Create an Inviting Outdoor Conversation Area

By Kate Riley May 17, 2012

One of the things I’m looking forward to most in summer is lingering outside with friends and family on a warm evening while we sip beverages, barbeque, and enjoy the cool breezes that blow through the yard.  I’m sure you feel the same about your summer evenings too!  I invited my friend and fellow blogger Shannon of {aka} Design to be a contributor here and today she’ll be sharing a few ideas for creating that perfect inviting outdoor conversation zone which will guarantee your guests linger longer during the warmer summer months.  Please welcome Shannon as she shares her best tips on creating an inviting conversation area in your own yard.

“Outdoor dining areas have long been popular in the warm summer months for parties, barbeques, and family get togethers.   There are so many fabulous ideas to be found both online and in print to inspire you to create a cozy eating area and conversation zone outdoors.

With so many beautiful and affordable outdoor furniture sets available these days, it’s easy to create an outdoor conversation zone that works for your lifestyle.  But creating an area for lingering conversation is about more than just plopping down an outdoor sofa and some chairs.  Here are some tips for creating an inviting conversation outdoors in a space large or small!

1. Create a Focal Point


firepit seating area

Parker Palm Springs

Build your conversation area around something interesting by creating a focal point.  This can take the form of a fire pit, a coffee table, or an outdoor ottoman to rest your feet.  By gathering your seating around something you make it easier to have face-to-face conversation.  The nice thing about a fire pit is it creates a campfire-type atmosphere for sharing stories – of the ghost-type or not – and is great for toasting marshmallows.  A coffee table or ottoman provides a place to set your drink or put up your feet, which is always a reason to stay a little longer.

2. Layer Greenery

elle decor outdoor greenery


bhg greenery around outdoor sitting area


Adding layers of greenery with botanicals that grow well in your zone will enhance your outdoor conversation area.  Whether it’s container gardening or more permanent surrounding gardens, greenery adds that irreplaceable living element.  To achieve it, plant annuals and perennials that will grow in different heights and sizes.  For interesting landscaping, add potted trees, ferns, hostas, and grasses for that desirable variety of textures.  Get creative with your containers or use unusual objects as pots, but be sure to avoid  flowers that attract bees or your guests may end up leaving your conversation zone!

3. Comfort is Key

outdoor seating pottery barn

Pottery Barn

outdoor comfortable pillows bhg

Better Homes & Gardens

The best way to ensure both you and your guests linger longer is to include plenty of cushions and pillows for comfort and coziness in durable outdoor fabrics.  Stripes are a sure bet and a classic summer look – also available in outdoor fabrics are a variety of choices in patterns from contemporary florals to bold geometrics.  These modern choices allow you to bring indoor comfort and style to your conversation zone but with outdoor sensibilities.

4. Incorporate Artwork

vertical garden

Flora Grubb Gardens 


The options for outdoor art are an endless opportunity to introduce whimsy or even a little quirk into your yard.  You can choose anything metal from barn stars to iron sculptures, even old ladders, or obelisks.  If you have an empty wall, go vertical  with living art in the form of succulents, vines, or espalier fruit trees.  Cover a wall in living green art or nestle a fun sculpture among the grasses, anything goes in the great outdoors as long as your art, living or otherwise, can withstand consistent sun and frequent exposure to water.  Fountains provide the comforting sound of running water which is attractive to guests and is always a soothing addition to your outdoor space.

5.  The Final Layer: Lighting!

outdoor edison lightbulbs

Restoration Hardware


outdoor lighting style me pretty

Pinterest via Style Me Pretty

One of the beautiful things about summer is that magic moment when it turns to dusk but still retains its warmth.  Keep yourself and your guests happy during those enchanting hours as dark approaches by lighting up your outdoor space with globe lights strung casually across the yard or flickering candlelight paired with outdoor lighting that enhances the beauty of the outdoors even when the sun has gone down.”

shannon pic

Shannon is a passionate interior decorator and DIYer and author behind the Canadian blog {aka} design.  She lives in a war-era fixer-upper in Ajax, Ontario with her handyman husband and their three children.  Shannon can be found scouring local shops for bargains, sipping a decaf soy peppermint white chocolate mocha, scrubbing paint off her hands, and rearranging the furniture (again).

Thank you Shannon for sharing your tips today, I’m definitely inspired to string some globe lights over my outdoor eating area!  You can pay a visit to Shannon at her blog {aka} design and catch up on her latest projects!

What’s your favorite way to set the perfect scene for long conversations spent outdoors in your yard?




  1. All those pictures are just beautiful… who wouldn’t want to relax in one of those settings. I realized the other day that artwork is one of the areas I have been neglecting in my outdoor living area. The iron piece above definitely adds interest to the garden area.

  2. thanks for all of this info!
    we’re moving into our first HOUSE next week, and I’m dying to have a backyard to hang out in. I definitely would have been a “plop things down” kinda girl if it weren’t for this.

    loving the globe lights! they’re just gorgeous!

  3. Sorry I forgot :
    comfort is key- by all means- a comfortable seating area is a must, but that also can be achieved
    by making some lovely and cheerful garden cushions yourself- either with a bit of pizzaz and colour like here

    or more romantic for a cosy and relaxing corner in the garden..

    Either way, crack open that bottle of fizz and I’ll be coming over- or you can come over to my place :-)

  4. There are so many options for creating a great space! One of my favourite decorating tricks is to look at designer/expensive stuff and figure out how to get the look for less. The photos/links above are but a very few options!

  5. I’d love to have a yard like those presented, but I have a major problem: it rains a lot here. Like, a lot a lot (hello, north of France). I find it very hard to have outdoors furnitures that are both comfortable and weatherproof. I don’t have much space for storage, and I hate having to go to the cellar to fetch the cushions each time we go outside. It’s so humid here that even weatherproofed fabrics get moldy after a few weeks. I wish I could hang light garland, but humidity and electricity… even teak and special woods get a beating after a year.

    So, I’m looking for ideas for “everyday outdoor”. The sculpture thing is great ! I also have found a few lanterns where I can put candles in the evening. And flower containers. But furnitures are really a bother.

  6. pics r so niiiicccceeee!!! i love those pots. i have some brown clay pots that i love but i hate the color! wonder if spray paint would work…rain and dirt and all that..or just regular paint? love the glossy look of the green pots! i want to try to use spray paint but is it safe for oz and stuff? not sure if there is earth friendly spray paint…Thanks for the post!

  7. “One of the beautiful things about summer is that magic moment when it turns to dusk but still retains its warmth.” Sounds like winter to me…but then again, I live in Florida. ;-)

  8. You live in Ajax, Ontario! No way, I used to live there growing up! I went to DO’C! I now live in Nashville, TN. It’s cool to read about someone online where I used to live. I found your blog through Pinterest.
    Keep up the good work!

  9. Gina- I have no idea about the spray paint. Perhaps Kate would know? And Chrustine – congrats on your place. And your grill! You’ve got to start with something!

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