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Create an Outdoor Sanctuary

I don’t know about you, but when I first start anticipating the warm months of summer, the first thing I look forward to is sitting on my screened-in deck with a cup of coffee during the quiet hours of the morning when the sun is just rising, and my children are too sleepy to start arguing. Having a peaceful spot to start or end the day is one of summer’s simple pleasures, but designing the perfect space is far from simple. “As a designer, I always consider the integrity and quality of the materials used in outdoor spaces, ensuring they can withstand exposure to the elements,” says Marina Hanisch, principal designer at her eponymous interior design firm in Greenwich, CT. “Maintaining a consistent color palette and selecting furniture with similar profiles allow the pieces to blend harmoniously with the setting and interiors of the home, creating a seamless look.” We spoke to Marina and two other Northeast designers to find out how they created the perfect outdoor sanctuary for their clients. 

Perfect Porch

The project:

Hanisch’s East Hampton, NY, client wanted a relaxing porch that captures the essence of a classic Hamptons home and draws inspiration from the natural surroundings.

The goal:

Her clients live in New York City but wanted a tranquil retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life. The porch was part of a whole house renovation to their Hamptons home. “We sought to create a calming outdoor space perfect for lounging, reading a book or savoring a morning coffee or summer cocktail. In lieu of a traditional bench, we incorporated a swing to the patio to infuse the space with a playful and inviting touch,” says Hanisch.

The details:

Oak, woven furnishings, light upholstery, stone and other nautically inspired elements forge a seamless connection with the natural surroundings. Hanisch selected a performance bouclé and mélange fabrics. “Selecting the right materials and accessories was essential to creating a space that feels both refined and functional,” she says. A modern lantern in black hangs on the house and a curvy white end table provides a place to rest a book or coffee cup.

Waterside Seating

The project:

For this poolside patio of an historic carriage house on the waterfront in Darien, CT, Cindy Rinfret principal designer at Rinfret Ltd., in Greenwich, CT, and Palm Springs, FL, brings the inside out for a timeless look.

The goal:

The home’s historic architecture was the inspiration for creating this poolside lounge space. The pool and landscaping were pre-existing, and Rinfret was asked to embellish the patio with an outdoor seating area. Whenever designing outdoors, says Rinfret, “The goal is to create spaces that elevate the experience of being outside, while also simultaneously improving the views out from the house. This connects the house to the outdoors and makes for a cohesive design that feels intentional, timeless and calming.” First and foremost, she sought quality elements to not only ensure durability but also create a luxurious and relaxing experience for those who seek a serene outdoor escape. “Quality is always our first consideration whether designing indoors or out,” adds Rinfret. “We are dedicated to having the best sources with the highest quality standards that allow for custom elements.”

The details:

Rinfret selected furniture by McKinnon & Harris, which is her go-to brand for outdoor furnishings. From there, she chose comfortable throw pillows and blankets to cozy up the space and add layers of luxury. Soft blues and whites connect the color palette inside the home to the water views surrounding. A round coffee table allows for easy flow in and out of the seating area if temperatures require a quick dip in the pool. The seating area is flanked by two large umbrellas to provide ample shade when needed. While the needs of those sitting outside are essential when designing an outdoor patio, she also always considers how the exterior lounge areas look from inside the home. “These outdoor seating areas function like an English folly, giving the eye a place to enjoy against the serene water views,” she adds.

A Pair of Patios

The project:

Interior Designer Amy Andrews of Greenwich, CT, designed this pair of patios—one screened-in and one open-air, on opposite ends of her clients’ waterfront home in Greenwich, CT—to create two different but coordinated serene outdoor spaces from which to take in breathtaking views of the Long Island Sound.

The goal:

“We worked to create multiple sitting areas for entertaining as well as for quiet afternoons at home where the homeowners and their guests could enjoy the picturesque views,” says Andrews. “The home was newly constructed when we began the project, but the porches have been a bit of an ongoing love affair as we have continued to work on them, and they have evolved over the years.” She wanted the space to be relaxing so she kept the color palette quiet and selected shades that worked with the natural stone and sand along the water’s edge. “We created this inward peaceful and serene feel so as to not compete with the views,” says Andrews.

The details:

On one end, the screened-in porch is meant to be an extension of the home’s interiors, allowing for mosquito-free lounging outdoors. “It’s a wonderful oasis for reading on a Sunday afternoon,” says Andrews. She selected a soft gray fabric with contrasting piping and made sure to include some soft white throw pillows and a throw blanket to soften the space. A few plants and a nautically inspired lantern connect the space to the outdoors. The indoor/outdoor rug is durable and soft under foot. On the other side of the house, an open-air porch has a dining space on one side and a rotunda on the end for lounging. It is framed by white columns and overlooks the pool and sound. Andrews ordered custom cushions in a beachy gray striped fabric, which set the tone for the lounge space and complement the stone surround outdoor fireplace. Custom teak tables have a limestone top, which not only breaks up the brown of the furniture but is also extremely heavy to anchor them when heavy winds sweep off the water. Andrews chose teak furniture for both spaces because of its durability against the elements. But most importantly, the furniture was custom sized for each space. “Because the porch is half round and has multiple doorways and entry points there is a lot going on, so it was really important to have the furniture layout be really functional,” says Andrews. “As beautiful as the exterior sitting areas are, they are extremely comfortable! They set up the space for easy entertaining and create a seamless indoor-outdoor lifestyle for the family and their friends to enjoy.”

GET THE LOOK

Our outdoor patios and porches from Amy Andrews, Cindy Rinfret and Marina Hanisch range from classic elegance to modern nautical. No matter what look you prefer, here are a few products we’ve rounded up to help you get the look of our favorite details.

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