The Great Outdoors

Some people commune with nature. They speak in reverent tones of an almost spiritual relationship with the things like dirt and rock.

Growing up in the brutal Midwest, I developed a healthy fear of the great outdoors. The glistening white winters pictured on holiday cards were, in real life, flipping freezing. Jack Frost didn’t simply “nip” at your nose. He bit it. Hard. He left your toes blistered. And when you gasped in pain, he crystallized the moisture in your lungs until you thought you’d inhaled shards of broken glass.

With the spring thaw came the fear of falling icicles that could impale you like an entomologist’s specimen. And have you ever walked across a frozen pond only to find yourself suddenly under water that is approximately 1 degree above its solid state? I don’t think I fully warmed up until mid-summer when I learned about a condition called heatstroke and the very peculiar effect dehydration has on the function of the brain as it shrinks like a raisin to make the words coming from a doctor’s mouth sound like a language spoken in a country far, far, away.

I have nothing but fond memories of fall. 

outdoorcap8Amazing stackable Cap Outdoor Furniture $2,000 at


Children tend to love their parents unconditionally but it is an indisputable fact that Mother Earth is bi-polar. So excuse me if I prefer my out-of-doors experience to resemble, as much as possible, the in-doors, which brings me to the topic of outdoor rooms.

A while back Tiffani Osborne, with the interior design MHD Studio, pulled accessories for an Oregon Home magazine photo shoot on the beautiful rooftop of the Indigo building. She shared a few tips for creating a welcoming outdoor space.

• Freshen up outdoor furniture with new cushions in citrus shades of orange, lime and lemon. A great material for outdoor cushions called chilewich  “is a plastic-looking material. You can scrub on it and hose it down,” which is useful in the mold-prone Willamette Valley.

• Osborne likes the look and usefulness of  “C-side tables,” so called because they are shaped like the third letter in the alphabet and can be pulled over a lounge chair. They’re like a modern version of the TV-tray. And that’s fitting since so many people are summering with their televisions.

•  Hang bird feeders nearby to provide your own personal 3-D Nature Channel instead.

•  Add a little color “whether it comes from flowers, plants, pillows or a glass ball from the beach hanging from a tree.” Durable Adirondack chairs are favorites in the rainy Northwest and are easily updated each year with a quick coat of paint in a “color to suit your mood.”

• A single chair on its own tends to look lonely. Two chairs with a low table or ottoman in between with a tray to hold “lemonade or iced tea or coffee in the morning” creates a comfortable visual grouping “that looks more inviting even if you sit there on your own most the time.”

 • Let there be light. If you don’t have outdoor wiring, use candles. Wide-mouth jars or lanterns will protect flames from the wind, or use battery operated flickering candles for safety.

• Consider including elements that appeal to all the senses. People tend to focus on the visually pleasing but also remember the tactile with a mix of textures, the aural with the  soothing sound of a bubbling table top fountain, and the sense of smell with potted herbs such as rosemary, thyme or mint.”

I love some of Tiffani’s suggestions. I’d like a room with the extreme furniture like the stackable Cap furniture, above, or the Artistic 4 Chaise, below. But personally I would get more use from outdoor space if it had a roof on it, like those pretty gazebos I’ve seen in parks. And then, because the wind tends to blow the rain sideways, I might add four walls.

That would be the perfect outdoor room.

Vivian McInerny is the managing editor of Oregon Home.


The English oak Artistic 4 Chaise, $6500, at