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  • Neyir Urminsky

An outdoor colour scheme - YES you need one!

We are in week 5 of the ORC, a wonderful event in which anyone can participate. The challenge lies in completing a space within 8 weeks. Please be sure to check out the other guest participants. See my earlier posts on our DIY patio week 1, week 2, week 3, week 4, and my other previous projects here; A boys room for 3, Family friendly beautiful vestibule.

When I was in about grade 5 my mom decided it was time to redecorate my room. Curtains were to be made, balloon curtains to be exact and I was to choose the fabric and from that fabric a paint colour would be determined. I fell hard for a cabbage rose on a dark, nearly black background. I had this amazing vision of my room with these curtains on the large double hung Victorian windows and my walls black - it would be epic!!! I’m sure you aren’t shocked to learn I was not allowed to have that fabric, a mistake I still believe to this day. Those same curtains could have been paired with a blush wall colour and been lovely for a girls room - sigh. Instead I ended up with sand coloured walls, sand! That lasted until I was about 15 and repainted the entire room myself in blue and white.

Colour, we are choosing it for our homes all the time. Whether it’s putting up new curtains, buying some new towels, a candle or re-painting a room. We put more or less energy into the decision, spending more or less time on Pinterest & Instagram to figure out what we want but we know there are choices to be made. Often we don’t

think as much about the outside spaces of our homes. I have lived in 4 detached homes, 1 condo with its own patio and 7 different apartments. Not all of them had outdoor space but the ones that did, even if it was just steps to the front door, I maximized as much as I could. If you are fortunate enough to have outdoor living space, no matter the size, it is a gift to your physical and mental health!

But what colour should I paint my house? I’m getting new windows, should I do white or black or brown? What type and colour of roof should we have installed? We often think about outdoor colour schemes in terms of picking big ticket items - which is of course smart. We aren’t going to change our roofs as easily as we do the colour of our front doors and the answer to any of the above questions, of course, depends on many factors. Here’s the other thing: once you have an overall vibe and colour scheme for your outdoor space it saves you from those impulse buys! That fantastic modern, sleek outdoor steel lantern at Target or Walmart? Nope it doesn’t go with the boho space full of natural textures you are envisioning. Those fabulous tropical outdoor cushions you saw? Not going to work with the monochromatic scheme you have planned. I’m all for being flexible and mixing it up but there is nothing quite like a plan to get you started and keep you focused in everything from outdoor lighting to furniture and plant selection.

So how do we figure out an outdoor palette? Just as we consider the more permanent finishes in our house when choosing colours; flooring, natural light, layout, we need to use the same process outdoors and then from there gather inspiration for the type of space we want to create. In our backyard we had two things that we could not or would not change. The first was the fence colour. While the creamy beige of our fence would certainly not have been my first or second or even third choice it was fairly new and in great condition. There was no reason to change it and doing so would take the budget to do many of the other things we wanted. That meant I was stuck with that colour and I could either choose to ignore it, which in design isn’t a great solution particularly when it covers so much surface, or work with it. As I discussed in this post one of the reasons I chose the pure limestone for the patio was that it toned so well with the fence colour. Because the patio is such a large space your eye travels very easily from the patio up the fence as if they are both on the same plane. I am super curious to see how this changes as the raised beds fill out next year!

I love the continuous colour from limestone to fence!

The other colour I was stuck with was green! I think when we consider outdoor spaces it is very easy to forget about the colour of your natural environment, in Montreal where I live that means lots and lots of green or white depending on the time of year! I have a good friend who moved to New Mexico a few years ago and her backyard naturally has more shades of beige and brown. As we wanted to grow more vegetables in our raised gardens we knew there would be lots of green foliage right up against the patio and growing up the fence. The last fixed item I had was the outdoor furniture we chose. We were able to grab it on sale a few weeks ago and while the cushions are very much in keeping with the fence and patio tones, the frame is black.

Just a reminder of how green it really gets back there!

All this meant that before I added any of my own design to the space I was dealing with a 3 colour palette of cream, black & green. There were 2 spaces/items that needed or could take a change of colour. One was the deck which we will talk about more next week and the other were the concrete blocks we used to build the raised beds. As I have said before the concrete blocks would not have been my first choice but they were free, already in the backyard as part of a derelict patio. So what to do? I had to treat the deck as it was in really bad condition, should I leave it natural and apply a clear protector? What about the blocks? I hated the natural colour. In both cases I wanted to elevate the materials by applying a colour. Should I add in a fourth colour or stick with one of the 3 already in this space? So I went back to my inspirations pictures and re-visited the calming, cohesive vibe I wanted to create. The easiest colour to ignore was black, it doesn’t occur naturally in the backyard (other than the massive trampoline of course) and it was only on the frames of the furniture. Cream was out, staining the deck and the concrete cream was just setting myself up for a lifetime of cleaning and I was trying to create a more low maintenance, relaxing space! Green was a no as I would have needed a deeper colour per the aforementioned cleaning issues and that felt artificial next to all the natural greens in the environment. This left me at a crossroads particularly as I LOVE colour. I have no issues with strong colour but from those inspo shots I knew what I really wanted was to stay with a tight colour scheme and I knew that I might one day choose to grow more colourful plants and flowers in the raised beds so I came back around to black. Besides, I reasoned, we already had a patio table and chairs which were black, well dark charcoal. 9 year old me was vindicated, black/dark charcoal was it!

Concrete blocks in their natural state

After staining!

I used this to stain in Arctic Black, to stain the concrete blocks a deep charcoal, I wasn’t able to find a black concrete stain, I didn’t want to paint the concrete as I worried about the upkeep long term. See I’m always thinking about relaxed maintenance! In terms of the deck the stain is a really deep charcoal, nearly black and I cannot wait to show you the deck next week when I do a post on it but we love it!!!

She may be neglected but she came in handy!

So back to black you’d think our patio table and chairs would be a perfect fit right? Alas it wasn’t to be so easy. The set had been very neglected over the years, much like the entire back yard. The colour was great, nearly a perfect match for the stained concrete blocks but when we put the table on the finished patio it was like a black hole! It took all the attention, completely upstaging the main players. I tried to live with it for a week or so but it sits right outside the kitchen window I stand at to do dishes and I couldn’t stop giving it the stink eye! It needed a change! I was not about to buy a new table, this one works great and is still pretty solid, though needs new cushions for the chairs which we will tackle in the spring. But what to do about the finish of the table??? Cream seemed the obvious solution but it just wasn’t sitting right with me. I strongly considered a fun colour but again felt that went against the restful/cohesive vibe I wanted. Finally I realized it needed to be green. A lighter green so as not to compete with the plants but green nonetheless. I took myself off to the hardware store and ended up with this colour, Krylon colormaxx matte seaside green, ideally I would have liked something a little deeper but overall I’m pretty happy with it. The finish is matt and a bit chalky and as an added bonus the table will stay cooler on hot summer days.

As you can see I’ve already spent some time out there working in this glorious Fall weather. There are still some fun things to come and discussions to have but we are over 50% done on this project now!!

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