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Spruce up outside space for summer with furniture, accents

Regardless of whether you're throwing a backyard bash or spending quiet time curled up with a good read, it's not too late to to spice up your outdoor space with a dash of summertime style.

The summer months are prime time for entertaining or simply stretching out to soak up some sunshine. And there's perhaps no better place suited for kicking up your heels or just mellowing than your own outdoor sanctuary.

TORONTO -

Regardless of whether you're throwing a backyard bash or spending quiet time curled up with a good read, it's not too late to to spice up your outdoor space with a dash of summertime style.

The summer months are prime time for entertaining or simply stretching out to soak up some sunshine. And there's perhaps no better place suited for kicking up your heels or just mellowing than your own outdoor sanctuary.

Andrew Bockner, principal and designer with Andrew Richard Designs in Toronto, said people are working on not just enhancing their outdoor living space but also making it more usable.

"It's not like in the old days where (people) used to stick four chairs and a table or a picnic table outside and it was done," Bockner said in an interview in his spacious downtown showroom as temperatures sizzled outdoors on a humid, hazy afternoon.

"If you were barbecuing you might use your outdoor space, but now people are fully entertaining outdoors. We have groups of people coming over, they don't even enter the house. You take them right into your outdoor entertaining space, and with weather like this that we're getting this summer, it's perfect."

For those not looking for a full-scale overhaul but still seeking a summer spruce-up, Bockner suggests adding accessories like stainless-steel torches, wooden blocks and outdoor lamps, or table-top accents like a chic Moroccan lantern.

Bockner notes that one way to give your furniture a facelift is to put in new cushions.

"You can sort of go with great colours that are on trend this year, or just whatever you might like, or something that's great for outdoors and bright and fresh. Pinks, blues, greens are beautiful," he said.

"The cost is going to be about a tenth of the cost of redoing the whole space with new furniture and it really freshens it up."

When it comes to this season's colour palette, it appears less is more. Bockner said more subtle hues like grey, black and off-white are very popular for residential use. If colour is being used, it's hues like eggplant purple or deep sea blue that are in the mix, he said.

In embracing the idea of making your exterior space an extension of your home, Bockner suggests using different elements to create an outdoor living room.

Setting up a pavilion helps to both contain space and carve out a great outdoor area for entertaining.

"You can drop it into a space where you can't have permanent structure, like a terrace," Bockner said.

Cantilevered or side-arm umbrellas are versatile and can offer shade for large spaces, he added.

For those with an arbour, Bockner said one option is to install a track and use awning-grade fabric to create a retractable roof.

The addition of other elements like an outdoor carpet can help warm up the area, he added. Bockner also likes the "organic, natural look" of bamboo reeds which he placed along one wall of his own outdoor space.

"You have to create a room out of nothing, there are no walls outside, so you have to use something to create the space," he said.

"Using accessories like these bamboo reeds and the pavilion and the rug, of course, it really makes it feel like you're in an indoor living space. It makes you feel like you have four walls. It's comfortable, it's cosy."

When it comes to furniture, Bockner said particularly in northern climates and cities, people tend to favour darker pieces with lighter cushions. Last year was the first that he started to see people asking for white, off-white and light colours for weaving in Canada.

"I guess it's trending that way, which is great," he said. "I think people are doing their outdoor spaces more and they have a lot of heavy woods and stones and colours like that, so they want to lighten up with the furniture in terms of the colour."

"We've done some white, we've done some silk and some light greys and it's becoming very popular."

Individuals also seem to be embracing stainless steel. Bockner, whose company does design for hospitality and commercial projects as well as furniture design for boutique hotels, said they first introduced stainless steel four or five seasons ago for residential use.

"We sold as much over the last four seasons as we did in the first two months of this season this year," he said.

For those uncertain of what might work best in their space or simply in need of some design guidance, Bockner says he directs a lot of people to resort or hospitality spaces or even a restaurant they love or find comfortable.

From there, take one element of the venue and transfer that to your home, from their use of stainless steel or even how the furniture is arranged.

"Every time you go somewhere, you see things done a little differently."

Geographic location: TORONTO, Canada

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