Outdoor Living Design Expert: Marcia Blake
EXPERT BIO A 1978 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Marcia Blake began her corporate career with several high-profile executive-recruiting & marketing positions, culminating with her role as Vice President of Kole & Company Recruitment Firm.
In 2004, Marcia embarked on a new career path & followed her love of design, becoming the Manager & Buyer for Patio Furniture & Collectibles for Roger’s Gardens; “America’s Most Beautiful Home & Garden Center.” Today, Marcia Blake is President & Creative Director of Outdoor Interiors®, a full service design firm specializing in creating spectacular outdoor environments, and a Design Consultant for O.W. Lee, a leading manufacturer of finely handcrafted casual furniture. Her collection, Outdoor Couture® by Marcia Blake consists of luxurious throw pillows, outdoor drapes & table runners which has garnered rave reviews for dramatic, yet comfortable outdoor accessories.
Marcia is a contributor for the following publications: Casual Living Magazine, Coast Magazine, Water Garden News, Patio & Hearth Product Reports, Southern Home & Outdoor Magazine, and is a speaker on topics of home decor and outdoor living.
Outdoor Interiors, Inc.
What do you see as the top three Outdoor Living design trends for 2009?
The trend for the past few years has been and continues to be a move from the inside out. People are integrating outdoor living into their daily lives and are creating finished outdoor living rooms. This time spent outdoors has contributed to the increase in outdoor grilling and cooking, thus the creation of an outdoor kitchen with all of the bells and whistles found in interior gourmet kitchens are now present outside. Pizza ovens, ice makers, grilling stations, Viking appliances and wine refrigerators are part of this new trend.
Another design trend for 2009 is the mixing of materials, patterns and colors; wood & iron; copper & stainless steel; burnt orange & gray; blue & green; Ikat & stripes; plaids & solids; are just a few of examples of mixing various design elements.
There have been many innovative, technology based outdoor living products introduced over the last few years. How do you see the increase in smart outdoor living appliances/products making life easier for homeowners?
As homeowners spend more and more time living in their very own backyard oasis we will see new products that previously were only obtainable for the interior home will now be available for the outside living space. Heated towel racks for pool and hot tubs, radiant heated pools, flat screen television sets, design inspired chandeliers and much more are just the tip of the iceberg.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
I love being outdoors, under the clear blue sky or twinkling stars, at the beach or in the mountains, this is where I find my inspiration from nature, colorful blooming flowers and plants as well as the wildlife that inhabit these outdoor spaces. As the sun is setting in the west the colors that spring to life fill my senses, these are some of the very same colors that I incorporate into an outdoor living space.
What advice would you give to homeowners considering an outdoor room/outdoor living area?
Dressing an outdoor room is not very different from getting dressed for a special occasion. The first ingredient that is essential is a focal point, the center of interest that you notice either about a person or when you enter an environment. As in wearing formal clothes while dressing for an event, one usually dons an accessory that produces an expression of style. Men wear ties that are colorful, trendy, sophisticated or whimsical and women wear jewelry that is glamorous, ostentatious or demure. In each instance, the accessory is the focal point of the ensemble, the feature that attracts attention and conveys a distinct message. The heart of an outdoor haven can be many things, such as a beautiful fireplace or fire pit, a soothing water feature, garden sculpture, or a work of art.
Transforming an ordinary backyard into an outdoor oasis can be accomplished with the addition of five essential elements. During these difficult economic times individuals tend to spend more time staying, vacationing, and entertaining at home. The five components needed to design an outdoor living area consist of the focal point, the furnishings, the lighting, the living elements and finally the finishing touches.
To create the perfect outdoor retreat the addition of the finishing touches is crucial to this project. As the sun rises, get cozy with a Sunbrella® Outdoor Couture® outdoor throw blanket and nestle yourself between custom designed throw pillows that accent, embellish and redefine your deep seated chairs, love seats and sofas.
From dawn to dusk, together you and your family can share, reflect, connect and celebrate all that is within your reach in the newest focal area of your home environment, the outdoor living room. Reflect on the coming day, how will you grow together to reach new goals, how will you revive your spirits to restore yourself and nurture your family. Take the time to hear the sounds of daybreak as nature begins to wake, smell the morning scents while sipping robust coffee blend in a substantial handcrafted mug, linger a while to explore all the things in your life that give you great joy.
As you consider these ideas, think about the outdoor living room in your home, does it impart inspiration and confidence? If the answer is no, then think about what you can do to create the type of setting to motivate inspiration. Do you have a comfortable deep seating piece of furniture to settle into? Do you have soft, inviting pillows to snuggle between, do you have a comfortable throw blanket to keep you warm during those early morning hours, do you have an ottoman to rest your feet?
A homeowner must decide the different uses for this outdoor living space. Will it be a place for dining, relaxing, entertaining or all of these? Once these questions are answered you can design a plan to complete your outdoor oasis.
Tell us about your favorite outdoor living design project.
The project that I enjoyed was creating a haven for a family of five, who love to spend time together, to entertain family and friends, and to have a sanctuary to unwind at the end of a long day or at the end of the week. The interior and exterior of the home combines the Santa Barbara style with Tuscan interior decor. The red brick roof on top of white stucco is an example of traditional downtown Santa Barbara.
I incorporated the rust, gold, and brown tones that flowed from the inside of the home to the outside patio. I chose soft flowing drapes in sepia trimmed with the Tuscan orange and a yellow paisley print, which warms up the space while adding a useful design feature, privacy and protection from the sun. I created a living room for entertainment, relaxation and dining by adding a deep seated sofa, love seat, rocking club chairs and an ottoman. The central focus of the room is the large round copper top fire pit that has enough room for dinner place settings or simply a glass of wine. To define the space I placed a Tuscan orange & jute scroll patterned rectangular area rug. The lush chenille mink brown colored cushions have supple texture. The furniture is made from wrought aluminum and iron in a beautiful mahogany finish that brings out the warm red tones of the fabrics. The sofa, love seat and chairs are embellished with luxurious fringed and trimmed pillows, and a warm cozy machine washable Outdoor Couture® chenille throw blanket. Wrought iron sconces with candles are hanging from the pavilion.
A high top Tuscan stone table with swivel bar stools is strategically placed for dining and entertaining. Plush cushions adorn the cast aluminum stools and decorative Outdoor Couture® lumbar pillows add the finishing touch.
For relaxation a therapeutic spa sits just under the pavilion surrounded by potted plants and flowers. A long soak in the hot tub soothes a lot more than just sore muscles, it helps relieve tension and provides sanctuary.
Finally several oil lanterns add a touch of ambiance when the sun is setting.
In your personal outdoor room/outdoor living area – what is the product or products that you can’t imagine living without?
The products that I simply cannot live without are the lush, plush decorative soft accessories such as drapes, throw pillows and throw blankets. These items complete the setting, add color, texture, warmth and design.
Imagine designing your dream outdoor living area. What style would it be? What products would you use ?
My dream outdoor living area would consist of a covered outdoor living room with a Tuscan inspired stone fireplace focal point. Old World scrolled wrought aluminum deep seating sofas, love seats and spring based extra wide club chairs with plush textured cushions would be positioned to enjoy the ambiance of the fireplace. Decorative Outdoor Couture® throw pillows and throw blankets would embellish the furniture. Music would stream through the latest technology and a plasma flat screen television would be hidden just behind a piece of artwork above the stone fireplace mantel. Outdoor drapes would soften the room and provide protection from natural elements while an iron chandelier hangs from the wood beamed ceiling. A hand painted square Italian stone table top with a scrolled iron base as the cocktail table would provide a space for outdoor accessories, as well as a place for intimate dining.
Green design is an important consideration for many homeowners. Do you have advice for homeowners who want to “green” their outdoor living area?
There are many outdoor manufacturers who are doing their part to reduce our carbon footprint. I would research each company that you plan to purchase products from to see what efforts are being made to improve our environment. I would also research companies that are creating products that do not harm our environment.
We’d like to thank Marcia for generously sharing her expertise and design advice.
The Decorating Diva is a luxury home design magazine and lifestyle journal dedicated to the concept of living a stylish and comfortably elegant life at home – joyfully surrounded by the beautiful things you love. Join, Carmen, The Decorating Diva’s founder, as she blogs about sophisticated, smart, stylish and beautiful decor for your home and shares her decorating and style advice with you. Follow her and several of our wonderful contributors on inspirational design trips as they explore enchanted lands both far and near – returning with a delightful treasure trove of design finds for your home.