From the moment we put away our patio furniture in the fall until the moment the snow finally melts, patio season hangs in our heads as a reminder of what we can look forward to in the spring. Patios, balconies, decks and backyards can expand your living area and enhance your enjoyment of your home and yet they are often overlooked and underused in Toronto. It doesn’t matter how much you love the great outdoors, the only way you’ll spend more time in your outdoor space is if it feels as comfortable as the inside of your home. From sipping your weekday morning coffee to enjoying cocktails with friends on the weekend, if your outdoor space is inviting, you and your guests will gravitate towards it.

Here are some foolproof ways to add comfort and style to your outdoor space:

Wall Coverings

Wall coverings are all too often overlooked in outdoor spaces. One great way to bring the inside out is by incorporating mirrors. Mirrors add an element of luxury to any patio space. They trick the eye into the thinking the space is bigger than it is, reflect light, and in this social media-obsessed time we live, provide ample opportunity for selfies with friends. Not all mirrors weather the outdoors equally, so consider using a metal framed mirror and be sure to install them securely.

Green walls are another great way to dress up potential eyes sores in outdoor spaces, and they don’t have to be a ton of work. If you’re up for the challenge of keeping it alive, living green walls are great, but there are some great fake options on the market that make it far less work. Faux Ficus fence panels can be found in most home improvement stores, and though originally designed to beautify chain link fences, look amazing on exterior walls. The trick to making them look real is to have them extend all the way to the ground and cover the entire wall so as not to leave any portion exposed. In our featured balcony, we hung two mirrors on one concrete wall and two faux Ficus panels on the opposite one. The result? Balcony bliss.

Flooring

Patio floors should be comfortable underfoot and pleasing to the eye, and with all the products out there to choose from, you really don’t have any more excuses. Some flooring options to consider for your balcony or deck:

  • Wooden floor tiles are great for smaller patio spaces, are relatively easy to install, and can be found at any home improvement store, and of course, Ikea.
  • Faux grass has come a long way and is another very comfortable option readily available.  Long gone are the days of neon green turf. The fake grass of today genuinely looks real and when it heats up in the sun, massages your feet when you stand on it. Pro tip: To make faux grass look its best, consider pairing it with wooden floor tiles. Edging the perimeter of the grass with tiles is one way to do it, but mixing them together to look like a Palm Beach driveway is the best way, in my opinion. When tiles and grass are laid in a staggered or checkerboard fashion they really compliment each other and create a high-end look.
  • Rugs – Why stop with only one layer when adding a rug can take your space to the next level? Rugs should always be considered for outdoor dining areas and living areas, but are less important when dealing with intimate outdoor spaces where the flooring itself should be the highlight.

Comfortable Seating

There’s a reason you sit on your couch instead of a dining chair when you have the choice. Whether your space is small or large, you need to have a place to sit that rivals your couch or you’ll always end up back on it. Unfortunately, patio furniture is expensive, but if you hope to spend more time outdoors, it’s a worthwhile investment. Finding furniture with detachable cushions is key. Ikea has some great modular pieces that won’t break the bank and will give you the comfort you need to sit and enjoy a long evening of cocktails.

When you layer in toss pillows and throws you’ll add comfort and style to the space and start thinking about it as another room. Maintaining outdoor cushions and pillows can be a pain, so finding furniture with storage is important. No one wants to have to drag everything thing inside every time it rains and it would be nice if they looked new for longer than a week. For our featured balcony, we used pieces from the Ikea Soleron collection that fit the space perfectly. Two couches facing each other act as the perfect entertaining space and all of the cushions can be tucked away under the seats. There is plenty of room to be creative with your outdoor seating but the most important things to remember when shopping are comfort and function.

Lighting

Ideally, every evening outside would be spent lit by the moon and the stars, but I can’t tell you the last time I saw either from my downtown Toronto balcony. Some things to keep in mind when planning the lighting for your patio:

  • Power – Lighting outdoor spaces can be difficult for those without an exterior outlet, but battery-powered options exist for most options.
  • Overhead Lighting – Lanterns and battery-operated candles are great, but nothing gives you the comfort and feeling of being inside like overhead lighting. Chandeliers and drop pendants look great outside and should be considered for every space where there’s a place to hang them from.
  • Patio String Lights – Patio lights strung above eye level work great as well, as long as they are strung with purpose. Consider using them to frame an outdoor mirror or entwined in an outdoor planter. If they hang from the ceiling like sad old Christmas lights you’re not doing it right.
  • Cords and Light Intensity– If you’re fortunate to have an electrical source, be sure to run your cords carefully out of sight and always use soft yellow light- the patio is no place for harsh white light.

In our featured balcony, we were able to run a cord through an opening created by the air conditioning unit and hung an industrial looking indoor/outdoor pendant made of black metal. Because the bulb is exposed, we chose an Edison bulb with a warm yellow glow. The result is soft overhead lighting that is both functional and inviting.

Whether you’re looking to freshen up your balcony or deck or starting from scratch, it’s never too early to start thinking about your patio.

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