor design in our post “How to Choose Furniture for an Outdoor Landscape Design.