1. Provide comfortable seating I know that this should be a no-brainer, yet I often find that people will choose hard, uncomfortable outdoor furniture and wonder why they don’t sit outside more often or for longer periods of time. Outdoor furniture should have arms and backs (this makes people feel more secure and relaxed while seated). If you have hard seats, purchase some cushions and pillows. You can get these relatively inexpensively at discount stores and be sure to stock up on these for next year at the end of the summer when things go on sale. Consider too, adding a hammock or swing to your outdoor seating for a comfortable, fun seating alternative.
2. Add a water feature The soothing sound of water is a wonderful addition to an outdoor living area, particularly as the weather heats up. It doesn’t need to be an elaborate pond or pool. An inexpensive outdoor fountain will do the trick. If you don’t have outdoor electricity, then run an all-weather extension cord from the house when you’re entertaining. You’ll be amazed at how much the water will add to the ambience of sitting outside. Just MAKE SURE not to place your water feature too close to the south meridian point of your home. The south is the Fame meridian and water is undesirable in this area. If you don’t know where the south meridian is, then pick up a copy of my book and it will show you how to figure this out.
3. Provide areas of shade One of my friends has a lovely backyard area and always wants her guest to sit out there, however there is not a speck of shade so those who wish to avoid sitting in the sun have no choice. Patio umbrellas, shade trees, and awnings strategically placed will offer relief on hot, sunny days.
4. Use Lighting Creatively There is no reason that the outdoor fun needs to stop when the sun goes down. Solar lights will help on the ground (though most are too dim to provide utilitarian light), battery-operated candles, and my personal favorite, lights strung overhead and in trees, can turn your outdoor area into a magical setting. There are even patio umbrellas that come with lights included. When entertaining outdoors in the evenings, I light to put strands of battery-operated LED lights on the table as part of the centerpiece décor. Here is a great source for creative outdoor lighting.
5. Provide a protective barrier in large open areas If your outdoor area is very large and open, or on a slope, you and your guests may feel more vulnerable and less comfortable sitting out there. You can easily provide low-profile barriers (they don’t have to be high) by placing pots and planters around the seating area. For a more a elaborate alternative, outdoor curtains can be hung to provide privacy and create a cozy, more intimate sitting area.
6. Choose locations for fire (fireplaces, barbeques and fire pits) carefully Not only can they be a fire hazard in very dry areas (all it takes is a spark on the wind to start a brush fire), but placing fire in the northwest and west is undesirable from a feng shui perspective. The west (Creation) and northwest (Synchronicity) are areas where metal is desirable but fire is not (fire melts metal). Fire is however, an enhancement for the south (Fame) as long as it is used safely and wisely.
7. Add a wind chime or a fun wind spinner Wind chimes add a gentle ambience to an outdoor space and wind spinners provide interest and whimsy to outdoor areas. If the chimes and sculpture are made of metal, they will serve to enhance the west (Creation) and northwest (Synchronicity) meridian points.
8. Have fun with color Outdoors is a great area to add colors that you love, but may not feel comfortable with decorating inside your home. Outdoor rugs, pillows, cushions, dishware, napkins, umbrellas, planters, and of course flowers, all add zest and excitement to the green and brown colors of outdoors.
9. Pay attention to your focal points Just as with indoor seating, what you and your guests are going to be looking at while seated outside is important. If they are looking at the back wall of your home, make sure it is pleasing. You can add outdoor wall art for interest. If there is something particularly beautiful in your yard (a garden, a special tree, a fountain or pond, etc.) orient your seating towards that focal point. It’s a good idea to try sitting in each seat that you have to see what your guest experiences when seated there and make adjustments accordingly.
10. Choose a round outdoor table for dining As with indoors, a round table is preferable to a rectangle table for comfortable dining. The reason for this is that everyone can see everyone else and there is no “head” of the table so everyone is seated equally. Studies show that people enjoy their meal more, stay seated longer, and engage in friendlier conversations around round tables. Round patio tables are easy to find and many are designed to be able to place an umbrella in the center. If you are entertaining a large group, consider adding more than one round table.
I’m sure you can think of other great ideas for your outdoor living spaces that I haven’t mentioned. Just remember, “If it feels good, it’s good feng shui!” Happy Summer!
Copyright 2015, Cathleen McCandless, All rights reserved.