10 things you need to design a stylish outdoor oasis for summer

(Ross May / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

Summer will look different this year as we continue to shelter in place. Now, when warmer weather hits, many of our favorite places to cool off won’t be open. Outdoor living, whether a balcony or patio or backyard, will have new meaning as we seek solace in the outdoors. So if you are lucky enough to have some outdoor space, we have some ideas for making it special, and we’ve included some images from our photo archives for inspiration.

A Hollywood front porch is transformed into a stylish outdoor room with a recycled plastic rug from Mad Mats. <span class="copyright">(Bethany Mollenkof / Los Angeles Times)</span>
A Hollywood front porch is transformed into a stylish outdoor room with a recycled plastic rug from Mad Mats. (Bethany Mollenkof / Los Angeles Times)

1. Recycled rugs

Outdoor rugs are a great way to add style while helping to define your “outdoor room.” Sustainable rugs made from recycled plastic work well outdoors because they are colorful, pet-friendly and washable. Available in a variety of styles and price points at Target, Wayfair, Mad Mats, Fabhabitat, Viva Terra, Dash & Albert and World Market, among others.

Umbrellas provide shade outside a home designed by Raphael Soriano. <span class="copyright">(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)</span>
Umbrellas provide shade outside a home designed by Raphael Soriano. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

2. Create shade

Umbrellas provide more than just relief from UV rays. From graphic pergolas by Claire V for Anthropologie to CB2’s austere Midcentury Modern shades, there is an umbrella for every domestic setting. Consider Sunbrella fabric, which is waterproof, fade-resistant and available at Target, Wayfair, Home Depot, Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn.

Rattan chairs and woven ottomans provide multiple seating options in this Bel-Air garden. <span class="copyright">(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)</span>
Rattan chairs and woven ottomans provide multiple seating options in this Bel-Air garden. (Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

3. Sit it down

Have fun with outdoor seating. Sling chairs are lightweight and movable and will make you feel like you’re at the beach. Trendy hanging “egg” chairs, Acapulco and butterfly chairs will give your patio the feel of a resort, while Potted’s woven Lari Loungers (named for artist Lari Pitman) evoke vintage Brown & Jordan patio furniture. More outdoor options at Room & Board, Article , Bend , West Elm and CB2.

Outdoor furniture and accessories by Fermob. <span class="copyright">(Deborah Netburn)</span>
Outdoor furniture and accessories by Fermob. (Deborah Netburn)

4. Alfresco dining

You don’t need a large backyard to dine outdoors. Compact bistro tables will perk up any balcony or small corner without overwhelming the space. Fermob’s Bistro Collection of tables and movable folding chairs comes in 24 colors and a variety of sizes, including a folding table that hooks on to the balcony. View samples in person locally at Potted and Roger’s Gardens.

Actor Courteney Cox's Malibu home features a barbecue area. <span class="copyright">(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)</span>
Actor Courteney Cox’s Malibu home features a barbecue area. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

5. Outdoor grilling

After spending so much time in the kitchen during quarantine, it’s time to move the kitchen outdoors. Charcoal, gas, it doesn’t matter; when you heat up a Big Green Egg, old-school Weber or compact portable grill, it sets the stage for a party, even if you’re not hosting one. If you live in an apartment, keep in mind that many barbecues, such as the mobile Fuego, are designed with balconies in mind.

Ryan Benoit invented Sky Pots, a plant-hanging kit that stacks hanging plants, shown at left at his La Jolla home on Feb. 6, 2020. <span class="copyright">(K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)</span>
Ryan Benoit invented Sky Pots, a plant-hanging kit that stacks hanging plants, shown at left at his La Jolla home on Feb. 6, 2020. (K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

6. Plants and planters

Add green space with container plantings that require little maintenance. Asparagus ferns are sculptural and add texture and lushness. Dracaena draco and succulents (echeverria ‘After Glow,’ aeonium, Sedum morganianum and agave ‘Blue Glow’) will survive for years with little water. For color, plant electric pink cordyline in pots for year-round drama; for perfume, add sweet-smelling jasmine and gardenias on shady balconies and porches.

A fireplace adds to the yard's modern vibe. <span class="copyright">(Jennifer Cheung)</span>
A fireplace adds to the yard’s modern vibe. (Jennifer Cheung)

7. Fire pits

Portable or permanent, fire pits encourage gatherings, especially on warm summer nights. The simplest version is a fire bowl, while others come equipped with a propane tank or the ability to hook up to a natural gas line. Note that many communities require fire pits be set up at least 10 feet from any building. Shopping tips: Lowe’s, Home Depot, Wayfair, Potted, Modfire.

Paper lanterns illuminate the terrace of this Koreatown apartment. <span class="copyright">(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)</span>
Paper lanterns illuminate the terrace of this Koreatown apartment. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Matty Pipes and friends enjoy the outdoors beneath a simple string of lights in Hollywood. <span class="copyright">(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)</span>
Matty Pipes and friends enjoy the outdoors beneath a simple string of lights in Hollywood. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

8. String lights

String lights add charm and instant ambience, which is why they are often referred to as “party lights.” Any kind of lighting will influence your outdoor area — Chinese lanterns and solar lanterns are fun — but string lights pair nicely with any outdoor decor, from Midcentury Modern to bohemian.

A vintage credenza bought on Craigslist serves as a portable bar. <span class="copyright">(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)</span>
A vintage credenza bought on Craigslist serves as a portable bar. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

9. Portable bar

Add function to your outdoor area with a mobile mini bar, which can fit in small spaces and store glasses and dinnerware for entertaining. Load a vintage cart or bar cart with beverages and snacks, and wheel cocktails and eats from room to room or outdoors. Shopping resources: West Elm, Room & Board, Wayfair, Target and World Market.

Activity spills freely between inside and out. Movies (or, here, a tennis match) are often projected onto an outside wall. <span class="copyright">(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)</span>
Activity spills freely between inside and out. Movies (or, here, a tennis match) are often projected onto an outside wall. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
Chad Rothman and Michael Moore enjoy movie night in the backyard of their home in the Brookside neighborhood, just south of Hancock Park. <span class="copyright">(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)</span>
Chad Rothman and Michael Moore enjoy movie night in the backyard of their home in the Brookside neighborhood, just south of Hancock Park. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

10. Movie night

This is where all of your outdoor details come together for some socially distant fun. You don’t need a designated outdoor theater, projector and screen. Screen the main event on a bed sheet or the side of the garage. Pull up your chairs, bar cart and fire pit, and enjoy a movie safely together with your family and friends.