By Charlie Thigpen
Photography by Eric DeJuan
With the coming of fall, everyone wants to be outside. Why not make a “room” in your landscape and create a little getaway right outside your own back door? A few weeks ago we set up a small outdoor dining area for Chris and Idie Hastings’ new restaurant, OvenBird. The small oasis will be a fun getaway as you dine in the heart of downtown Birmingham. Although this is not a residential setting, you can apply many of these design principles to any garden. Here we created a dining room, but you can create any kind of room that will fit your needs. Use some of our ideas to get inspiration for a landscape transformation.
Put Up Walls
To create most outdoor rooms you’ll want to have walls or boundaries. We had an existing iron fence covered in roses on one side, which gives the space instant charm. On the backside, there was a weathered stucco wall and the restaurant was on the other side, so the area already had nice walls. If you don’t have walls or fencing around your home, you can use large planters, shrubs, or small trees to form hedges and help define your room’s boundaries.
We created a nice glow around this space using a few different types of night lighting. Dusk until dawn lights are positioned along the fence line to shine upward, highlighting the heavy-blooming Climbing Pinkie heirloom rose. Candles on a dining table are a must when enjoying food and drinks alfresco. The erratic flickering of a candle adds ambient light and candles come in such a wonderful array of shapes, sizes, and colors. The brushed pear candles work great in our autumn arrangement. A vintage-style light bulb on the back wall adds a warm glow to the garden. These over-sized bulbs are fine for outdoor use and their orange squiggled filament emits a warm glow that’s not too bright and helps set the mood for a cozy gathering.
The Focal Point
A tall, concrete water feature makes a nice focal point in this dining area. The moving water catches your eye and the soothing sound helps drown out downtown traffic. The focal point doesn’t have to be a water feature; it could be a beautiful urn on a pedestal, a specimen tree such as a Japanese maple, a sculpture, or even an architectural salvaged piece. Use your imagination and find what works for your setting.
Just like you decorate your home for the seasons, you can embellish your outdoor room throughout the year. For fall we used concrete pumpkins, pear candles, and flowers and foliage that were appropriate for the season, but for the Christmas, we’ll use Christmas ornaments, magnolia leaves, and pine cones to decorate the tabletops. Use items such as flowers, foliage, and fruit or even vegetables from the garden or from local farmers to keep it authentic. Every season, your room can take on a new look to reflect the time of year. Make an outdoor room you can enjoy and escape from the hustle and bustle without leaving your home.