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early settler outdoor furniture white marble look outdoor table and wicker dining chairs

October Blog Giveaway: Win a $500 Early Settler Voucher

Today I want to clue you in on some of the most common outdoor decorating mistakes I see my design clients and blog readers make. And don’t worry, I’m also going to talk you through all of the solutions so you can make your alfresco zone a stunner for summer.

It’s fair to say that 2020 has not been cute. But finally, better days are coming. We’re almost allowed to have friends over again, there’s the smell of spring in the air, and I found a goon bag of Espresso Martini mix at my local bottle shop. Things really are looking up.

Now is the time to prep your outdoor zone and get it ready for some fun in the sun. And to make it even easier, I’m running an amazing giveaway at the end of this post that could see you win a $500 Early Settler voucher. Christmas has come early!

All of the glorious outdoor furniture you see in this post is from Early Settler btw, so it’s packed with my expert hints and tips, but also real-world shoppable products you can snap up in seconds.

So let’s dive into discussing all things outdoor decorating, how to fix your style blunders, as well as ways to improve the look and feel of this zone. I’ll see you in the comments at the end of the post.

This post is produced in partnership with Early Settler.

early settler french provincial outdoor wicker furniture white lounge suite with grey cushions
The Catalina Sofa Set. Click to See More.

The Outside Doesn’t Reflect the Inside

I’m starting with the major blunder first: your alfresco area not looking at all like your indoor rooms. I see it all the time when I go into client homes. You have this gorgeous indoor zone, then step out into a courtyard or covered pergola that feels completely disconnected.

People often do the interior first and the outdoor zone becomes an unfortunate afterthought. The solution, of course, is to look at the vibe you have going on inside your home and then purchase outdoor furniture that has the same look and feel.

Are you a Hamptons lover? Contemporary devotee? There’s an outdoor furniture style for every indoor vibe, so make sure you furnish with cohesion in mind.

Fab outdoor furniture to match your indoor style:

early settler extra large reclaimed tea dining table with grey wicker hamptons outdoor chairs
This Four-Metre Dining Table is a Godsend for a Large Area. Click for more.

You Haven’t Mixed your Textures

Another mishap I see when decorating an outdoor area is that all of the textures are the same. Warm timber decking, with a warm timber lounge suite, near a warm timber table and warm timber chairs. That is a whole lotta warmth (I’m sweating just thinking about it).

It’s the same for tiled outdoor areas and metal furniture: it can read as too cold. The best approach when it comes to outdoor decorating is the same one I use for indoors: a medley of textures is your friend. If the floor is warm, contrast with a cooler material. If the floor is colder, heat it up with a warmer furniture finish.

And of course, you have to think beyond just the outdoor furniture pieces, which brings me to my next point…

early settler white wicker outdoor lounge setting with white armchair and grey cushion
Click to See More of the Molly Wicker Sofa Set.

It’s Missing the Decorative Layers

When considering outdoor furniture ideas, people get stuck on the furniture alone. But an outdoor area is more than just the big pieces. Of course you want to get that right (and after this article you’ll have it nailed), but it’s what you put on top of the furniture that becomes just as important.

Once you have your lounge suite or dining setting, it’s time to embrace outdoor decor. I’m talking stunning outdoor cushions, decorative ornaments for your tabletop, and outdoor rugs for the ground. The rugs are a particularly important factor when it comes to zoning (we’ll get to that in a moment), but the cushions and decor are a crucial inclusion to add softness and depth to the outdoor space.

Below is a selection of my fave outdoor cushions. Haven’t they come such a long way over the years? 

early settler colourful outdoor cushions with tropical patterns

So Many Stunning Outdoor Cushion Options Here

boho style wicker outdoor furniture and outdoor rug from early settler
Loving the Kaya Tribal Diamond Rug here. Click for more.

You Haven’t Zoned the Areas

If you’re lucky enough to have a larger outdoor area you need to decorate, then zoning is going to be an important element to get right. When I say zoning, I mean that the lounge area and the dining table need to feel like independent spaces that are connected by a common thread.

You don’t want a scenario where you’ve just plonked furniture on the ground outside and called it a day. The best outdoor zones are ones your eyes (and feet, for that matter) go on a journey in. You want to lead people to the table on a subtle, carved-out pathway. You want them to move to the lounge area and have it feel cosy and welcoming.

Here are some ways to zone areas in your outdoor space:

  • Rugs are the number one. Pop one under the lounge zone to connect all the chairs
  • Plants are a great to break zones in two: pop some greenery between a lounge and dining table
  • Outdoor lights over dining tables can ground the area and make it more of a destination
  • Outdoor umbrellas are another great way to give a dining zone presence
  • In a larger backyard, cover the dining zone with a gazebo, but leave the lounge zone sunny
  • Don’t be afraid to have armchairs with their backs to the dining zone either
early settler terrazzo outdoor tall dining table with white stools in courtyard with black walls
Click to See More of This Stunning Terrazzo Bar Table.

It’s Only Made for Day-Taining

When it comes time to mull over decorating ideas for outdoor areas, people envision fun in the sun. And I hear you (with the right SPF of course!). But what about at night? There’s nothing I love more than sitting outside in summer as nightfall arrives.

With that in mind, you have to think beyond just day-taining (that’s day entertaining – I just made it up!). Consider how you and guests will use the space and move through it at night as well.

Fixed overhead lighting and permanent wall-mounted options are great, but you can get really cute with smaller lighting too. Lanterns on tables are awesome. But here’s the better idea: using lanterns either side of a path to lead guests on a journey from the back door to the dining table. Fairy lights are a genius move as well; they add instant charm and whimsy.

early settler outdoor furniture lounge suite timber with blue cushions and coffee table
The Haven Occasional Table is Made for Drinks. Click for More.

You Forgot About Side Tables

When mapping out the lounge zone in your outdoor area, you definitely want chairs and you definitely want a coffee table. But here’s the thing people often forget: the essential drink-holding side table.

It’s quite common in a well-designed outdoor space for the coffee table to be more decorative. In a larger zone it might actually be a bit too far away from the seat you’re sitting in to use it to put a drink on.

By all means you’ll use the coffee table to sit food and drinks on initially. But when you’re kicking back in a comfy lounge chair, you’ll want (and thank me for recommending) a stylish side table that works with the rest of the setting.

early settler reclaimed teak outdoor furniture dining table and benches in backyard
Click for more of the Antigua Dining Table.

You Only Furnished the Footprint

This goes back to what I was saying earlier about layers, but also about zoning. You don’t want your outdoor area to just be a timber, tile or concrete footprint with a few pieces of furniture sat on it.

You want the entire outdoor area to read as a room; with comfortable nooks, cosy crannies, and the interesting focal points you see inside the home.

To do that, you have to think beyond just the horizontal plane. Go up as well. I’m talking about decorating the walls in your courtyard or balcony, or erecting a gazebo if you have a larger yard.

If the space doesn’t bode well for something as big as a gazebo, why not hang some plants from your eaves or on the walls of your home’s exterior? Anything that draws the eye up and away from the ground is a good idea.

black woven outdoor furniture early settler backyard furniture decor
Click for more of this comfy Calypso Sofa.

You Haven’t Thought About Comfort

I mentioned hard materials earlier, so I want to discuss them again. Because trust me, people don’t think about comfort enough when they’re decorating outdoor areas, and it really comes back to bite you in the butt.

Speaking of butts, you want yours to snuggle into a soft cushion, not a hard chair. This of course depends on the furniture piece in question and how long you plan on sitting on it, but overall I always recommend getting lounge chairs with plush cushions.

Even with dining chairs and benches, it’s nice to have some removable cushions on hand for guests who need them. If it’s one thing I’ve realised as I’ve gotten older, it’s that the bones do not enjoy hard surfaces. So always invest in cushions.

early settler black ornate metal outdoor small table with two chairs
Arles Garden Table is a Great Option for a Small Courtyard.

You Think it’s Too Small for Furniture

Also one of the biggest blunders of all: you think your space is too small to do anything with. Honestly, no outdoor zone is too small for some piece of furniture, and there’s always a solution at hand.

I’ve spent time on many very cosy balconies where friends or family have decided to not do anything with – and it’s such a shame. Be it a small round table with two chairs, or even a glorious egg chair you can cosy up and ready a book in; there is a hand for every glove and a piece of outdoor furniture for every outdoor space.

Above: the delicious Arles Garden Table is a great solution for a balcony. And how romantic does it look? I see dinner for two and a proposal happening here (the proposal from me being “will you pass me another champers?”).

Below: another great idea for a small space – the delicious Byron Hanging Chair.

early settler byron hanging chair wicker egg chair with cushion
The Byron Hanging Chair is Perfect for Balconies.

You Forgot to Bring the Indoors Out

The very first point I made was about making sure you connect your indoor and outdoor zones. You don’t want to step from your kitchen or dining room into a courtyard that feels completely disconnected. Carrying the vibe from indoors to out is important, but so is using indoor pieces in your outdoor space.

If you have a covered area (be it an actual outdoor room, pergola or gazebo), you can happily decorate with indoor pieces here and not worry that they’re going to get damaged by the elements. Alternatively, bring them inside at the end of your weekend soiree if you’re concerned.

The benefit of living Down Under is that our homes are so blended in terms of the inside and out, so mix and match where you can so it all reads as one glorious design vibe throughout the property.

white ceramic top outdoor table with black metal legs early settler
Love the modern feel of the Hendrix Ceramic Table.

WIN A $500 Early Settler Voucher

The team at Early Settler have been kind enough to offer up a $500 voucher that you can win to spend on anything you like in-store or online. Simply follow the prompts below to enter.

To enter to win the $500 voucher, simply:

  1. Click here to visit the Early Settler website
  2. Explore their beautiful range of outdoor furniture and decor
  3. Jump back here and drop a comment below naming your fave product and why
    * You’ll need to scroll to the bottom to submit your comment.

Giveaway is open to Aus residents only. Competition closes 11.59pm Saturday October 31. Winner will be announced here and contacted via email.


Chris Carroll

Outside of writing this blog, Chris is an interior designer, presenter and author. He’s also spent time on TV, on Channel 10’s Changing Rooms, as well presenting segments on Channel 7’s Sunrise and The Morning Show. If you’d like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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342 Responses

  1. The Roman Stone 2600 table and 8 Manette Black Chairs would be the perfect Christmas table and chairs to place in my gorgeous garden….it would be an extension of my gorgeous french country style home. I could see my entire family having such a special time enjoying this beautiful table and chairs.

  2. The Versailles Gazebo would look beautiful in our backyard. It would provide shade while we enjoy the outdoors.

  3. NIX LOUNGE CHAIR is the perfect blend of modern and Palm Springs. My home has a lot of the concrete look so these chairs are a perfect marriage of modern design with a warm light wood look and grey cushions. I love statement pieces and outside these will win hands down!

  4. The BYRON HANGING CHAIR is just beautiful , I can just picture my self and the other family members battling to get on it first !!!

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I’m interior designer Chris Carroll, and at TLC Interiors we’re all about helping you create an amazing home without breaking the bank. It’s affordable designer style at its best, and we make the whole process easy and fun for clients & readers alike!

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