Turning a North Fork patio into a chic, outdoor retreat

Summertime, and the living is easy—and it gets even easier when you transform a deck, patio or porch into a seamless extension of your indoor living space. This doesn’t need to cost a bundle: Just replacing old cushions and pillows (who knew they’d get so mildewy?) with those clad in bright, bold weather-resistant fabrics will give the most basic outdoor furniture a come-hither allure. Now, where’s your summer reading list? 

FURNITURE

Sturdy pieces that can withstand the weather range from a tag-sale glider, porch swing or set of vintage metal lawn chairs to large, elegant upholstered sofas and chaise lounges. If you’re limited to a tiny patio, take inspiration from the French, who can turn a space the size of a handkerchief into a romantic hideaway. All you need is a bistro table and couple of folding chairs from the French manufacturer Fermob to set the scene for morning coffee, an afternoon glass of wine or a simple meal for two. You’ll find an array of Fermob furniture and accessories (the colors are to die for) at purveyors such as Phoebe & Belle, in Cutchogue, and Clarke’s Garden & Home, in Greenport. If your space is, well, more spacious, versatility is the name of the game. Instead of one large table, think about using two smaller square tables that you can easily push together for bigger gatherings. A bench is handy on its own or pressed into service as added seating around a table. And remember, nothing has to be elaborate, expensive or even new. If your outdoor furniture consists of mismatched wicker or rattan pieces scored from various tag sales, just paint them all the same color for a unifying effect. You’ll be stunned at the difference it makes.

RUGS

An outdoor rug or mat is an immediate way to define a seating or dining area and tie everything together. “Flooring is all the rage,” said Peter Clarke, of Clarke’s Garden & Home, in Greenport. “And it’s a growing category of goods.” One company that boasts a variety of floral, geometric, and traditional designs is Mad Mats, woven on traditional looms from recycled plastic with UV-resistant colorants, and available at Clarke’s Garden, as well as places like Hampton Hearth and Patio, in Southold. “Mad Mats won’t mildew, are easy to sweep clean, and are soft, so they’re comfy on bare feet,” said Clarke. “Another, newer line is Fab Habitat. The rugs are all made from recycled materials. They’re soft and, like Mad Mats, can be washed off with a hose.”

LIGHTING

The warm glow of candles (protected in hurricane shades) and lanterns (solar-powered ones, which come in a variety of forms, are increasingly popular) is flattering, and twinkling string lights in trees are nothing short of magical. Torches and luminarias define steps or a patio’s perimeter, and if used with citronella fuel or candles, so much the better. If outdoor table lamps are an option, choose ones with heavy bases so they won’t get blown over in the wind.

PLANTS

Plants in pots add structure and a sense of permanence as well as beauty. According to Clarke, what’s trendy now for sunny spots are xeric (drought-tolerant) grasses and other plants like succulents. We’re all familiar with the little ones—nestled in miniature pots or on a piece of driftwood, they make charming accessories—but large succulents such as agave, aloe, or prickly pear (the only native cactus found east of the Rockies) in containers provide a serious drama quotient—and very little watering compared to most potted plants. “There is a host of tropicals, too,” Clarke added. “Elephant ears, hibiscus, and palms all work.” When it comes to palms (“great going up against a blank wall”), you should know that although many flourish in full sun, some of them prefer shade, so check before buying. And you may also want to bring house plants (the Boston fern you’ve had for years, that oh-so-courant fiddle-leaf fig) outside for some fresh air. One last thought: If your space gets plenty of sun, turn a small grouping of potted herbs—rosemary, thyme, and marjoram, for instance—into a centerpiece for the table. Keep shears at the ready so guests can snip the herbs right at the table for sprinkling over olive oil or fresh cheeses.

SOFT FURNISHINGS

Plenty of pillows and cushions create a cozy, lounge-y effect outside—just what you want whether settling down with a beach read and a glass of iced tea or gathering for sunset cocktails. Treated fabrics such as Sunbrella handle everything from strong sunlight and thunderstorms to wet bathing suits, spilled sangria or a smear of melted Klondike bar with aplomb.

ACCESSORIES

When does a stool become a side table? When you say so. That’s the beauty of weatherproof, lightweight materials like resin. Old-fashioned wrought-iron plant stands and tables—a favorite of Clarke’s, they’re reason alone to visit tag sales and vintage shops—serve to elevate a plant or collection of plants and the taller ones turn a wall into something interesting. A stocked drinks trolley (Phoebe & Belle carries a nifty one by Fermob) or rolling cooler is not just practical, but fun for guests and host alike. After all, no one wants to miss a single minute of summer.

WHERE TO GO:

Clarke’s Garden Center
Textiles, lighting, home fragrance, house plants, terrariums and more.
416 Main St., Greenport, (631) 477-6770, clarkesgarden.com

Phoebe and Belle
Lifestyle store offering home décor, gifts, pantry and garden items. Check out the fun Fermob bar tables.
37070 Main Rd., Cutchogue, (631) 765-5120, phoebeandbelle.com

Hampton Hearth and Patio
Teak and wicker outdoor furniture, outdoor rugs, gas and wood fireplaces and more.
56600 Main Rd., Southold, (631) 765-6942, Hamptonhearth.com

Shade Trees Nursery
Retail garden center, landscape design and a saddlery. A bonus: you’ll also find their doughnuts and jarred goods line, North Breeze Farms, made with their own ingredients.
1875 Main Rd., Jamesport, (631) 722-4041, shadetreesnursery.com

Mattituck Florist
Fresh flowers, floral design and delivery. Weekly delivery and custom designs available.
95 Love Lane, Mattituck, (631) 298-5840 mattituckflorist.com

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