The Designer’s Secret to Outdoor Decorating: Layering

The Designer’s Secret to Outdoor Decorating: Layering


You may have heard a design professional refer to “layering” and wondered what they were talking about. Think, for a moment, about the key to staying warm outside on a cold day, or to remaining comfortable on a day that begins chilly but ends warm. A sweater, scarf, hat, or jacket provide warm layers as well as a chic fashion style. This is exactly what designers mean when they suggest layering a room.

In the world of design, layering is the magic process that pulls individual items together into a synergistic unity and creates the appeal of a well-designed room. Beginning with the walls, floor, and ceiling, each finish and added element is layered to create a palette that is blended with forethought and intent to create a specific result.

Utilizing color, texture, pattern, material, and size, a skillfully layered room can be highly contrasted, monotone, or somewhere in between but will be neither jarring nor boring upon completion. It is important to consider each element as it will appear when united with all others in order to determine if it contributes to successfully uniting all elements included in the design.

Repeating elements helps unify the space and will help keep the space from appearing too busy. While too much of one thing may lead to monotony, too many disparate elements leads to competition, causing fatigue and a lack of cohesiveness. The trick is to honestly evaluate what each item brings to the overall design of the room and how the eye will travel as it takes it all in–together as one.

Notice in the image above, how the design has an eye-catching galvanized tin ceiling with the same tin material repeated in the lanterns flanking the fireplace. The wood beams in the roof structure are repeated as the coffee table base. The painted brick is repeated in the columns, wall, and hearth and the soft off-white neutral color is repeated in the painted brick and the furniture cushions. Different textures, different materials, a unified appearance.

Repeating color and pattern is a popular method of unifying a space while adding layers. Wide stripes mixed with narrow stripes and solid blocks of the colors in the stripes is eye-catching and bold even if simple in color scheme. In the image above, the strong contrast between black and white is enough to create interest while maintaining a simple color scheme and minimal use of pattern. Continuing this basic color scheme with the addition of black wrought iron lanterns and planters, black and white pillows, and white trim, draperies, candles, and flowering plants creates a striking harmony and balance.

In the brightly hued room above, textures are varied but the color selection repeats throughout the space and each layer from the painted floor to the layered rugs, the fabric-covered ottoman, painted furniture, and throw pillows adds interest and cohesiveness. And, the choice of colors reflects the natural colors beyond indicating an intentional desire to harmonize the interior and exterior.

Remember to consider each element added to the outdoor room. Does it make sense? Does it have more of a purpose than the fact that it appeals to you? If you removed it from the space, would you notice that it was gone? Of course, to some people a room that is chock full of furniture and accessorized to the max is comforting, while to others a xanax would be necessary to endure more than five minutes. More to their liking may be a quietly layered room that is soothing and restful. Whichever you prefer, layering is the key to successfully creating a well-designed room.