Outdoor Fireplace and Seating

Outdoor Fireplace and Seating

Pinterest Canopied Daybed from Frontgate

Pinterest Canopied Daybed from Frontgate

So, what’s up with these outdoor living spaces?

You want a great outdoor living room, just like the one indoors. Same rules apply, except now, instead of using the term ‘living room’, let’s call it your outdoor living space. You need to make a plan . . . mostly for continuity, but also for your sanity.

Here goes a plan—Create a focus, like the center of attraction, and it can’t be your dog. A fireplace works much better. Next, decide how you want to move around and how you’ll get humans into the outdoor room. Create a traffic pattern with walkways, shrubs, trees. Depending on where you are coming from, the shape of the walkway can be part of the whole design. Not only is it a people mover, but also a work of art. If you have room to make the path about three feet wide, then you have plenty of solid space to walk when moving furniture. A path can just be stepping stones, or pavers, or even slate.

Now you have a focus, the fireplace, to create your seating area, Seating can come from a variety of places. It all depends on your budget. For soft comfort, be sure that the outdoor seating cushions are as comfy as your indoor furniture. There are fabrics today that can handle a downpour and spring back once they are dry. Outdoor rugs are comfortable for those bare feet. Be sure you lay one down to define the sitting area. Ask for fabrics that do not fade. The label has to say that it won’t fade. You can also get movable furniture like chairs, benches and stools. Remember the kids, they like the small chairs and tables to color, have a snack and entertain their friends. Try all the furniture out to make sure you are comfortable before you buy.

Consider a full-size fireplace, if not, then a fire pit would provide a wonderful substitute. Food and fire have brought people together forever. Just check your local building codes to verify fire-safety and placement rules regarding outdoor fireplaces and fire pits before you invest in one.

Watch this video about United House Wrecking in Stamford, CT and their patio furniture.

Published on Apr 16, 2013

Phil at United House Wrecking in Stamford, CT, talks about our extensive patio furniture collection as well as our outdoor decor. The statues, fountains, planters and more have been staples of UHW for almost 60 years.

Stools are great to slip in an extra seat at the table for unexpected guests. Remember those outdoor outlets to keep your toys in tip-top running shape, and give you the ability to stay connected. Use solar wherever possible. Everything is wireless today for your speakers to resound for your listening and dancing pleasure. In case you are wondering . . . sure, you can dance on outdoor pavers, just pick your feet up a little more and maybe pivot a little less.

Lighting from Klaff's Lighting, Norwalk, CT

Lighting from Klaff’s Lighting, Norwalk, CT

Lighting adds drama, while uplights accent the branches of the trees, garden lighting enhance the shrubbery, and lights your walkways, steps and surrounding garden outline. String lights across the patio, those overhead lights are functional. Remember to research the many lighting options available today. If they make an all-weather outdoor television, anything is possible. For your lighting, Klaffs Lighting in Norwalk, CT is a great place to get a great lighting plan for your outdoor living space. Ask about LED lighting!

Any questions?




Yellow Benjamin Moore

Benjamin Moore’s mellow yellow (CC2020-50)

When you plan a room, always remember the available light, both natural and artificial. Natural light is dependent on exposure. That’s why, when choosing paint colors for a room, it’s smart to look at color samples in the actual space and under different lighting conditions.

For the best test, buy a paint color sample and paint a small area on the surface of the wall. Observe how the color looks at different times of the day, in natural and artificial light. Then you will get a sense of what your room will look like throughout the day.

Here are some suggestions from designer and Dabble Magazine Editor in Chief Kimberley Seldon to help you choose the best paint colors for rooms that are exposed to sunlight from the north, south, east, and west. (Note: artificial light will further affect the appearance of colors.)

Northern Exposure

Light from the north is indirect and cool, and can appear gray depending on where you live. To counterbalance this effect, choose a yellow or cream such as Benjamin Moore’s flurry (CC-100), barley (CC-180), or buttermilk (919); and warm, pale pinks and corals like pink moiré (CC-158) and tofino sunset (CC-156) to amplify the sunlight. For me, I had my art studio built with three huge windows to let in the northern light so that I see true color for my paintings. This northern exposure offers the correct light in order to photograph my work for publications. The walls are painted a neutral gray/beige (#969), and the ceiling is a bright white. So if you want a cheery room, the colors suggested here are a good choice. Check them out.

Southern Exposure
Warm southerly light lasts the longest and can become intense at mid-day. A mid-tone color such as lavender lipstick (2072-50) will look fresh in the daytime and become richer at night. Rich blues and greens lose intensity but can appear to glow. Try meadowlands green (2036-40), winter green (2045-60), or serenity (2055-60). Browns appear less somber in southern light. Go for a warm, earthy hue like rich clay brown (2164-30).

Eastern Exposure

Benjamin Moore "Cloud White"

Benjamin Moore “Cloud White” and others

Benjamin Moor color "Flurry" off white

Benjamin Moore color “Flurry” whites

Eastern exposure provides bright, yellow light that’s ideal for high-activity rooms like kitchens, playrooms, and family rooms. That’s why the light of the eastern exposure is perfect for a breakfast room. Pale colors look fabulous. Warm pinks, corals, yellows, or whites like pink bliss (2093-70), cloud white (OC-130), snowfall white (OC-118), or milkyway (OC-110) will enhance the light, while cool blues and greens like blue bonnet (2050-70) will temper it. There are a myriad of whites, and they are rarely stark, except for ceilings. Pure white walls can be tiring.

Western Exposure
Green and cream work well in the muted, late afternoon sunlight of a western exposure. Try pairing adam green (2037-40) with mellow yellow (2020-50), or green with envy (2036-30) with marble white (OC-34). Complementary colors, such as green and red, are not quite as garish. Reds appear richer and less flat because they absorb light. A red like warm comfort (2010-20) is a good choice for rooms that require drama and intimacy, such as dining rooms.

Remember also, that the window treatments can shut out the natural light, or admit light, depending on your design choices.

When you choose artificial lighting be aware of the type of bulbs that are available today. They vary in color. The LED’s are usually a perky white light. Lighting today can be dimmed. I always seek out the brightest white light because it keeps your colors  crisp. Lighting is another huge subject to discuss. When you want to choose lighting for your home or office, go to a dependable lighting store, for example, here in Connecticut’s Fairfield County, my favorite store is Klaff’s in Norwalk.

Ever since 1969 when I was a student at the New York School of Interior Design, I have been a faithful client of Benjamin Moore Paints. Their paints have stood the test of time. Benjamin Moore reps visited and demonstrated how and when to use their paints to my students at my school, Interior Design Institute, in Woodcliff Lake, NJ, and supplied each student with paint chip books, a valuable tool for interior designers.

Visit our Colour Gallery to get more room colour scheme ideas. (On-screen colour representations may differ slightly from actual paint colours due to monitor calibration.)

Get more decorating tips from our All About Colour videos featuring Kimberley Seldon.





For interiors, all lighting fits into one of three main categories: ambient, task and accent. Most rooms use a mixture of lighting types and mix the three to create visual interest and meet the functional needs of the space.

Ambient lighting

Ambient lighting

Ambient lighting: flat all-over illumination bright enough to allow people to move about safely and perform simple tasks. It can be achieved by lighting the lower part of the room (direct lighting), or by reflecting light off the ceiling and upper half of the room (indirect lighting), or with recessed ceiling lights.

Task lighting

Task lighting

Task lighting: Lamps light the lower part of the room that makes it possible to read your mail, your book, your Kindle, you or the kids can do  homework. There should be some ambient lighting so the room does not have dark holes, and the kids don’t fall face down on their homework. Yawn . . .

Accent lighting

Accent lighting

Accent lighting: For enhancing artwork, an architectural feature, a sculpture, but If the space is lit only by accent lighting, there will be hot spots and glare. Proper ambient (general) light will soften the lighting so your eyes do not tire.

Uplights - there are wide choices

Uplights – there are wide choices

In addition, reflecting light upward off the ceiling and upper walls tends to give a room a spacious feeling and soften shadows on objects and faces. It can be attained with hanging pendants that direct light upward, wall sconces, or freestanding torchiere-style floor lamps.

Dimmers give you a way to control how much light is dispersed. Just remember the basics, the three ways to light a space. Depending on the mood you want to create, you can vary how you disperse the light. To avoid glare on a shiny surface, such as a glossy magazine, light coming from one or both sides or slightly behind of the work reduces glare. Light will reflect back at you if the light is directly in front of you on the book, etc.

Kitchen ambient lighting

Kitchen ambient lighting

The kitchen is a perfect place to demonstrate the three basics of lighting. The way we live today, most kitchens see us cook, entertain, watch TV, do schoolwork, teach, do your bills, and . . . have a glass of wine. So, you need good flat general overhead illumination, under cabinet lighting for specific tasks, like dicing vegetables or reading a recipe or doing bills. If you were to have art on the walls in the kitchen, as some collectors do, recessed accent lights would enhance the art and add reflected light to the space.

Kitchen task lighting

Kitchen task lighting

Candles as accent lights

Candles as accent lights

Candles add mood to any space, and even the battery operated candles work, they are fun and safe. Now there are remotes for them. Check out Pier One. Remember . . . for all spaces, a combination of strategies works best.

If you have a room that needs light, use the basics to light it up.

What is your favorite type of lighting? What kind of space do you have that would take any of this lighting?

This article includes excerpts or adaptations from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, by Steven Bliss, courtesy of Wiley & Sons.–_-Core-_-Kitchen%20Lighting%20e&sourceid=SEGOO100519-b0033&gclid=CJ2u2fm64bYCFQVV4Aod6EkASA



Ebony wood library shelves, white upholstery, colors from books and accessories. Varying textures to reflect and absorb light.

Color must be an integral part of room design and never an after-thought.  Colors that you choose are dependent on the adjacent colors. All colors have three parts, hue, intensity and tonal value.

Hue identifies the color, intensity is the brilliance of a hue, tonal value refers to the lightness or darkness of a color.

Light colors reflect light, dark color absorb light. Color is never experienced independently, but in combination with one of several textures, in different material types. For example, a glossy satin will have luster and light, while rough textures with its shadows will appear darker. Textured fabrics appear darker than smooth fabrics in similar colors (hues). Smooth surfaces that have a glaze or sheen reflect maximum light causing colors to appear lighter than fabrics with a dull finish.

Most rooms have natural and artificial light. Natural light is white, but in comparison to artificial light, it has a bluish appearance. Today artificial light comes in many choices, from encapsulated incandescent and fluorescent (white to warm tones if dimmed) and LEDs (white).

Mark Hampton sunny space with upholstery and draperies that reflect and absorb light.

The amount of natural light in a room depends upon window placement, the size of the windows, and the window coverings. Rooms with sunny exposure will be warmer than those with no sun, as in a northern exposure. In a room where natural light is not plentiful, the colors for walls and ceiling should be light in tonal value, on a scale from 1 (darkest) to 10 (lightest), use an 8 or 9 value. Upholstery and color accents may be slightly darker and brighter in intensity.

Mark Hampton dark walls, tall windows, natural light

Darker tones on the walls (value 4 or less), depending on the character of the room, can be painted in a semi-gloss or satin finish for light bounce. Paint in a semi-gloss gives light reflections that help to maintain the luminosity.

What do you think? Did this color talk arouse your curiosity, would you like more. How do you think artificial light affects color?



The sun warms our planet, provides us with light and is crucial to all life on Earth.

One of my readers asked me to talk about windowless rooms.  I sent a query back to her explaining that rooms w/o windows can be so depressing.  “What tactic do you want me to take? ”

Her answer:  Safety from natural and man-made disasters. Not depressing.

Well folks, with my 40 plus years of interior design work, I can tell you that a windowless room can be depressing.  So, before I talk about creating one that has live-in possibilities in case of disaster, I want to let you know that without access to natural light and fresh air, bacteria has no way to dissipate.

It’s the ultraviolet light of the sun that grows our veggies that make us healthy, and kills the bacteria that make us sick.  Oh sure, you can get special indoor artificial lighting that does some sun imitation, but living in a space where there is no natural light of the sun, is not ideal.  Not ideal physiologically or psychologically.

The president of the company always gets the corner office.  The one with the windows.  It’s not priority by seniority, it’s productivity by possibilities.  The ones who make the decisions get the best window(s). Important decisions are made in this conference room.

Conference room with natural light, lots and lots and lots.

The more important it is, the bigger the windows.  The industry tried to change this philosophy, but it did not work.  The natural light makes the grade.

When’s the last time you gazed upward and marveled at the mysterious, life-giving force that is the sun?

If you believe the whole staring-at-the-sun-makes-you-go-blind thing (which is actually true), you’re probably not doing a whole lot of sun-gazing. But it’s a real marvel: The sun warms our planet every day, provides the light by which we see and is necessary for life on Earth. It can also cause cell death and make us blind. It could fit 1.3 million Earths inside its sphere [source: SpaceDaily]. It produces poem-worthy sunsets and as much energy as 1 trillion megaton bombs every second [source: Boston Globe].

All of this, and our sun is just a plain old average star, by universal standards. It’s really just proximity that makes it so special to Earth. We wouldn’t be here if the sun weren’t so close.

And what about cruise ships?  My son Paul frequently goes on cruises with his friends and family.  He gets an exterior stateroom with a balcony, but there are interior staterooms as well. But those staterooms have no balcony and are windowless.

Ship interior stateroom windowless

They use the old mirror trick to give the impression of light.  The mirrors are in the oval/round shape of the ship windows.  Not too shabby.

I prefer windows, even on a ship.  A windowless room, bah, humbug.  Even if you got stuck in a basement apartment when you got out of college, just a slit of a window inspired a happy dance.  But if you have one of those theatre rooms,

Windowless Theatre Room

most likely in a lower level with no windows or you cover the window or eliminate the window.  Now we are talking about an on-purpose windowless room.  This room is not to live in unless…unless there has been a disaster and you must stay in this room until the disaster ends.  The room pictured here is pretty fun to spend some time.  Light colors and reflective surfaces, and if you turn out the lights and put on the movie projector, turn up the sound, munchies at hand, not too bad.  Add battery powered lighting, shelving, canned/dried food/water and potty, some warm clothes, you got a great place to wait out a disaster.

A safe place, a secret room below ground, a tomb in a pyramid.

King Tuts Tomb

New for 2020.  Tomb construction with all the amenities for windowless winning spaces.  Protect the people, protect the environment.

King Tut's tomb map to make your own passage

Will this go over big in the future?  Will we need to construct windowless rooms with secret passages to protect our sanity, our children, our lives?





Sun photo above courtesy of NASA


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