It’s all about first impressions
Just as homeowners think about curb appeal and the first impression guests will have when they enter a home, I give a lot of thought to how people will enter the backyard. When we’re entertaining outside, people aren’t always coming through the house. Make your space a standout—it can be something as dramatic as a path flanked with trees that opens up to a larger space, or some gorgeous pavers that help guide the way.
Carve out different entertainment zones
My approach to outdoor design is very much inspired by my studies in interior design–I like to create different intimate vignettes that invite guests to linger as they discover the spot. Just as open floor plans require that space be divided and defined for different uses, the same can be said for outdoor spaces.
Create private and/or hidden spaces
I encourage homeowners to create outdoor spaces that feel cozy and intimate. Try using hedges and trees to frame the space, and add a bench or two so guests can mingle and relax.
Add unexpected surprises
When designing outdoor spaces, I incorporate elements that make a visual statement. A fire pit, water element, or hammock, for instance, is a great option bound to impress (and entertain) guests. Plus, the visual aspect—and the sound of a fire or trickling water—promotes relaxation and helps establish an outdoor connection.
Establish focal points
Allow one feature to take center stage—like this fountain surrounded by hedges in a South Florida waterfront villa’s backyard.
Use flowers to add a splash of color
I recommend using flowers or blooming plants to inspire an instant summer-ready look. I always adhere to my 80/20 rule: 80 percent of your plants should be strong and hardy, while 20 percent should be dedicated to bringing color to your outdoor space. Opt for perennials (based on seasonality and regionality) to ensure you have color year-round. Similarly, I like to use citrus trees to add an instant tropical, vacation-inspired feel: Calamondin orange, Tahitian orange, Satsuma tangerine, Meyer lemon, and lime are personal favorites. If you aren't lucky enough to live in sunny Florida or a similar mild climate, plant your citrus in pots so you can overwinter the plants in a sunroom or by a south-facing window inside your home.
Pots don’t have to be boring, which is why I love using them as a way to add visual interest in an outdoor space. The four planters I used in this lush area, for instance, elevate the aesthetic thanks to their intricate details. Look for an interesting material or design that fits your garden style.
All photographs courtesy of Fernando Wong Outdoor Living Design