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Design Expert Shares 4 Simple Tips for Turning Any Space Into an Outdoor Retreat

Clever ways to spruce up your backyard for the summertime.


Sit back and enjoy summertime aah right in your own backyard! Here, design pro Cortney McClure shares simple (and surprisingly affordable!) ideas that are guaranteed to transform your outdoor patio space into a stylishly serene oasis.

Create a cozy nook.

“Setting up comfy chairs in a semicircle surrounding a firepit takes minimal effort,” notes McClure. “And dedicating an area for unwinding beckons loved ones to linger longer — it’s like a mini retreat! ” To do: Place four chairs in a horseshoe shape surrounding a small firepit. Space chairs at least 30 inches apart — a distance that encourages conversation while offering enough walking space.

Play with patterns.

“When dressing up a seating area, I always say bring on color and pattern — and the easiest way to do this is with pillows! ”says McClure. She suggests choosing a variety of patterned pillows in similar colorways. This allows you to freely mix prints since the colors will keep everything unified. Also smart: Stick to three or four hues (like the blues, terra-cottas and neutrals here) for a colorful yet cohesive style statement.

Amp up ambience.

“Whether it’s a firepit, campfire, tiki torches or even just simple outdoor candles, the warm glow of firelight will create welcoming ambience on a summer evening.” A trick to get a fire started: Scatter potato chip crumbs over the firewood, then light as usual. The grease will ignite flames and keep your bonfire roaring for longer.

Offer extra flair.

Small accents can make a big impact in an outdoor gathering area, says McClure. Some lovely, low-cost ideas: Place copper lanterns on the grass for ground-level illumination, drape throws on seats for cooler evenings and place a side table or two nearby for serving help-yourself snacks and drinks.

For more tips: Check out McClure’s design site,, or follow her on Instagram @designedbycourtney.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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