Creating An Outdoor Oasis With Staying (And Soothing) Power


Creating an outdoor oasis has never been more en trend. Whether you’re poring over outdoor kitchen designs or perusing comfortable outdoor furniture, these five designer insights will help you plan a space that seamlessly transitions from peaceful sanctuary to dinner-party central.

brick courtyard and pool featuring bevolo lighing

Make sure to mimic the lighting inside the home. “If your lighting is soft and moody inside, I think it should feel the same outside and vice versa,” says designer Kevin Walsh, whose featured outdoor space showcases Bevolo gas lights. (Photo: Rett Peek Photography)


Create ambience with the right lighting.

Your three basics are ambient, accent and task. Ambient lighting can be achieved by hanging fixtures, post and wall lights. Task lights will illuminate a path, and accent lighting illuminates architectural details as well as ornamental structure and landscape.

What’s trending: String lights. They add a fun, more casual vibe and can be easily added by a trained professional.

Can’t go wrong with: Gas lights are timelessly classic and pleasing to the eye. Nothing compares to their warm, soft glow. They are also available in numerous finish options to work with a variety of styles.

—Kevin Walsh, Bear Hills Interiors | Little Rock, Arkansas

red outdoor oasis by lisa davenport with firepit

“Just like in a home, don’t deny yourself the finishing touches,” says designer Lisa Davenport, whose project channels classic Americana vibes with Lloyd Flanders Hamptons Lounge Chairs in Terracotta and a Lloyd Flanders Round Fire Table. (Photo: Neil Landino)


Consider your outdoor space an extension of your home.

Furnishings should be comfortable and scaled correctly—and set up for conversation and cocktails! Plus, mixing materials—woven with teak, glass with metals—adds dimension and visual interest.

Give your guests options: A large sectional doesn’t have the same flexibly as a sofa and multiple arm chairs. I love when clients can cozy up or spread out!

It’s all about the details: Define outdoor spaces with area rugs, then add pillows, accessories, fresh bouquets or potted flowers.

—Lisa Davenport, LDD Interiors | Connecticut and Naples, Florida

nar bustamante creates an outdoor oasis with dekton cosentino fireplace arbor

With beauty and durability always top of mind for surfaces, designer Nar Bustamante opts for Dekton by Cosentino for the custom fireplace, coffee table and dining table in a California outdoor retreat. (Photo: Fred Donham of PhotographerLink)


So long, stucco and stainless steel.

Today’s homeowner is looking for an elaborate outdoor kitchen and lounge area leveraging a monolithic design concept where the outdoors blend seamlessly with the indoors.

Set up for success: Select a surface that is ultra compact or non-porous, in addition to offering scratch, UV and stain resistance.

Go big: Work with your selected surfacing material in unexpected ways like wall cladding, flooring, backsplashes. Consider cladding outdoor cabinetry with surfacing materials to craft a seamless blend between the indoors and outdoors.

—Nar Bustamante, Nar Design Group | Sacramento, California

outdoor kitchen and outdoor oasis by robert bell in west palm beach

An outdoor space should be both attractive and functional, offers designer Robert Bell, who incorporated a Lynx Sedona natural gas grill with rotisserie, plus Lynx Sedona SS cabinet doors in a West Palm Beach, Florida, project. (Photo Courtesy Robert Bell)


Think beyond food prep.

Create a bar top or outdoor kitchen surface, so your guests can face you while you cook. Proximity to the house is also important. An outdoor kitchen should be far enough that smoke isn’t pouring into a window, but close enough to connect electrical and water.

Three must-haves: 1. Everyone wants to be able to grill outside, so some sort of heat source is always useful. 2. A refrigerator, for less back-and-forth to the kitchen. 3. A sink. Clean-up is always important; plus, you can fill it with ice and chill wine or soda.

Spring for the good stuff: I always push clients to use the nicest materials they can and to select something that complements the house.

—Robert Bell, Bell Design, Inc. | Washington, D.C., Southampton; Palm Beach

creating an outdoor oasis backyard by gavin duke

“Landscape design is a process of seeing from the inside to outside,” says Gavin Duke. (Photo: Reed Brown)


Never underestimate the power of plants.

Use plantings and hardscapes to create outdoor rooms. Add lighting, water sounds and a fire element to enhance the experience.

What’s hot: Kitchen gardens in urban spaces with raised planter boxes to provide fresh herbs and produce.

Starting from scratch? Do not rush the planting plan. Bring in a landscape architect early in the new build process. The overall design is a collaboration among architect, interior designer, landscape architect and owner.

—Gavin Duke, Duke Design Group | Nashville, Tennessee