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Tobi’s Top 5 Tips for Choosing an Outdoor Palette

How to choose your outdoor palette

By Tobi Fairley

I love outdoor living from the spring right into the fall. Like a lot of families, my family and I spend as much time as we can outside during warmer months, so it’s important to have outdoor spaces that are as comfortable and inviting as indoor rooms. For a lot of people, choosing a color palette is no easier outside than it is inside their homes, and the typical outdoor furniture you see is a boring sea of brown or gray. To ensure your outdoor space has loads of personality, I have five tips to make it as easy-breezy as a summer afternoon!  

1. Bring the indoors outside. Transition your color palettes and motifs from the interior to your outdoor spaces to make them feel more beautiful and more comfortable. It's outdoor living at its best. In this space I designed in the Hamptons, I took gray, white, and accents of orange from the master bedroom and brought them onto the attached deck. It creates a cohesive look from inside to the outdoors. 

2. Brighten up. If you’ve always wanted to experiment with a more daring color palette, your outdoor spaces provide the perfect place to go for it! It’s bright and beautiful outside, especially in spring and summer, so go bold with your color picks for a bit of extra fun.

3. Re-create a favorite destination. An easy way to do that is by paying homage to that spot’s color palette. My outdoor space definitely has a taste of the Beverly Hills Hotel with its pink-and-green decor. But I opted for a bit more drama (if that’s possible) by grounding the color palette in black and white. 

4. Create a mood that suits you. If a bold color palette is too much for you, don’t worry. You can always go softer. Consider shades of light blue and aqua, which create the perfect pool palette. And consider using a neutral hue like gray as the base color (see the gray sofa above) and punching it up with a few pops of your favorite shades like the yellow additions in this outdoor living space. I love that yellow and turquoise mirror the colors of pool water and sunshine. What’s better for an outdoor space than that? 

5. Get your inspiration from nature. Use the gorgeous greens that you’re surrounded by to create a beautiful outdoor retreat. And if you have a flowering feature, like a bank of azaleas or hydrangeas, be sure to add colors from those blooms, too. In the screen porch above, which I designed several years back, I used the stunning view to create the outdoor palette. This is a technique I still use often in my designs today.