Making the most of your outdoor space

Hi! I'm very excited to be launching Vesta Interiors' brand new website and blog! It's been a long time coming, but we are finally here! I'll be posting project updates, DIY how-to's, and general inspiration here. I hope you'll enjoy sharing it with me! 

Terence and I are loving life here in the AZ desert. One of the biggest benefits of being somewhere so warm is that right now (winter) through spring is the perfect weather to be enjoying your outdoor space. I must admit that I sometimes I look wistfully at our East Coast friends pictures of 18" of snowfall - doesn't freshly fallen snow make everything so beautiful?! However, I'm also well aware of how fortunate I am to be writing this post beside the pool in 73° weather. I like to sit in a ray of light and absorb the yellow sun's powers like Kal-El.

So, in honour of this gorgeous weather, today I'm going to share some of the first project I took on at our new home: the outside space. I started outside because a) the garden is pretty much always my favourite part of a home, and b) I wanted us to be able to enjoy it right away in the cooler weather. It's still a work in progress, but just getting some comfortable seating set up, ambient lighting, and space for guests to eat (all important at this house!) and rest their drinks was important to me. The landscaping and hardscaping itself is a longer-running project that goes on as time, heat and energy allows!

I'm a big believer in thrifting (that's visiting 'charity shops' to us Brits), making what you can, re-purposing, and Craigslist. It can be difficult to incorporate older elements into client projects, because of the time involved in finding that one-off piece, and also in any restoration/expense in fixing it up, or changing the colour/reupholstering, etc. It's really wonderful when clients are willing to work with you on vintage pieces, because it really changes the feel of a finished project, (and is far more sustainable than buying all new furniture) but it does make things more difficult in presenting a 'finished' plan to a client. For example, if you want to use older pieces in a project, understand that your designer needs a certain amount of leeway with your plan, as they likely won't have found them up-front, and when they do, they need to be quick to snap them up.

It also doesn't necessarily save tons of money on a project unless the client is willing to do a lot of the heavy-duty searching themselves (which can also mean lots of patience is needed). It can take weeks or months of searching craigslist to find a specific piece, for instance, this carrera marble coffee table top took me a couple of months of browsing daily to find. I paired it with a vintage Saarinen style base which I had already re-purposed the teak top of as our breakfast table. 


After dreaming of a huge, solid, zinc topped harvest table for a while, I asked Terence to build me one for Christmas. He gamely took on the challenge, and we picked out a beautiful Spanish Cedar after discussing the merits of different species in the AZ weather with the friendly guys at our local Woodworkers Source. We used plans from Ana White, and I found several tutorials for using zinc sheet metal as tabletops or countertops online. I haven't sealed the top yet, as I am waiting patiently for it to gain a level of patina I like. I may not seal it ever. The great thing about zinc is that it looks great with patina, but you can also buff it back to looking like clean shiny steel if that's your preference. 


I paired it with Louis Ghost chairs along one side, to keep the passageway through to the grass visually clearer. Against the wall, I hunted for a vintage church pew: an exercise in patience. Since the table is 8' long, it took me a while to find an interesting pew long enough to work. When you're really wanting something to be finished, it can be difficult to wait for the right piece to come along, but it's absolutely worth the wait when you find something special.

The chaises are insanely comfy, and offer the perfect spot by the pool to relax and soak in the light (in fact I'm typing this post from one now!) I often get expressions of surprise from guests for using white upholstery (I've a white slipcovered couch too), but the sunbrella fabric on these is extremely easy to keep clean. You just hose them down, and you're good to go.


The Hardoy/Butterfly chair was another Craigslist find - I scored him for $15 in VA. He came with a black canvas sling that degraded over time in the Virginia weather (yes, I am a horrible person and left him out in the snow). Once we got to Arizona, I sanded down the frame which had picked up some rust, and repainted with primer and rustoleum. I picked up a new outdoor friendly sling at Circa50. I use inexpensive Mexican Falsa/Serape blankets around the house and garden to wrap up in the evenings, or throw down on the hammock. 


I had fallen in love with some Trisha Turk for Schumacher outdoor fabric, but with so many other things needed for the house, I was balking at the cost. Quality fabric can be expensive, and in many cases it's a worthwhile investment. It can really make a difference in a finished space, and a really special pattern can hold lifelong memories: I can still picture vividly my vintage rose duvet cover from childhood. However, when the budget needs to be controlled, and you're using a fabric for something short-term, it can be worth considering other options. In this case, I discovered Trisha Turk had leased two of the patterns I liked for use as bedding/shower curtains. I snapped up two different shower curtains, and used those as fabric for the outdoor pillows. They certainly won't be as durable as the Schumacher outdoor fabric, but my hope is that they will hold up for a few years, since this is a covered porch and the weather is so great here the majority of the time. They make a simple white sectional a lot more comfy and bright, and add personality to the chaises and adirondack chairs.


For lighting, I went for a simple outdoor fan over the sectional, to be unobstrusive and help keep bugs at bay while we're sipping our margaritas. Over the table, I chose a fixture from Nuevo called 'The Apollo', as a hat-tip to my Rocket Scientist husband. The overhead string lights are from our wedding - we sold almost all of them, but kept a few boxes in the hope of being able to string them up in a future home. Whenever I turn them on I'm reminded of our friends and family dancing the night away underneath them :)


No matter the size of your outdoor space, It's simple to add some colour and life with fruit, flowers and plants. In this gold bowl I grabbed from Target, I planted a few small cacti, and grabbed some quartz stones from the garden to anchor them. On the coffee table at this time of year, we'll often have a big bowl of oranges, lemons or grapefruits picked fresh from the trees, ready to be eaten or juiced. 


So, this is some of the garden in progress. We are still working on the very messy patio/bbq area, our veggie garden, and the outdoor shower area. I'll post updates as we go!