Decorate Your Outdoor Room for Less

Ah, warm weather! Gardens aren’t the only outdoor areas getting all the attention this time of year. In recent years, outdoor rooms are starting to look more like indoor rooms with sophisticated furniture sets, trendy décor and new accessories. Whether your outdoor space is a modest seating area or a full outdoor room, here are 10 budget-friendly decorating tips.

Take stock of what you’ve got. We know it’s easy to get a little lost among all the decorations, furnishings and accessories for your outdoor space. (And easy to be tempted by that cute garden statue or hanging decoration!) While you can include a few splurges in your budget, assessing your needs and wants — and making a list — is sound advice no matter what the season.

For instance, are there decorations you haven’t hung up in a few years? Are there items that need fixing or replacing? Is last year’s lighting still in good working order, and does your fire pit need more fuel? Does your deck need re-staining, or did your stored items survive the winter? Is there a part of your yard that could use some lighting this year? A list can help you target your budget on what you need.

Make it a make-over. Sometimes we get sick of items long before they wear out, but the popularity of do-it-yourself projects has made it easier to get an update without spending big bucks. Look for inexpensive upgrades you can make to give your deck a new look.

For instance, consider a coat of paint on your current furniture (making sure you get the right type for the materials, of course) or a change in hue if you’re re-staining your deck. Liven up furniture by recovering cushions, or make some colourful throw pillows in a trendy pattern or fabric. (Geometric prints and colour blocking are big this year.) An Adirondack or Muskoka chair painted in a bold colour can brighten up a porch or corner of your yard. (Benjamin Moore has a how-to on repainting outdoor furniture.)

Consider your storage needs. Before you make your shopping list and hit the stores, think about where and how you’re going to store your new items. Do you have room in a shed or basement to store furniture, or will a cover suffice? Is there a place to tuck cushions and decorations when not in use? Knowing your limits can help keep your budget in check, and knowing how to store and care for your items means you’ll get more years of use.

Storage can even be part of your outdoor space — like a storage bench or box you can top with cushions for useable seating.

Focus on your style rather than the trends. There’s always new style in outdoor furniture, but who wants to replace it every year? As with any room in the house, classic pieces dressed up with a few modern touches can save you a lot of money in the long run. The key is to find items that suit your space and your taste.

When in doubt, neutral pieces make a stylish base that you can personalize and switch up with your own style of accessories. This year, “grey is the new black” — it’s softer than its darker counterpart but still has a modern look that compliments stone.

Buy used. There are many good reasons to think outside the stores this season. Now is the time many people are replacing outdoor furniture so they can enjoy it for the full season — or they’re moving and don’t plan to pack it. Many used items can be returned to their former glory with a good clean up and a make-over.

Where can you find them? Try online classified websites like Kijiji and Craigslist and your local newspaper’s website to see what’s available in your area. Also, let your family, friends and coworkers know you’re on the hunt. You never know where a lead on a great patio set may come from.

Get a feel for the market. We know those sales flyers can be tempting — but remember that marketers have a few tricks up their sleeves. For instance, many retailers sell below the MSRP (the manufacturer’s suggested retail price) but use that number as the “regular price” to make discounts look larger. Another store may have a comparable deal at regular price. Hang on to those flyers and coupons — many stores will match what their competitors are doing.

Regardless of what you’re buying, experts say it makes sense to shop around and get a feel for what items are worth. Don’t forget to look at discount stores too — you may be able to find comparable furniture for less when it doesn’t have a designer label.

Consider cost per use. If you’re familiar with the consumer calendar, you know the best time to buy outdoor items is late in the summer when retailers are clearing out this season’s stock. If you start setting aside cash now and wait for those end-of-season sales, you can furnish your outdoor room for a lot less.

However, the purchase price can’t tell you everything — it’s important to balance how much you pay with how often an item will get used. Consider: is the savings worth only being able to use your items for a few weeks this year? Do you prefer to have a good selection to choose from, or are you willing to chance the leftovers? If you’ll get a lot of use out of your patio set, for instance, it might be worth buying sooner in the season. If you’re looking for extra pieces for the occasional time you’re entertaining a crowd, it may be worth it to wait.

Balance sets with individual pieces. Multi-piece sets can be less expensive than purchasing items individually — if they meet your needs, that is. You might not need all the seating, end tables and coffee tables, and your budget might not let you do it all at once.

Instead, weigh the costs and advantages of picking up items a few at a time, especially if your tastes are mix-and-match. You might buy a simple furniture set or bench and cushions at a later time, or pick up a complementary side table later on.

Think about do-it-yourself delivery. Sometimes delivery charges are worth every penny. However, if you can enlist some help with the heavy lifting, you can often save some cash on delivery charges. You don’t need to have a large vehicle either: some retailers like Lowes and Home Depot rent vans and trucks for rent starting at about $20 for the first 90 minutes (plus fuel top up, of course). Other retailers like Ikea can arrange low cost delivery through a partner provider.

Bring on the green Nature may be the inspiration behind current fabrics and materials, but you can’t beat decorating with actual plants. Liven up the corner of your deck with containers, or use potted plants in complementary pots to add a splash of colour to table tops. Be practical with your choices and try herbs and container gardening too. Another bonus: containers are easier to tend than flower beds and more accessible for people of all abilities.

And if you need to decorate for a dinner party, consider bringing potted plants from around your home and yard into your outdoor room to add colour.

Another current trend is to use plants to set the mood — especially as you frame the outdoor room with greenery. For example, think ivy for a country cottage atmosphere or carefully groomed shrubs or topiaries for a formal garden feel.

One final word of advice: look for free inspiration online. Online forums and social networking sites like Pinterest (a virtual bulletin board of sorts) make it easy to find tips and ideas from people on a budget.

Outdoor rooms should be an oasis in which to relax — without the worry of blowing your budget.

Sources and inspiration: Garden Media Group, Lowe’s press release,

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