Several years ago, Michael and Lillie Axelrod decided they wanted to redo the outdoor space of their Sandy Springs, Ga., home. They had the deck removed and added a screened-in porch. The next step was to call their go-to interior designer for help.
Susan E. Miles of Allegro Interiors came up with a plan to create a functional yet contemporary-styled outdoor space where the Axelrods could gather with family and friends.
"We had a vague idea of what we wanted to do," said Michael Axelrod, a business consultant and retired attorney. "But we needed help executing that vision."
Using a variety of materials to create a stylish, livable space, Miles selected porcelain tile for the floor, a stained concrete top for the dining table and dining chairs made of brushed lacquered aluminum. She also coordinated the Sunbrella fabrics for the sofas and chairs with the other accessories, including wall sconces and ceiling fans.
The Axelrods were pleased with their new room. But they aren't alone in wanting to extend the comfort and luxury of their homes to the great outdoors.
The growing "leisure lifestyle" industry is now a $6.2 billion industry in the United States, up 5.4 percent from 10 years ago, according to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, a trade group in Virginia.
Outdoor spaces, such as decks, patios and porches, can add value to a home. But they take some planning, too. To create a space that is right for you, consider these tips and trends from various sources, including the HPBA, plus Atlanta-area Allegro Interiors, Kolo Collection and AuthenTeak.TIPS
• Determine the size and how you will use the outdoor space (cooking, relaxing, entertaining) before you shop for furniture and accessories.
• Allow the outdoor space to be a natural extension of your home's interior design.
• Research products online and check products at discount and home stores, plus specialty outdoor retailers. Sit on couches and chairs to determine comfort.
• Make sure furnishings complement the exterior of the house as well as the outside trim, stucco or brick colors.
• Select furniture frames made of brushed aluminum, cast aluminum, solid wrought iron or weather-resistant wicker.
• Use worry-free fabrics, for your upholstered pieces. Fabric that dries quickly and is easy to clean. You want to find some that also resists mildew and fading.
• Consider canvas awnings and umbrellas - or shades to control sun.
• Families might prefer bench seating because one bench can seat several children. Benches also are more economical than individual chairs.
• Choose rugs made from acrylic or olefin. They are easy to care for and resist fading.
• Create an outdoor room over a few years to accommodate your wish list if you are on a budget. During the first year, install the hearth products and define grilling and eating areas.TRENDS
• Outdoor fireplaces, water features and grills (and outdoor kitchens) provide natural gathering spots and can be handsome focal points for an outdoor area.
• Larger decks and multiple conversation areas are popular.
• Sophisticated lighting, such as sconces, chandeliers and lamps, help create a mood and allow you to spend more time outdoors.
• Decorative low-voltage lighting, wired into the deck steps and posts or along pathways, adds an element of safety.
• Draperies made from indoor-outdoor fabrics attached to stone or wood columns create a sense of intimacy .
• Gray is a popular color group in outdoor furniture and fabrics in 2012, but browns are still in demand.
• Colorful accessories and fun patterns, such as rugs and outdoor pillows.
• Families with young children are using newer outdoor fabrics on their indoor furniture.