Welcome to spring, friends. It’s time to move the living outside and we are here to help. Creating an outdoor room is very similar to an indoor room, and in the spring and summer (and fall depending on where you live) it really increases the square footage and function of your house. I should know. Our patio gets more use than our living room, which is not a bummer to any of us. For anyone stumped by how to put together an alfresco space, good news – the design process for both inside and out is the same, the function is close to the same and all the same rules apply. So today, to help walk you through creating your own oasis, we’re showing you three ‘outdoor rooms‘ that we designed for an event (and this shoot) at the Target Headquarters in Minneapolis, each with its own style. I’ll show you my version of modern (Project 62), traditional (Threshold) and eclectic (Opalhouse). They all have the EHD spin full of pattern and happiness, as I’m incapable of doing anything truly minimal and I’M COMING TO TERMS WITH IT.
While some styles want more rigidity and some benefit from being a bit looser, the process of putting it all together doesn’t change. I’ll go step-by-step and show you how we created each look using the exact same method, but tailored to each style (and at the end, I’ll tell you my favorite).
Go Modern With Project 62
To start is the Project 62 line, a more modern, graphic and young collection that debuted last year and is going strong.
First off, let’s talk through the elements of the modern look: The furniture is more streamlined (without a lot of ornate detail or extra flourishes), the patterns are more graphic (no florals or paisleys, think stripes and circles), the colors are neutral (less pastels and saturated tones) and the finishes are more refined (glass, metal and not-too-rustic wood).
Now that we know the style indicators, let’s put the room together via my patented (patent-pending?…okay, there’s no patent) eight-step process.
1. Start with your “walls, floors and ceilings.” In the case of this particular space, the plants are the “walls,” the rug is the “floor” and the umbrella is the “ceiling.” That’s kinda three steps, but you get it – you have to address these things even though you are outside. This really gives a sense of intimacy and frames out a “room”, which helps to create a conversation area that feels so much more elevated than just a few pieces of furniture on a concrete slab. Everyone wants to be under an umbrella, even on a cloudy day.
2. Choose your color palette. In this modern example, as you can guess, it is black, white, gray and neutrals with pops of color (blues, greens, terracotta tones – or really anything that makes you happy). Make sure that if your furniture is just black and white like this that you mix in some wood for warmth. If that coffee table (which is AWESOME, by the way) were black or white, I think this space could have looked stark and cold, but in wood, it instantly feels warmer. The copper and gold in the barware also helped.
3. Find your “jumping off” piece. This is usually something that is more of a statement that guides the space (usually in interior rooms, it’s the rug or wallpaper). Here, I really wanted/needed that umbrella in my life, so once that was chosen, I knew that we would design the rest of the room with that big bold stripe in mind.
4. Choose coordinating furniture. Yes, it’s time for a sofa, club chairs, coffee table, side tables and your requisite outdoor bar cart. For a more contemporary look, bring in symmetry with matching or VERY coordinating pieces of furniture. The chairs can match. The poufs can match. Don’t worry, it won’t feel boring at all; it’ll feel uniform and fresh. If you aren’t into the whole matching thing but still like the clean-cut vibe, just stick to more modern picks in terms of your color palette, and feel free to choose a different shape or style of furniture. Side note: I have the dining chair version of that sofa and it’s so comfortable, and while it can go very modern, it’s also pretty transitional and can be styled to be more traditional. The coffee table and bar cart are KILLER and while I don’t need either, I especially want an excuse for that bar cart. You can’t see the wheel detail here, but it’s a large black round disk (check it out on the get the look at the end of this section).
5. Round out the look with lighting. Just like lamps inside, you want to have good exterior ambient lights (not just garage spotlights) to keep people gabbing for hours. We did this here through simple string lights inside the umbrella and glass lanterns on the coffee table and floor. I love how the string lights are loose and feel like a party (no one in the history of time has not wanted to eat dinner or have drinks underneath bistro lights). The cement lanterns on the coffee table are so simple and yes, you can use both real and fake candles (OOH I DO LOVE A GOOD REAL OR FAKE CANDLE DEBATE).
6. Pick your textiles. Any look or style needs the softness that only textiles can bring. This is your chance to bring in more pattern and color, though, for a more modern look, you’ll want to reduce the variety of colors used (like we did). Keep in mind that you’ll NEED pattern and texture to keep things interesting and inviting with a more neutral palette. I love those striped pillows, the bold umbrella, the dotted pouf – they are all different scales but share the same color palette. We then mixed in neutrals (the sofa upholstery and the rug) to give the eye a break. Listen, you determine the amount of pattern you can handle (GO. FOR. IT if that feels like you) but know that the more pattern and contrast, the busier and smaller the space will feel. On the flip side, with NO pattern or contrast, your room can look sparse, empty and cold. It’s all about balance.
7. Mix in plants and greenery. Now, you may have a backyard that has a ton of plants and if so, feel free to skip this step. But since we were shooting on a patio outside a downtown building, we brought in a lot of plants to give it the warmth and texture that you need outside. It’s like art, sculpture or bookcases inside – you want some pieces to add life and unexpected shapes for your eyes. For this Project 62 look, we went for more modern and graphic plants, i.e. less “English garden”, more “urban rooftop.” We planted only one species per pot to make it feel as graphic as possible, and the pots coordinate – all square, in simple finishes. Feel free to get crazier with your planters and plants; we just wanted to be as distinctly “modern” as possible.
8. Add accessories and details for extreme party-readiness. For this setup, the bar cart really is the accessory that brings this room into full-on party mode. For the shoot, we stocked it with just about anything you would need for the perfect gin and tonic, and the addition of the metallic elements both on the bar and throughout gives the look that little bit of a pop every party needs.
So there you have it – that’s my 8-step design process, done in a modern aesthetic with 100% Project 62 product from Target.
BUT…because I’m an overachiever, we decided to set up more of a small space dining area from the same collection for all of you who have a smaller space that needs some summer love.
It has a lot of the same vibes as the previous setup but works for a small patio or dining space where you want to create a place to sit and dine even if you don’t have a large area to do it in.
Here are the two get the looks for both the “lounge” and “entertaining” setups. My favorites are the loveseat, striped umbrella, coffee table, striped rectangular pillows and concrete lanterns. Fine. It’s a lot. 🙂 Here is the rest:
1. String Lights | 2. Loveseat | 3. Striped Umbrella | 4. Rug | 5. Pouf | 6. Coffee Table | 7. Lounge Chair | 8. Faux Concrete Side Table | 9. Tall Concrete Planter | 10. Short Concrete Planter | 11. Tall Lantern | 12. Short Lantern | 13. Solid Gray Pillow | 14. B & W Triangle Pillow | 15. Striped Lumbar Pillow | 16. Cream Throw | 17. Cream Woven Basket | 18. B & W Striped Throw | 19. Cream Umbrella | 20. B & W Striped Pillow | 21. Patterned Lumbar Pillow | 22. Gray Throw | 23. Umbrella Stand | 24. Dining Chair (part of 3pc set) | 25. Bistro Table (part of 3pc set) | 26. Small White Bowl | 27. Copper Tray | 28. Medium Concrete & Glass Lantern | 29. Large Concrete & Glass Lantern
The bar cart is particularly awesome; I already have one from last year’s line, but if I were to need another, this one would be it.
1. Bar Cart | 2. Wooden Board (similar) | 3. Placemat | 4. White Napkin | 5. Cocktail Shaker | 6. Tumbler | 7. Bar Tool Set | 8. Table Runner | 9. Salad Plate | 10. Dinner Plate | 11. Wine Decanter | 12. Whiskey Decanter | 13. Condiment Server Set | 14. Coaster | 15. Water Glass
Go Traditional With Threshold
Next up is a more traditional dining look which we created using all Threshold product from their new collections.
For this one, we wanted to create an alfresco dining experience straight out of a Nancy Meyers movie. The only thing missing is Meryl or Diane.
Before we dive into the eight steps, let’s talk through the elements of this more traditional look: The furniture silhouettes have a bit more of a classic feel, with some curves rather than everything being sleek with modern lines. The patterns are more ornate and organic (like in the rug), the colors are more vibrant and bright (although the tones are still somewhat muted) and the finishes are more rustic (wood, woven rattan, iron).
1. Start with your “walls, floors and ceilings.” Here’s what the means for this space: we creating “walls” with the vines, a “floor” with the rug and a “ceiling” with the pergola. That pergola has a retractable “roof” (see I told you even outside rooms have roofs) that creates intimacy, whereas the rug instills warmth and adds in a big dose of color to help warm up the stone floor. Lastly, the plants help bring life and organic shapes into the space to help it feel collected much like it would if it were in a plein air dining space somewhere in Europe.
2. Choose your color palette. Although your mind might go straight to “neutral palette” when you think of traditional style, our palette here was a bit more colorful, because I’m Emily and I like color. Here’s why it still works: Both of the color tones that we used – blue and orange (I strongly dislike orange so let’s call it rust) – are subtle tones. If we had used anything that felt too bright or poppy, it would have leaned more boho than traditional. The hues of all the colors that we used are toned down and quiet (but feel free to go brighter, you don’t have to stick to muted tones just because you lean traditional). Also, these two colors are opposite on the color wheel, therefore they complement each other perfectly (in general, this is a great starting point for creating a palette – just vary the tones and hues to make sure it doesn’t get too “primary” and pre-school).
3. Find your “jumping off” piece. In this setup, it is the colorful rug that we paired with the patterned blue-and-white bistro chairs. The combo of the two is what really sets the tone for this design and is where we pulled inspiration for all the other elements from.
4. Choose coordinating furniture. To give this traditional look a bit of a collected feel, we paired a matching set of chairs with a bench to create the seating around this iron dining table. It works and feels cohesive because although the bench is not a part of the dining table set, the black iron legs on both speak to each other. Then the wood on the bench works well with the wood on the bistro chairs. Just because it is traditional doesn’t mean you can’t mix and match, though make sure that you keep a few cohesive elements running through all the pieces of furniture so that it works well together rather than looking hectic.
5. Round out the look with lighting. No outdoor dining space is complete without at least a few different types of lighting (this is a good rule to adhere to generally). One type of lighting can end up leaving it dark and flat whereas two can create ambiance. Add in a third and now you’ve got an inviting dining space no one is going to want to leave. Here, we included three different sources of lighting. The first comes from the patio lights overhead – we strung them along the perimeter of the pergola in an organic fashion so that it didn’t feel too formal. The second is introduced through the hanging lanterns. All of these lanterns come from the new collection and we paired two different kinds together to create a collected look that didn’t feel too chaotic. See a trend happening? The third is introduced through the candles on the tabletop.
6. Pick your textiles. You might not think of a dining area as a room with a ton of soft textiles, but they are key to soften all the hard edges of the furniture. They don’t necessarily come in the form of pillows, poufs or throws like in other living spaces, but you can bring in soft textures through a runner and napkins like we did here. Also, to break up the lines of the table and make it look more inviting, we styled the napkins hanging off the front of the plates (try this at your next dinner party…it’s such a good look that shakes things up a tiny bit).
7. Mix in plants and greenery. If your outdoor pergola and dining area are already grown in with lots of flowering bushes and twisted ivy then you are set, but ours was not so we needed to introduce some greenery to break up all the black elements and also create some organic lines in the space. We picked three different varieties of pots (black, white and terracotta) and then varied their location, size and scale to create small collections of planters.
8. Add accessories and details for extreme party-readiness. In this traditional scene, all of the dinnerware makes this dining setup truly party ready. To keep things informal, we paired a few different items together to create the table setting. We started with a wood charger to give the plate height and help it pop from the table and then added in the neutral cream melamine plate and the patterned blue bowl. The combo echoes our color palette while pulling in an additional pattern. You’ll also notice that the pattern on the bowl is a slight variation of the print on the rug and the motif in the lanterns which helps to pull the entire look together.
If you want to recreate the space (sans Meryl or Diane, though if you happen to know either, feel free to invite them…AND INVITE US) here is the full get the look:
1. Pergola | 2. String Lights | 3. Blue Ceramic Lantern | 4. Brown Metal Lantern | 5. Rug | 6. Dining Table | 7. Dining Chair | 8. Dining Bench | 9. Black Tapered Planter | 10. White Ceramic Planter | 11. Terracotta Planter | 12. Woven Runner | 13. Blue Napkin | 14. Dinner Plate | 15. Wood Charger | 16. Blue Patterned Bowl | 17. Flatware | 18. Throw Blanket | 19. Tall Candlestick | 20. Short Candlestick | 21. Medium Candlestick | 22. Gold Wine Chiller | 23. Wine Glass | 24. Stemless Wine Glass
Go Full-On Eclectic With Opalhouse
For our third setup, we went eclectic using Target’s Opalhouse collection. We recently did two bedrooms with this line (a romantic glam look and a boho ’70s vibe), but creating this outdoor space was so much fun (though technically we did photograph it inside due to rain). While the modern look is about sleek lines and a tight neutral palette and traditional is more refined yet rustic, this eclectic setup is all about mixing prints, patterns and colors to create an inviting and informal space. Let’s talk through the eight steps for this look.
1. Start with your “walls, floors and ceilings.” Just like in the other two spaces, we created a “roof” or “ceiling” using an umbrella or pergola. In this one, we did the same using this pink umbrella which just about everyone that came to the party wanted. Its scale is perfect and the little details like the fringe on the bottom edge and the curves on the top make it feel special. Because the eclectic look really allows you to play with pattern, we went full throttle on the floor by layering rugs. Lastly, the “walls.” Although we did happen to have some interior walls here (again, it was raining all day, so we improvised), we created our own little vignettes by grouping the greenery together around the area as if the walls weren’t there.
2. Choose your color palette. It may look like we went with all the colors on the color wheel here, which, well, we somewhat did, HOWEVER, we made it all work by using poppy jewel tones and softer candy hues. This setup is not about neutrals, but by peppering the colors around the space evenly, it allows them all to work together in an organic way.
3. Choose coordinating furniture. This eclectic setup may not have the traditional furniture you are thinking of (like a couch, chairs or table) but there are still some coordinating furniture elements in here which help it to feel pulled together. We used a natural color on the rope chair as well as the hammock, and then we pulled in rattan elements like the bar cart and plant stands to warm it up.
4. Find your “jumping off” piece. You might think that EVERYTHING here is our jumping off piece, but the umbrella and hammock are what really set the tone for the space. They are playful, textural, fun, and the little details paired with their larger scale makes them feel special.
5. Round out the look with lighting. Unlike the other two setups, this one does not have any overhead lighting; instead, we opted for lanterns scattered throughout the space. Because the majority of the lounging in this one happens lower to the ground, the lanterns keep things feeling intimate and atmospheric; overhead lighting could have distracted from the casual lounge vibe the space was giving off. I love these large-scale lanterns in the collection that come in both rattan and this brass-and-glass combo.
6. Pick your textiles. This one somewhat speaks for itself as the entire space is all about textiles but let’s break it down and talk about where we used them and why it works. Rugs are the foundation for the room and also speak to the layering of textiles that is prominent in the eclectic look. We brought that layering of textiles through in the tabletop, where we layered a runner and napkins on top of each other, as well as in the hanging hammock and chair where we added in pillows and throws to really make them inviting and bring the color up from the floor.
7. Mix in plants and greenery. For this “urban oasis,” we brought in a lot of plant life but kept it all in tonal green shades as the hues of the textiles, rugs and umbrella were where we wanted to center the color. This also puts the focus on all the beautiful outdoor product rather than the plants. Instead, the layered greens help to soften all the hard and modern angles of the space that we were in.
8. Add accessories and details for extreme party-readiness. This space is all about lounging without an agenda, so for the accessories here, we used multiples from different collections to create a boho and eclectic vibe. The plates are mismatched although they all stay the same shape, the colors of the cups are contrasting while the shape and form stay the same, and all of the napkins and silverware are loosely styled on the table rather than set into place settings. All of this evokes that easy-breezy casual vibe.
1. Blue Shibori Rug | 2. Colorful Striped Accent Rug | 3. Tan Rug | 4. Colorful Check Accent Rug | 5. Hammock | 6. Hammock Stand | 7. Umbrella | 8. Coral Pillow | 9. Cream & Orange Lumbar Pillow | 10. Pink Pom Throw | 11. Natural Rattan Plant Stand | 12. Black Rattan Plant Stand | 13. Large Natural Wood Lantern | 14. Small Natural Wood Lantern | 15. Tri-Color Planter | 16. Yellow Rim Planter | 17. Blue Patterned Planter | 18. Pink Global Stripe Oversized Pillow | 19. White Pouf | 20. Glass Lantern | 21. Orange Striped Rug | 22. Blue Distressed Diamonds | 23. Woven Round | 24. Teal Pom Throw | 25. Hammock Chair Frame | 26. Hammock Chair | 27. Pink Floor Pillow | 28. Teal Global Stripe Oversized Pillow | 29. Yellow Stripe Throw | 30. Pink Pouf | 31. Blue Embroidered Pillow | 32. Color Striped Lumbar Pillow | 33. Orange Diamond Lumbar | 34. Pink Floral Lumbar Pillow | 35. Round Green Velvet Pillow
1. Blue/Green Dinner Plates | 2. Orange Plastic Pitcher | 3. Pink/Red Bowls | 4. Faux Wood Serving Platter | 5. Plastic Goblet | 6. Blue Tasseled Napkins | 7. Pink/Red Salad Plates | 8. Rattan Bar Cart | 9. Purple Plastic Tumbler | 10. Green Plastic Tumbler | 11. Blue Plastic Tumbler | 12. White Serving Platter | 13. Yellow Napkin | 14. Embroidered Colored Tassel Table Runner | 15. Green Plastic Pitcher | 16. White Embroidered Kitchen Towel | 17. Pink/Red Dinner Plates | 18. Blue/Green Bowls | 19. Orange Pom Napkins | 20. Blue/Green Salad Plates
After we had set these up, Target invited all of their employees over for a little cocktail hour where they could browse the collections, see some of the pieces that they themselves had designed or created and enjoy the afternoon free of emails, distractions or obligations in one of our three worlds.
The event was filled to the brim with Target employees (they estimated it was more than 500 people) and was so much fun. I was able to meet so many amazing people and we had such a fun time.
There were even a few people that brought books from home so that I could sign them for them.
A massive thank you goes out to Target for allowing us carte blanche when creating these collections. Brady and I had so much fun pulling them together – both digitally before we arrived, and then in person once we got to their HQ in Minneapolis. Secondly, we have to give a huge shout out to the ladies at Twirl. By the time we arrived, they had taken our vision and had every single piece we wanted in multiples ready for us so that we didn’t have to really do any shopping and instead could spend the time styling. As a stylist, I can’t tell you how appreciated this was, so thank you Holin and all the girls at Twirl for making our job that much easier. Last but not least, Melissa Oholendt who took all the photographs. We had to work with some crazy weather conditions and moved every single setup from inside to outside multiple times so that we could capture these shots when the rain let up and she was so wonderful to work with (man, were we moving fast).
If you are interested in any of the clothes that I wore for the shoot, here are all of the pieces linked up (although the majority of them are from Target):
1. White Button Up Blouse | 2. Jean Jacket | 3. Denim Culottes | 4. Tan Mules | 5. White Button Up Blouse | 6. Hat | 7. Bandana (similar) | 8. Denim Skirt | 9. Slip On Sandals (similar) | 10. Red Blouse | 11. White Jeans | 12. Tan Suede Pumps (similar)
Last but not least, here is a little video we pulled together showcasing how we created all three looks.
OH, one last thing before talking favorites – Target is running a sale through Monday, May 28 on their outdoor living and patio products, so if you see anything in this post that speaks to you, make sure to head online or to your local store before Tuesday so you don’t miss out.
Okay, FINALLY, let’s review those setups again (because I have my own favorite and I want to hear yours):
Modern with Project 62:
Traditional with Threshold:
Or, Eclectic with Opalhouse:
Listen, I love all three so much and if they were in my house, I’d likely mix a lot of them together, but if I had to hang out in one space it would be Opalhouse. Opalhouse, even though that set up isn’t the style of my house, looks like a vacation. And I REALLY like vacations. 🙂
So…which one is your favorite?!
***Photography by Melissa Oholendt