How do you design a space to suit your personal style when you’re not really sure how to describe your personal style? “Organically,” says Marisa Vitale, whose newly minted front yard is the stuff of summer daydreams. “There wasn’t a conscious effort to pair specific items. We wanted to make a space that felt good to be in.”
Vitale, a photographer from Venice Beach, California, says she was inspired to give her home a revamp after photographing a friend’s renovated backyard. Coincidentally, that friend was Lindsay Hollinger of Casa Joshua Tree, and her equally stunning yard was featured in Domino in late summer 2017. That, coupled with a very real need for a functional outdoor entertaining space, was all the impetus needed to start her very own front yard makeover.
“We have two kids and live in LA, where it’s sunny 360 days of the year, so we pretty much live outside,” says Vitale. “I wanted to be able to have summer dinner parties. We started with the table, chairs, and umbrella, because I wanted to be able to have happy hour outside, with the kids playing on the lawn and adults by the table.”
Besides installing artificial grass, the makeover was purely decorative. Vitale worked with Wayfair, Deny Designs, and Serena and Lily to bring in a slew of bright pieces to jazz up the area, which previously only included a small table and four dingy little chairs. Blessed with privacy—they planted grape vines to create a natural green wall around the area—and ample space, Vitale set about incrementally adding to the front yard.
“I don’t have a specific style, but the inside of my house is just crazy—nothing matches. It’s just how my husband and I see things, and it’s kind of indicative of where we live in Venice: eclectic, nothing really goes together. We just wanted it to be fun and playful and colorful,” explains Vitale of her fairly relaxed style inspiration for the project.
But while she may not have had stringent requirements for a color palette or aesthetic, one thing Vitale did prioritize was picking smart materials. Despite living in sunny California, she opted for decor and furniture that is specifically made for the outdoors. An outdoor rug, made from recycled water bottles, for example, and weather-proof items built to withstand the (admittedly infrequent) rain.
Which works out well when designing for kids, because as Vitale says, “Whatever is good for outside is good for kids, pretty much; it’s durable, and you can hose it down.”
The final result is exactly what Vitale wanted: a space that works well for both kids and adults. “I love that there are various spaces for people to enjoy,” says the photographer of her favorite part of the yard makeover. “We can actually have eight people sit out there around the table, and even more people hanging out in other parts of the front yard.”
Here, Vitale shares her top tips to steal for your own outdoor space refresh.
1. Don’t be scared to mix prints and colors.
Play with things. Get [items], put them together, and don’t be scared to do crazy things because sometimes, it just works. And if it doesn’t, you can just change it—move it around, or return it. Just try!
2. Start with one item.
I get really overwhelmed with too many options. So I started with the table and once I knew the table, I [chose] what kind of chairs were gonna go there, then I got the yellow chairs [and realized] the yellow was a little too much, so I had to get wooden ones for the end of the table, and it just kind of went from there… it’s a path. I’m really not good at visualizing the whole thing all at once; I just add little things here and there.
3. Choose materials that work with your climate.
Always look for all-weather material; all my pillows are outdoor pillows. I think the wood might be difficult if I didn’t live in California, but that wood is teak, which is super durable. I just have to make sure I oil it down, so I use teak conditioner every six months which keeps it in good shape.
4. Most importantly, have fun with it!
This is a place you want to have fun in. I think a lot of people approach it with an “it has to be perfect” mindset. But you just want to chill out and have fun in the space, so approach it that way.
Also, I like having “spaces.” My whole house is like that. There are little nooks everywhere for people to hang out, so it’s not just that table; there’s also the rug on the ground and the swinging chair and the two little chairs. I like creating multiple areas for people to convene.
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