In Living Color: Taking spring cleaning outside

Shoshanah Siegel/Signal Tribune The writer’s love for colorful art is apparent in her backyard garden.

By: Shoshanah Siegel

Shoshanah Siegel/Signal Tribune The writer's love for colorful art is apparent in her backyard garden.
Shoshanah Siegel/Signal Tribune
The writer’s love for colorful art is apparent in her backyard garden.
Whether you are on the East Coast defrosting from its harsh winter, or you have just started entertaining on the West Coast, now is the time to get ready to enjoy your outdoor spaces. Spring cleaning isn’t just for the indoors. Your outdoor space can benefit from some primping and polishing as well.
Here are some helpful tips for creating great spaces on a budget.
Get your yard under control
This is the perfect time to clear out weeds and trim overgrown trees and shrubs. In the past month we have started cleaning out planters and amending our soil in our raised-bed gardens. We have added mulch to encourage growth, as well as helping the soil to retain more water. Take into consideration the soil type, the sun and shade patterns of your yard so that you can select the right plants for these areas. I have sacrificed many a plant because it was not in the right location, or I paired it with a plant that had different watering and soil needs.
Attracting birds and butterflies
Be sure to put up bird feeders and supply a water source. It never gets old watching hummingbirds and other birds come to our feeders to take a bath or sip water from our wall fountain and birdbaths. We have had a variety of butterflies in our yard this year already. Our milkweed plants supply a source for butterfly larvae, and they continually send out seeds and propagate around our yards.
Clean and update your outdoor space
Look at your outdoor space as an extension of your home. For continuity, I would follow the same style and similar colors you have on the inside and bring them outside. Outdoor living and entertaining now boast stylish furniture with weather-resistant fabrics. You can have a mix of sofas, day beds, ottomans, coffee tables and stools. Assess what you want to keep, and determine what you might want to purchase. Look at the layout of your furniture. Is it functioning and meeting your needs? Is there a specific area defined for your outdoor furniture? You might even want to create a few separate spaces for different activities (campfire, a place for two).
If you are planning on keeping certain items, such as planters, tables, chairs and umbrellas, now is the time to clean off the dust and cobwebs that have accumulated. Sometimes your items just need to be refreshed. For example, we love our expandable teak table that we got a few years ago from Ikea, but it was looking tired, old and gray. Recently, we bought a great sealer and stain from Ikea which made the table look like new. Remember, you might not have to buy a whole new set; you might only need to replace some cushions. There is a large selection of sale items in the market for outdoor furniture and accessories. Just add a few complementary accessories such as outdoor rugs, candles, placemats and other decorative pieces to spice up your space.
Organize and store
Recently, my husband inherited a wood workbench his grandfather had made. Instead of getting rid of it, we decided to paint it a great color, put a cleanable surface on the top and use it to store our supplies for entertaining. Because it has drawers and doors, we can keep items out of sight and clean. We are also planning on attaching casters on the bottom so that it can be wheeled around and serve as a beverage table. Storage can come in many shapes and sizes, old and new. Use your imagination to create a one-of-a-kind piece.
Barbecues and outdoor kitchens
This is an area where the sky is the limit. Whether you want to create an all-inclusive kitchen, or just want a space to put a barbecue, plan an area for cooking, a surface for serving, an area to store supplies and provide adequate ventilation and lighting (especially if you are cooking at night).
Let there be light
Set the mood with outdoor lighting. You can create an intimate space with the right kind of lighting. The idea is to keep it soft and provide just enough light to illuminate the space. I like mixing it up, just as you would for the interior of your home. There are now chandeliers and lamps that are safe to use outdoors. Strings of lights for the patio and trees now come in different styles and can work great in creating a certain overall effect to your space. Candles are always a great addition, whether they are with an actual flame or are flameless. Torches can provide great lighting, and by using oil of citronella, you can also drive away pesky mosquitoes.
If there is a part of your yard that you really want to stand out, lighting is a great way of putting the focus on the features you want to showcase. This might include up lighting trees, walls or art. Lighting on steps is a great way to help people safely see where they’re going and draw attention to this architectural feature. To add drama, try adding lighting above and below a water feature, such as pools, fountains and birdbaths.
Go with the flow
No space is too small for a water feature, whether you prefer a bowl with floating candles or a large urn with bubbling water coming from the spout. Water instantly brings a serenity to the space. We have had a wall fountain for about 10 years, and I can honestly say that it is one of our favorite additions to our yard.
Create a space to sit by the fire
These days you don’t have to go camping to enjoy the ambiance of a campfire. We purchased our cast-iron chiminea around 15 years ago (ones made of clay crack easily). It has provided us with warmth during the cooler times of the year and has been a great source for making and enjoying s’mores. These days, there are many selections of firepits and fireplaces. Some use natural wood, and others have gas lines that create fire that reflects light off of colored glass and metals.
Need warmth?
There may be occasions when there is a chill in the air. Heating sources now come in different shapes and sizes, and some can even serve as conversation pieces. Select one that reflects your needs, size of your area and that goes with your décor.
Add color in unexpected ways
You don’t need to rely on plants alone to add color. As one who is a color consultant and fine artist, this is an area I love the most. Create excitement in your landscape with focal points that lure you in and create an environment of fun. It can be an interesting sculpture or arbor, decorative gate, whimsical garden art, flower pots covered in colorful tiles or fun garden signs. I love going to garage sales or antique stores to purchase inexpensive items to decorate or repurpose. Each year I refresh the paint on my garden art. This year I decided to apply colorful paint on the whirligig I purchased at a swap meet.
Have fun being creative!
Whatever size your outdoor space happens to be, it doesn’t take much to freshen it up and get it ready for spring and summer enjoyment. Make it your own, and enjoy the upcoming seasons.
Shoshanah Siegel provides color consulting as well as space planning, remodeling, upgrading and staging through her firm Your Color Diva. She can be contacted at (562) 427-0440 or at Samples of her work can be found at Siegel recently received her second badge for “customer satisfaction” on Houzz, for the year 2014.

1 comment
  1. Great tips for outdoor enthusiasts in this article. We would suggest that in regards to outdoor lighting, safety and function should be a key element in planning. While outdoor lights, candles and other creative ideas can help illuminate and beautify a space, the main purpose for outdoor lighting should be functionality. Designing and planning your outdoor lighting should be a thoughtful and professional job making sure entrances are lit properly and allowing people to use the outdoor space in a safe way. By lighting and planning around the functions of the space, dark areas and places that people use most often, you can ensure your guests will not have accidents and that residents are safe.

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