Here's How to Enjoy Your Outdoor Living Space All Winter Long

Steele Marcoux
·4-min read
Photo credit: Getty
Photo credit: Getty

From Veranda

Baby, it's cold outside—and it's about to get quit a bit colder. But that's no reason to ignore your porch, patio, or backyard, especially this year.

We all know spending more time outside is good for our wellbeing, which is why sales of everything from outdoor seating and lighting to firepits and patio heaters have been trending up ever since March. Several of the country's best designers and architects have even set up outdoor offices to support creativity and productivity while working from home.

Outdoor spaces have also provided safer settings for small gatherings with friends and family during the coronavirus pandemic, with a handful of top tastemakers making plans to host Thanksgiving outside this year.

So, with winter on the horizon, it's time to shift our outdoor spaces—and our mindsets—for a season of cooler temperatures. "For a comfortable winter outdoors, we have to make art of winter—and for that, we just need to look to ski resorts for inspiration," says Mary Alice Palmer, director of hospitality interiors at HKS. "When people go skiing, they're prepared to enjoy the outdoors in the cold."

Photo credit: Daryl Shields HKS INC.
Photo credit: Daryl Shields HKS INC.

As the principal designer responsible for many of HKS' most recognized hotel designs, including Montage Deer Valley and Bishop's Lodge in Santa Fe, Palmer has recently been helping hotel and restaurant clients develop design solutions to preserving the al fresco experience that worked well for many this summer. Here, she shares her eight secrets to enjoying an outdoor living space all winter long.

Invest in a fire pit.

Embracing winter outside is all about creating warmth, and that starts with fire. This is something our pre-historic ancestors found out when they discovered fire and began coming together around the fire at the end of the day. Wood-burning firepits are the most magical, in my opinion, but anything with clean-burning fuel will do the trick.

Add sparkle with lighting.

The ambiance that lanterns, string lights, and even great outdoor heaters can provide when dealing with cold weather is unparalleled. The right lighting almost instantly changes the mood and helps draw people out and embrace the outdoors. This is a critical investment that will transform your outdoor space.

Embrace hygge.

For those not up on their Scandinavian lingo, hygge (pronounced hue-ga) is a word used to describe a blissful state of coziness. In Denmark, it is a way of life, and it translates well when it comes to styling the perfect cold-weather scheme for outdoor living spaces as we head into the cold months. I'm picturing friends gathered around a table with flickering candlelight enjoying laughter and conversation on a dreary Copenhagen day.

And while hygge is not a particularly new trend, we can learn from how Scandinavian communities embrace the inevitable cold months during their winter season. If there was ever a time when we need a little magic and joy, this year is it.

Switch out cushion covers with cozier options.

There are so many great synthetics on the market these days, many with cozy textures that mimic the feel and warmth of boucle, chenile, velvet or wool. Even artificial fur!

Layer up with blankets.


Photo credit: Getty
Photo credit: Getty

Now's a great time to start that blanket collection. Boiled wool blankets are great because they hold heat well. Drape them over the backs of outdoor chairs to cozy up existing cusions, or to be used by guests as an extra layer during as firepit party. Bonus: You can wash and store them easily.

Consider "tenting" for wind protection.

For open porches, the most straight-forward way to do this is to invest in window treatments like curtains or roller shades. And if you have enough space, you could even put up a canvas yurt or teepee-style tent in your backyard.

Design for outdoor activity.


Photo credit: SolStock
Photo credit: SolStock

I always have more success luring people outside in the winter when there is some sort of activity, like roasting marshmallows or stoking a fire. This is not just something you want to consider when planning a gathering but also when designing the space. For example, you'll want to think about whether or not you want a grill, and what type, or something like a pizza oven. I'm planning an outdoor pizza party where each guest will top her own individual pizza grilled on my Big Green Egg. Even serving something like fondue helps people forget about being cold.

Dress for winter success.


I firmly believe that it's completely possible to embrace the winter months with a mindset around dressing appropriately for it. Americans should invest in their winter garb like they never have before. With the right winter clothing, we'll be able to sit outside for hours.

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