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Living Space: Create cost-effective outdoor room

By Kathryn Weber
May 17, 2012 at 12:17 a.m.

If dining alfresco is your outdoor dream, you can build a table that looks like you spent a fortune simply by using some bright tile.

If you've shopped for outdoor furniture lately, you know the outdoor living section of your big box home retailer features much more than $8 webbed aluminum chairs. Today's outdoor furniture is designed to stay outside year round, but priced more like indoor furniture.

So, how can you get that outdoor living room feel without the high price tag? A little design ingenuity and some clever shopping will have you relaxing all summer well within budget.

Assess your needs

Perhaps you want a simple cafe set for a small porch, or you may have a larger, more elaborate outdoor room in mind. Either way, you'll need to decide if the space will be used primarily for dining, relaxing, or entertaining, and what kind of weatherproofing you'll need.

For entertaining or relaxing, you'll want some comfortable seating in a shady spot. If dining is the central focus, you'll need a table and seating for guests. A covered outdoor room allows you to use wicker, or repurpose furniture that's not weather resistant.

If relaxing tops your list of outdoor room activities, consider creating a hanging day bed. Bolted to rafters in the ceiling, or hung from a sturdy tree branch, a day bed is the perfect option for lazy days of reading and napping, and there are plenty of how-to projects on the web.

For lolling in the sun, consider building a chaise canopy bed like those found at posh resorts. Again, simple construction and about $100 in materials is all it takes to create a fabulous spot for relaxing. Check out for inexpensive plans ($20).

Miles of tile

If dining alfresco is your outdoor dream, you can build a table that looks like you spent a fortune simply by using some bright tile. With so many tile styles and designs to choose from, you can easily create a table that looks like it came from the Mexican Riviera, or something ultramodern. Creating a simple table base is easy with pressure treated lumber. The top can then be covered in tile.

Maximize your budget

Not a DIYer? Online or off, there are plenty of places to find inexpensive outdoor furniture. Search websites like or Craigslist for used pieces. Offline sources include thrift stores, garage sales or flea markets. Adding some bright paint and new cushions can give old outdoor furniture a second life.

Regardless of whether you build or buy, once you have your table or furniture room anchors, it's time to build out the remainder of the room.

Indoors out

All outdoor rooms need a bit of privacy. Use plants, screens like rolled bamboo, or salvaged shutters to create some separation and distinguish the room. An outdoor rug, some soft lighting from a candle chandelier or a few candle lanterns will add a soft glow in the evening.

Another option is twinkling Christmas lights or solar lanterns that come on when the sun sets. Use plenty of plants in various sizes and maybe even a water feature to add the cool, relaxing sound of water.

Kathryn Weber is a home and decorating columnist and publishes the Red Lotus Letter feng shui ezine. For more information, contact Weber through her website,



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