Outdoor Living Design Ideas: Simplicity, Light and Water




Even though it’s September, there are still many warm and breezy nights left to enjoy. Now is as good a time as any to implement those outdoor living, design ideas you may have put off.

This time of year brings to mind languid evenings on the patio, gentle water splashes in a fountain, feet up – and of course – relaxation.  It’s a time for easy friends and no-fuss entertaining; soft lighting, and the children playing quietly. End of summer is beauty and peace and being outside as much as possible.

Let’s take a look at three elements: simplicity, water, and light for ways to enhance your patio and terrace so that it becomes the oasis of your Mid Summer’s Night dreams.


There is nothing complicated about the outdoors.  It is the simplicity of trees, sky and earth that give us that deep sense of peace.  The best designed terraces are spare, uncluttered, minimal and tranquil.

main imageClean and open space allows us to relax – and that is what we want to emulate. You want your late summer to be easy and that means removing anything that is not necessary or beautiful.

This is the very same message relayed by high-end spas and resorts: simplicity = relaxation.  Walk into any 5-star hotel and you will notice that simplicity and minimalism is the key to their relaxing environments.

How can you achieve this?  Zone your backyard into specific areas.  Delegate an area for the kids to play in.  Create an area to eat in.  Another area should be for parents and kids to share and play in together and yet another area should be an adult area (for relaxation and entertaining).  If you can carve out a private area, do so:  a comfortable chair and ottoman or chaise and a small table all become a private retreat for a nap, sunning or reading.

patio drapesTo capture simplicity, use easy-breezy outdoor fabrics and rugs that literally can be hosed off.  White as the main background color of everything and only one or two colors as accents allow people and events to be the center of attention.

If you do nothing else from this list, simplicity of your space is the most impactful of all the outdoor elements.


  • Less is more: remove all small, fussy items and accessories.   
  • Plant smaller plants together in large, simple planters. Instead of 20 small plants scattered around, have six big planters – with tall foliage if possible.
  • Arrange your large planters in a grouping of three: one tall, one medium and one smaller one.  This is visually simpler and more dramatic than if they are all individually scattered around.
  • Keep your tabletops simple: a form of lighting and fresh or silk flower arrangements.
  • White makes for a peaceful main color.  Add one color (two at most) as an accent and highlight it through pillows, a simple rug and fresh flowers.
  • Keep visual clutter covered.  Use covered containers to put toys away in.  Have big, covered baskets for pool toys and towels and remove anything that is not necessary for simple and elegant terrace living.
reflection poolsWATER

You don’t have to have a pool to have water.  You can have a pond, or even a fountain in a bowl or large planter that will give you the soothing outdoor sound of splashing water.  Other than low music, there is nothing as relaxing as the movement, the look and the sound of water.  Such a simple element of nature, but again, the fabulous resorts use this element beautifully and often in abundance.

If you have a pool, you can visually enhance the look of it in the evening or for entertaining with floating light accessories.  During the daytime, inflatable rafts for sunning and even floats for beverages can highly increase your pleasure in your pool.

Small ponds can be located where they will give the most pleasure to dining and entertaining, or place a planter (or two) with some water plants and a water pump where you will most enjoy the sound and the look of splashing water.

Sprinklers for the kids to run through and play in, a foot washing station with river rock and a hose and an outdoor shower head all contribute to the comfort and refreshment of you and your family on a hot day.  None of this has to be complicated or take up much space: it can be as simple as a hose, or as grand as a private outdoor area that is tiled, decorated with plants and dedicated to cleansing and cooling of spirit and body.

The impact of water can be dramatic: large, shallow bowls filled with water become still reflecting pools.  Whether you choose bubbling sounds or visual stillness (or both), water is an essential outdoor element that will help complete that relaxing outdoor feel that we are all trying to achieve for a maximum summertime patio experience.


The sun is the main attraction of a perfect patio.  But, once the sun has gone down, we want to linger outdoors in the cool stillness of the night.  Again, some of the best resorts in the world use ‘mood’ lighting to enhance the outdoor evening experience.

Mood lighting is where there is just enough light to see around you for five or six feet, but there is no harsh illumination that makes you squint.  Rather, the lighting is soft, flattering and yes, relaxing.  Lanterns, strings of lights, chandeliers on dimmers, battery candles, glow in the dark planters, LED lights that change colors – there are so many options.  You need to find a style that attracts you, that will be simple and will coordinate with your furniture and color choices.

We have given some lighting suggestions to inspire you beyond the standard candles, and to enhance your evening patio experience.  You can purchase this lighting, or you can create renditions of some of them yourself.  Some of the most intriguing evening lights are the ones that cast intricate patterns on the walls and ceilings, or are orbs that mimic the look of the moon. glow planters

Dramatic but soft lighting can be as simple as solar stakes in plant pots shining up through the leaves of the plant.  Strings of light are magical if they are fanciful lights such as miniature flowers or paper lanterns rather than your old holiday lights. If you prefer, use candles but pick larger ones – or mass a lot of smaller ones on a mirror for an enhanced glow.  If small strings of battery twinkle lights are massed inside a lantern, it’s as if all of Tinkerbell’s family has gathered for a party.


  • Put lighting higher and lower: hang lanterns at various heights from beams and put candles, and lanterns on the floor and at the base of your planters.  This casts a reflective, even glow of light off the ceiling, walls and floor.
  • Fewer but bigger lighting features are better than lots of little lights/candles (unless you mass them together).
  • Balance your lighting around the area and use it to draw attention to certain attractive features such as water or beautiful plantings.
  • Use up-lights in planted pots and beds, to create interesting shadows from the leaves above the lights.


About Page Remick


Page Remick always had an innate sense of how to arrange furniture and accessories, manage clutter, hang art and  pick color. Now a Professional Organizer, trained Interior Designer and Home Stager, Page shows clients how to dig themselves out of an overabundance of ‘stuff’, how to decorate and rearrange their existing furniture and accessories as well as how to stage their homes for a fast sale at top dollar.

A graduate of the prestigious New York School of Interior Design in Manhattan and of the Interior Design program at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond Page is also a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers.  She is a member of The Real Estate Staging Association and is the author of the forthcoming book ‘DO IT!  Organize and Design Your Space and Life. For more inspiring design ideas follow Page Remick http://www.designorganize.com/




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