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Transformation: The Great Outdoors

Designer Tobi Fairley shows how to put some life in your alfresco living spaces

By Tobi Fairley

One of my favorite rooms in my house is not really a room and it’s not really in my house. It’s the outdoor living space I created on our patio by the pool. It’s my family’s go-to spot for breakfast and dinner, for lounging, and for entertaining friends and family. 


The outdoor living area spills easily out from the sunroom. A comfortable gathering area is set up for conversation by the pool. Fun is always at hand, thanks to a giant chess set. ​

The existing pool and patio had an aggregate concrete surface and crumbling tile surround. It was time for a facelift. So we resurfaced the patio with black-and-white concrete tile and the pool with black-and-white porcelain tile. The look speaks to my personal style and to the age of the house, which was built in 1968. It also meshes with the tile in my entry hall.

Visual flow between indoors and out is especially important because big, beautiful windows in the sunroom let us see the outdoor area year-round. In addition to black-and-white elements, I carried other colors and motifs from my interiors to the patio to make the decor seamless and integrated. 


Building a flowing water feature into the pool adds to the relaxing ambience. ​

Of course, I had to have preppy stripes and energetic splashes of pink and green. They’re just plain fun—and they have that 1960s glam vibe, like Palm Beach or the Beverly Hills Hotel. To enhance the cabana feel, I added a valance and draperies to the roof overhang. It all works together to make me feel as if I’m at a resort—and why not enjoy that feeling every day?


A dining nook tucks under the trees. Curtains draped from the roof overhang add softness and interior-worthy style.​

To finish the space, I furnished it with pieces from a line of Chinese Chippendale furniture that I designed for Woodbridge. The bamboo fretwork bridges the gap between trend-forward and classic. And the Duralee fabric on the cushions feels like comfy terry cloth. It’s great for a pool area. 

To make gatherings even more memorable, there’s an outdoor music system, a pink flamingo float (named Frankie, after Frank Sinatra), and a giant chess set. I found chess pieces online that fit perfectly on the checkerboard tile. How fun is that? 


Lounging with the resident canines on the patio as daughter Ellison splashes in the pool is the perfect way to while away a sunny day. ​

Read more about my outdoor space online. And next month, it’s bathroom renovation time. 

Photography: Nancy Nolan