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Accessorize, Accessorize, Accessorize

You have a little black dress. You’ve worn it to church with kitten heels, a subtle strand of pearls and tiny gold hoop earrings. You’ve worn it to a business meeting with open toe pumps, a chunky silver “statement” necklace and a thick silver bangle bracelet. You’ve worn it to brunch with colorful beads and flat sandals. And you’ve worn it out to dinner with diamond stud earrings and a huge, sparkly cocktail ring. Four different looks, one dress – all that changes is what you put with it. So tell me accessorizing isn’t important.

It’s the same with interior, and, in this case, exterior design. Patio furniture can be interesting in and of itself; there are couches and gliders, sectionals and bar stools, recliners and daybeds, rocking chairs and dining benches all crafted to handle the weather. But it is what you put with them, and on them, and around them that truly speaks; how you accessorize is how you set a mood. Just like that little black dress.

Patio furniture tends to be, well, neutral is the word I am looking for, I guess. And that is, without question, the safe and economical way to go. Beige, brown, tan, black, white, navy and gray; neutrals won’t go out of style, and will suit you year after year. It makes sense. But sometimes it can be a bit boring; and sometimes you wish you had chosen something a little more attention-grabbing.

This is where the strands of pearls, the statement necklaces, the cocktail rings of outdoor accessories come in. There are so many ways you can accessorize your outdoor living area! Pick up a catalog, browse a website and you will see that there is an outdoor version of nearly anything you can decorate with inside your house.

To create ambiance you have your choice of an array of lighting options.

Outdoor lanterns are incredibly popular; they come in every color of the rainbow, all shapes and sizes, and will accommodate candles, LED candles and electric or battery operated lights. There are vintage shaped lanterns in pewter and patina metals; there are candy-colored enamel lanterns in geometrical shapes; there are stone or stone-look lanterns with Asian influence. There are paper lanterns you can hang from the trees and other areas; lanterns made from ball jars and bird cages, wine bottles and wire baskets, wooden boxes and wicker balls.

To utilize lanterns, think about what you want your patio area to “feel” like; if you are going for classic and subtle, try grouping traditional metal lanterns on your dining room table or clustering them on end and coffee tables. If you want to convey a sense of joy, go for bright colors; if you like a whimsical, fairies-in-my-garden appeal, look for small lanterns you can hang in bunches in trees or along your fence or add some “fairy” lights (i.e. small Christmas lights) to tree trunks and bushes. If you have an insect issue, put your lanterns to work and burn citronella candles in them.

There are also a large variety of table-top fire features (lanterns on steroids) available. Just like lanterns, table-top fire features come in a wide selection of shapes, sizes and materials. Ceramic pots, slate or stone troughs, urns filled with glass marbles, copper bowls, tiny “firepits” clear glass cylinders and boxes are some of the options available. There are also fire and fountain combinations. These fire features burn a specialized gel and will emit heat as well as light.

Pillows and rugs, pillows and rugs, pillows and rugs and throws – these are your best friends when you are trying to make your outdoor area more interesting. Any room looks more inviting and interesting with a few throw pillows, a soft blanket, a plush rug; the same goes for the great outdoors. Here is where you can add amusing patterns, splashes of color, and visual excitement that also increases the comfort and coziness factor.

The lovely thing about pillows, rugs and throws is that you can afford to experiment; if you get tired of them after a season, it is relatively inexpensive to start all over next year. Or if your tastes or fashion changes, you can go right along with that change.

Choose an assortment of colors and patterns; don’t be afraid that you won’t “match” – if you like the way it looks, then go for it. One word of advice; pick a color scheme, for example, shades of blue and then throw in one or two pillows or accent pieces that add an unexpected contrast. Blue pillows with a yellow throw, peaches and oranges with a touch of aqua, lavenders and purples with a pop of green. Check out design magazines, websites and shows for more advice on using color in decorating.

If you are a DIY’er, check out the outdoor décor designs on Pinterest. So many projects, so little time. Pinterest inspired me to make bright blue tiled stepping stones last summer, a penny covered gazing ball and mushrooms out of glass candlesticks and bowls. There are designs for painted flower pots, fairy gardens, fence murals, bird-feeders, and giant jenga. This year I am going to plant a sunflower house – who wouldn’t want a “house” made of sunflowers?

Speaking of sunflowers, let’s not forget the ultimate decorator, Mother Nature.

Utilizing plants and flowers to add to your outdoor décor is a must. If you aren’t the gardening type, even potted plants and flowers will add so much; plan out your color choices and envision how they will look alongside the rest of your decorating scheme. Plants and flowers can also do double duty; many vegetables will grow in a pot, herb gardens are easy and decorative (and nothing tastes as good as fresh basil), and aromatic plants like citronella, marigolds and heather will help cut down on the insects that want to crash your parties.

Finally, don’t be afraid to add a furniture focal point to your outdoor area that is a bit eclectic or unusual. There are many “stand-alone” pieces that can accent your patio furniture set and give your décor a little bump up. If you have an aluminum deep seating set, for instance, contrast it with an oversized wicker lounge chair or a brightly colored wooden bench. Look for unusual pieces; I have seen hanging chairs that look like bird cages, chaises that look like high heeled shoes, loveseats with built in canopies, chairs designed to look like leaves and butterflies, branches and peacocks and tables constructed from tree trunks. Don’t go overboard; an accent piece should be just that – a piece.

Whatever you do, have fun and don’t fret over making wrong decisions. I have learned over the years that very few people trust their decorating instincts, yet most of them make great decisions. Focus on what you love and use outdoor accessories to create your own little world, with the styles, the colors, the textures and the atmosphere that you enjoy.

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