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Stylish outdoor summer living

Garden: Enjoy the best of what summer season has to offer without leaving the comforts of home

Posted: June 25, 2010 9:44 p.m.
Updated: June 26, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Enjoying your patio in the summertime is just one of the many perks of living in Southern California, especially in warmer areas such as the Santa Clarita Valley. Eating outdoors is a great way to connect with friends and family.

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With summer in full swing, especially with the fairly mild “heat” we’ve been enjoying, you’ve probably moved many of your everyday activities outdoors.

This might include eating breakfast or dinner on the patio, cooking (barbecuing) and television viewing. And if your family is freakishly close, you might also be playing board games out there or, heaven forbid, lounging around communicating. You might also be entertaining guests.

In any case, you’ll want to have the most comfortable and attractive outdoor living space you can.

When it comes to outdoor living, the folks at Lowe’s have you covered, offering more decor ideas than your brain can absorb, and bringing you the expertise to help you make good choices when that brain fizzles.

With an assist from Colleen Carbott in Lowe’s public relations department, as well as thoughts from the Saugus Lowe’s Pat Cosley, operations manager, Ron Hodges, seasonal specialist, and Miguel Garcia, electrical department manager, we bring you the scoop on outdoor living.

Think about it
Carbott noted that a wonderful outdoor retreat can be created regardless of space or budget. “Think about the people who will gather there, their comfort and the mood you want to create,” she wrote. “Consider how the outdoor area will be used.

For example, regular dining furniture groups will seat a crowd, low-seating conversation groups are ideal for casual gatherings, and elevated dining and bar groups make the most of a view.”

Here are some of the things people can do to dramatically improve their outdoor living space without spending a fortune.

Accessorize with color
Patio umbrellas: These are being used as a decor item, as well as for the shade they provide. With all the great designs/colors available now, people can pick up a relatively inexpensive umbrella and add some great color to their space for less than $80, which freshens up a patio set.

“You can interchange cushions with patio chairs for color, and accent the color with the umbrella,” Hodges said.
Pillows and rugs: A wide variety of colors and styles is now available in durable outdoor accent pillows and patio rugs.
These low-cost items can be placed strategically to vividly spruce up your space.

Lowe’s had a rack of throw pillows in attractive colors and patterns for $21.98 each.

Functional furniture
“People still embrace outdoor living as an essential at-home experience with the idea that you can create beautiful living space outside your home as well as in it,” Carbott noted. “The emphasis here is not just on great furniture, but finding the right style and right accessories to improve your space. Consider purchasing outdoor furniture that is multifunctional, such as nesting side tables or storage benches that double as seating.”

New technology has produced materials that allow for outdoor durability with indoor style. Outdoor fabrics are now soft and come in a wide variety of colors, patterns and textures that can stand up to the destructive forces of nature.

One of the new trends is patio sets and other items that have the look of “real” without the maintenance, such as lightweight planters that look like they are made of aged metal, terra cotta or river rock.

Resin “wicker” gives the timeless look of natural wicker while resisting rot and UV damage. New powder-coating processes can give the look of wood to durable aluminum.

And with all of these materials available, there has been a boom in new designs and styles of patio furniture.

“There are tables with tiles in the table top that can be changed out,” Hodges said. “That way you can interchange patio chairs with different tables.”

You can purchase furniture in a wide range of prices, but on the lower end you might consider Driscoll patio chairs at only $20 each.

Lowe’s also has table/chair sets in a wide price range, from a basic wrought iron patio set ($88 table, $40 each chair) to a rattan set ($128 table with glass inlay, chairs $150 each) and on up.

Container gardens
Patio container gardens are a good way for people to grow fresh and safe (organic) herbs and vegetables in a limited space. There’s no “garden” commitment — just a few planters/pots that can be coordinated to patio furnishings.

Fire and water
“Elements that stimulate the senses, such as water and fire, are natural components of an outdoor retreat,” Carbott wrote. “Think heaters, fire pits or chiminea, water gardens and meditation areas. The fire pit can become the focal point in the seating area. Some can even be used as tables when they are not being used with a fire.”

Cosley and Hodges pointed out a functional and attractive fire pit in the showroom where bricks were stacked around a metal fire pit. Cosley said any homeowner can easily set up this or something similar wherever he or she wants in the backyard. There’s no need to make it permanent.

With this setup the 35-inch diameter fire pit was $89 and the necessary bricks cost $152.

Now, if you want the heat without the fire, Lowe’s can also fix you up. For example, I saw a squad of portable gas heaters (with built-in tables) for $179 each, in stainless or bronze finish.

Lighting as decor
Lighting is also a key element for outdoor decor, Carbott noted.

Developing a more detailed lighting plan for your outside environment can create ambiance and increase functionality. Executing that plan is easy with the many choices available today.

There are general lighting and ceiling fans, accent fixtures to highlight greenery and architectural elements, specialty lighting to provide safety along pathways and even portable lamps made just for outdoor use.

Beyond light fixtures, there are two different but easy ways to add lighting to your yard — solar and low-voltage landscape lighting. Cosley explained the differences.

Solar lights are individual lights that you can place anywhere in your yard. “You just stick them in the ground,” Cosley said.

There is no need for a cord or any other fixture. Each separate light gets its power from the sun. This is the ultimate in convenience.

“They don’t need to be placed near an outlet or switch,” Garcia said.

Hodges pointed out a stack of solar lights, noting that they are only $3.88 each and that they come with either a stainless steel finish or bronze finish.

Later, Cosley showed me solar lights, at $9.99 each, with “flowers” at the top that light up.

Cosley said low-voltage lights are powered through a cord. But these can be placed anywhere along the cord — just clamped on.

The low-voltage power comes from a transformer you plug into an outdoor socket. He added that low-voltage is nearly as simple to install as solar, and that low-voltage provides brighter light.

He also noted that solar lights are very easy to, well, steal. Anyone walking by can just pluck them up and go. They might make better choices for your backyard than the front.

 Garcia pointed out the wide variety of low-voltage light available, including different color bulbs (LED and incandescent), and explained that you can purchase a different-sized transformer, depending on the wattage of, and number of, lights you intend to power from it.

“For example, one light might be 10 watts,” he said. “As long as you keep the total watts under what the transformer can handle, you’re good.”

These lights come in all patterns of illumination, from those that accent a sidewalk to those that illuminate trees.

“Low-voltage is a great way to accent your yard and provide safety and security,” Cosley said. “A lot of people put them on timers.”

He added, “They say putting in lighting is the number one deterrent to crime.”

The Lowe’s is located at 26415 Bouquet Canyon Road, Saugus, CA 91350. Call (661) 297-1400 for information.

The website www.lowes.com is a great starting place for your outdoor living ideas. Here you can get all the details on what is available, including sizes, colors and prices.

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