Style Expert

A Modern Outdoor Living Room

A mix of contemporary furnishings, lush greenery and an unexpected color scheme turn a lackluster Atlanta deck into a masculine, modern outdoor living room.

Ready to bring your living space outdoors? Shop Brian Patrick Flynn’s key elements for a lovely patio lounge.


Curtains, potted plants, and other comforts make the outdoors home.

When people tag me in photos on Facebook, it takes everything I have not to instantly “unfriend” them. Seriously, why is it that all tagged images involve (a) mid-chew shots with mouths half open, (b) side angles that make necks and chins disappear and somehow insinuate Quasimoto posture, or (c) one person in a group smiling with their eyes completely closed?

Of all the embarrassing images I’ve been tagged in, I’m lucky, at least, that none of them showed the previously sad and pathetic deck of my Atlanta home. Since buying the 1955 mid-century modern ranch on Christmas Eve of 2008, I’ve dreamed of turning the tired outdoor area into something that would suck much less, or even have enough razzle-dazzle to impress my modernist friends. Thanks to the collective talents of my amazing design team, great-looking modern furnishings and an unconventional color scheme, my Facebook friends aren’t just welcome to tag photos of the newly revamped space, they’re encouraged to. Win.

Prior to the redesign, my deck was, well, just “meh.” The hardscaping was great; however, the 19 layers of dirt on top of the deck left a lot to the imagination.

In its revised state, the previously “meh” afterthought of an outdoor space is open, airy and totally functional as a place to lounge, read or keep an eye on my dogs as they bark at every moving thing in their periphery… including cars, clouds and curtains flowing in the wind.


The outdoor living room offers a clear view of the dog run.

The outdoor living room is laid out to fully envelop the entertaining deck. To put every inch to good use, we configured the Kontiki Monte Carlo seven-piece sectional sofa set in a U-shape. This allows it to seat up to six comfortably. And thanks to layers of greenery tucked behind the sofa in the planter wall and hanging baskets above, the place appears jam-packed with life.

When planning the overall color scheme, I took both the interior and exterior color palettes of my house into consideration. While the interior is a mix of mostly charcoal, black, gray, and violet, the exterior features gray and black-brown. I chose to keep the outdoor living room scheme in check with a mix of greige, gray-brown, plum, and bronze. Do you know what color is nowhere to be found either inside or outside my house? Beige. Nope.

Although the woven construction of this outdoor sofa set looks and feels like rattan, it’s made from all-weather resin that won’t break, bend, or snap like rattan after prolonged sun exposure. So, in theory, you get the look of rattan, but with much more durability. You know what else all-weather resin is great for? Standing up to leg-lifting dogs.

To add ambiance above the seating area, my carpenter, David, installed a grouping of five Royce Marrakech portable indoor/outdoor pendant lights, which plug into an exterior outlet that’s integrated into the pergola. While these aren’t exactly a modernist’s first choice for lighting, they add an unexpected twist to the otherwise contemporary style of the pergola, deck and house itself.

The quickest and most effective way to make any outdoor space feel more like a room is to add an indoor/outdoor area rug. In this case, we chose the Colonial Mills Portico braided rug in stone, which features classic stripes in white, black-brown, and charcoal. It’s fade-resistant and made of 100 percent polypropylene, which means it’s super-easy to clean with a hose—especially for homeowners with dogs who may or may not make it to their dog run before doing leg lifts. To prolong the life of indoor/outdoor rugs, I suggest only keeping them out year-round in fully covered outdoor spaces. My outdoor living room is exposed to the elements, so I usually cover my rugs with thick, clear contractor’s plastic when they’re not in use.

When asked what exactly people need pillows for, my best answer was, “Pillows tie a space’s color scheme together and offer a chance to incorporate texture, sheen and pattern.” A perfect example is the plum solid fabric mixed with the greige and black-brown geometric motif used on this sectional.

Sheen and reflection are go-to elements when you want to play with light, break up tone-on-tone color schemes or add elegance to a space. Mirror is often a designer’s first choice for boosting a room’s reflective qualities, whether it happens to be indoors or outdoors. The Alanna set of two trays was used to add a reflective touch atop the slipcovered coffee table, which comes in especially handy when entertaining. Plus, I can check my teeth to make sure there are no seeds stuck in them before greeting more guests.

A table lamp for the outdoors? Yep. Outdoor table lamps aren’t very well-known as of yet, but they will be soon. This Sausalito outdoor table lamp is shaped like a tree branch and comes with an easy-to-clean lamp shade. If you have an exposed or partially covered outdoor space, I always suggest bringing outdoor lamps inside when not in use. But if you have a covered patio, by all means, go crazy and keep it there year-round.

Most designers like their spaces to have a few elements that feel slightly “off.” This keeps designs looking layered, lived-in and relaxed. It’s kind of like making things un-match. When working with sets, a great way to make them appear slightly “off” is to skirt or drape pieces whenever possible. While the coffee table that came with the sectional sofa set is ideal for its shape, scale and proportion, I wanted this piece to stand out from the others, so I had my seamster create a skirt from plum-toned indoor/outdoor fabric, complete with a band of Greek key trim along the bottom.

Years ago, when I bought my 1950s house, I found myself searching high and low for all things mid-century modern. I discovered the Hip Haven retro bullet fiberglass planter with steel stand before it became hugely popular with designers and architects alike. Lucky for me, I found these on and used a mix of white, black, and chocolate versions to add some 1950s styling to the exterior of my house.

Hands down, the easiest plants to incorporate into a shaded outdoor living room are ferns. Ferns thrive in shaded areas such as porches, underneath awnings or even hung below the branches of large trees. Sprinkle them with water once or twice a week and they’ll stay green throughout the warm months. Since ferns offer texture, shape and color, I like to keep them in simple planters such as the round resin Daniel planter.

The asymmetrical angled roof of the Precision Outback Bungalow dog house is classic in nature, but works perfectly in a modern setting.

Since the outdoor living room is sequestered from the rest of my backyard and leads to the dog run, it made sense to allow my dogs their own access in and out of the house to take care of their business. Gidget gets the most use out of the PetSafe Smart Door, whose flap-style door unlocks when she’s nearby, thanks to a sensor on her collar. This makes it impossible for other pesky creatures, such as raccoons or possums, to sneak into my house to watch “The Real Housewives” marathons.

Brian Patrick Flynn, HGTV designer/producer; Decor Demon


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