July 13, 2024

Got My Outdoor Space Reviewed by Interior Designer, Got Design Tips

Got My Outdoor Space Reviewed by Interior Designer, Got Design Tips
  • I asked an interior designer how I could style my outdoor space, a large empty deck.
  • She suggested dividing it into sections: one for dining, one for lounging, and one for grilling. 
  • The designer also said we should incorporate lanterns and plants to create an intimate space.

My husband and I recently bought our first house in Washington. So far, one of our biggest challenges has been making the most of our outdoor space. 

We have a fairly large deck but we haven’t filled it with much yet. Ultimately, we’d love for this area to be a cute hangout spot, but right now the space’s overwhelming size and emptiness have kept us both from doing any work on it. We’re also struggling to find the right aesthetic for an outdoor area. 

To learn how to best utilize and design our empty deck, I consulted with interior designer Kathy Kuo, founder and CEO of Kathy Kuo Home.

After showing her many photos and a video tour of the space, she shared advice on how to make it feel cool and trendy. 

She said I should start by staining the railings with a neutral brown tone to give the space a more sophisticated feel

wood post with black topper on it along deck

Changing the tone of our railings can transform the space.

Cheyenne Lentz



Kuo suggested we update the structure of the deck with a fresh coat of paint or stain before we do anything else.

She recommended I use a water-resistant stain in a neutral brown color with gray undertones to give the space a rustic feel that’s still very sophisticated. She also suggested I paint the support beams for an updated look.  

“You could paint the support beams a really beautiful and rich dark-charcoal gray for a clean modern-farmhouse-inspired look,” she said. 

We can cut out some clutter by concealing it in chic furniture pieces

Another issue we’ve faced is figuring out where to put some of the clutter that’s accumulated on our deck over time. There are tons of shoes and a few random items for outdoor use lined up just outside our door. 

To solve this problem, Kuo recommended we get a storage cabinet or a shoe bench that can live on the deck to conceal the clutter. 

outdoor deck space with smal ltable and chairs and lines of shoes in front of entrance into house next to folded up ping pong table

The designer suggested we put our ping-pong table somewhere else.

Cheyenne Lentz



She said we should make sure to find a piece that’s made for outdoor use and that matches the rest of the furniture that will eventually live on the deck. 

Kuo also recommended we move the ping-pong table off of the deck and place it in the garage. That way, we can start designing our space “with a clutter-free floor plan.”

Because I have a fairly large deck, I can divide the space into sections to create a highly multi-functional area

The size of our deck has made it challenging when it comes to decorating because there’s so much empty space to fill. To help with this, Kuo advised creating multiple areas rather than trying to style the whole expanse as one big outdoor living room. 

“As long as you go in with a detail-oriented eye and add visual throughways from each zone, you’ll end up with a beautiful and highly multi-functional space,” Kuo said. 

I want to use this space to dine outdoors and entertain guests, so she suggested I divide it into three sections by placing a round table in the middle, a lounge area on one side, and a grill area on the other. 

empty wood deck corner with wood railing and black metal beams

A rug could work nicely in this corner.

Cheyenne Lentz



I can also use an outdoor rug to help define and “anchor” the spaces. Kuo suggested I take inspiration from my indoor designs when choosing a rug for the deck. 

We should bring our indoor aesthetic outside to create a seamless transition using a similar color palette and design style

Kuo said I could start by using my home’s interior decor as inspiration for decorating my outside space. 

“If you have an indoor aesthetic that you love, there’s no reason not to bring that outside by using a similar color palette and furniture design style as is featured inside your home to ensure a seamless transition from the indoors to the outdoors,” Kuo said. 

small wooden bistro set table and two folding chairs in corner of wooden deck

I can spruce up our chairs with colorful pillows.

Cheyenne Lentz



She also said outdoor pillows are a great way to show personality and create a connection with my indoor decor. As for the furniture, Kuo said we should mix different textures, materials, and wood tones to create visual interest.

“You may also want to consider picking out pieces with materials contrasting and complementing the wooden railing and floors,” Kuo said. 

We can also create an intimate and experiential space by adding plants and lights 

Kuo recommended we add lots of plants and lights to bring the outdoor space to the next level. This will create a sort of intimate and experiential space while adding depth and softness, she explained. 

Real plants could work if gardening is within our wheelhouse, but she also suggested UV-resistant faux plants that are easy to upkeep and won’t quickly fade over time. 

As for lighting, Kuo suggested we hang pretty string lights or layer outdoor lanterns of varying sizes in the dining area and/or lounge area. 

Overall, I learned that dividing my space is key to making it super functional and easier to decorate 

View of wooden deck attached to white house

Overall, I’m feeling better about how best to design and decorate my outdoor space.

Cheyenne Lentz



My biggest takeaway from Kuo’s advice is that I should divide the space into sections and then decorate each part.

Kuo really sold me on the idea of dividing the deck into thirds — each with a different purpose — to create a beautiful and multi-functional space instead of having just one giant “room.” 

With her advice, the design process feels way more doable and I feel less overwhelmed about how to start decorating such a large space.