Three Outdoor Spaces to Inspire!

By Kate Riley May 23, 2012

Last week I attended the Lowe’s Designer Challenge event in New York City on a gorgeous spring evening and I was so excited to see these spaces designed for a competition with $100,000 going to charity.  Each of the three designers worked with furnishings and materials from Lowe’s to create three unique amazing outdoor spaces. 

lowes designer challenge button

Here’s a peek at the three and my favorite takeaway ideas from each one!   

First up, an arbor covered patio designed by Chef Marcela Valladolid, star of her own Food Network show – it made perfect sense that her space was focused on dining alfresco! 

marcella space


Here’s Marcella posing in her space, she’s so lovely and gave us all a brief cooking presentation on using fresh herbs in summer grilling.   

marcela valladolid

Some takeaways:

living wall as art

Those tailored Parson’s style dining chairs are slipcovered in outdoor fabric and zip off for easy cleaning, I totally loved that idea!

succulents planted in wide bowl

art gallery outdoors

Those bronze star light fixtures were brought in by Marcela, but they were my favorite accent along with that living wall. 

The next outdoor space was designed by superstar interior designer Elaine Griffin, who I call the “Queen of Layering” and she is never shy of color!  Elaine is bubbly and magnetic in person, and a delight to talk to.  She created an outdoor oasis for casual conversation filled with lush plantings and a bright blue trellis covered backdrop. 

elaine outdoor space

elaine griffin

The takeaways: layered trellises elaine griffin

colorful outdoor accessories

elaine griffin outdoor space

Don’t you love how Elaine is fearless with her layering of color, pattern and texture?

The third space was designed by Danny Seo, green living expert and lifestyle blogger. Danny’s space was an outdoor patio designed for watching movies outdoors with a projector, complete with seating and snacks for guests and two dramatic chalkboard walls.

dannys space

danny seo


preview coming attraction

globe lights planters as chillers

All the furnishings came from the Lowe’s outdoor patio collection but the designers added a few of their own touches to pull their spaces together and make them unique.  Aren’t they all wonderful?  I was so impressed!  

I have to show you the view from the loft where the event occurred, hello gorgeous skyline of Manhattan! 

new york rooftop terrace view

It was such a great event and an opportunity to meet these designers and see their work in person. Thank you Lowes for the invitation! 

*some images courtesy of Lowe’s and Melissa too, thanks so much!  Not a sponsored post, however Lowe’s did provide for my flight and hotel in NYC.

You can now vote on which space you love the most – each designer gets $25,000 for their chosen charity but the winner gets an additional $25,000, so that’s $100,000 total for some great charitable organizations.  Nice work designers!  Head on over to the Designer Challenge on Facebook to vote!

Which idea from these three outdoor spaces was your favorite? 




  1. The first one is cool and sophisticated and has a very urban feel to it. The lighting is unique and adds a special touch.
    The second has so much life and fun to the colors and the layers. You feel like it is definitely more of an outdoor space
    The thing I like about the third is that he has both a functional sitting and eating area and the space is flexible for different types of entertaining.

    There are elements from all 3 worth stealing.

  2. I have to admit that I think they’re all FAR too cluttered! I’d have a tough time relaxing in any of them. (usually it’s only my husband that feels that way, but there’s too much here even for me.) If I were to pick I’d choose the 3rd.

  3. If I had to choose one I would go with #2. I agree with Julie though – too much “stuff” in them. I also look at them and say impractical. Where I live we would have to bring in anything that wasn’t tied down due to the Nevada winds. We would never use the area because it would be too time consuming to bring everything out and set it up and then tear down and put away.

    It would be nice to see designers do something for real families – you know, those of us with kids, grandkids and dogs!

  4. love, love , love the second space, my home is very minimalistic so I can just see myself feeling very cosy and surrounded by lovely things in this outdoor space.

  5. These spaces blow my mind. I ADORE that I can add color to my patio with the painted trellis idea without committing long term.

  6. The cinema space is amazing!! The others are also very well done, hoever, I too agree that they are a bit cluttered. Just not my style, but Elaine does seem to be the master of layering!

  7. They all have lovely elements, but ditto to comments from Julie and Nadine – a little too cluttered, but perhaps because they had such a small space to define. As much as I like having a nice patio to use for relaxing, I find I always have to clean it first — kinda takes the fun out of relaxing…

  8. Great outdoor spaces! What an honor, Kate, to be included in that event and what fun. I miss NY! My hubby and I need to head back for a visit soon.

  9. Thank you so much for sharing these spaces! They are full of so much inspiration & colour and just such a feast for the eyes. I love them all….each has a definite flavour! Have a wonderful week Kate! Angie xo

  10. I love parts of all of them. I actually have that pergola from #1 and some star lanterns from Ross that have the same shape. So good idea for over our hot tub. I love the feel of sanctuary in #2…but the furniture was too big for the space she was given…notice that she had to sit on the edge of her chair because no legs could get around that table. #3 wins for me, everything fit in the space and is useable as is… and it looks like fun for everyone. I realize that they were working with a small square, but I think Lowes has pieces with smaller scale.

  11. I love those Parsons chairs! We got them at the end of the season last year for 75% off and use them in our dining room!

  12. They all have wonderful elements however I love the first and third space the most! While the second is nicely layered it’s a bit too cluttered for my taste. I really love the earthiness of space 1, but the simplicity and globe lights of space 3!

  13. I find it so amazing to read everyone’s preferences and to see how hugely different our tastes are! First of all though, I don’t think any of these designers think that you can really live in a furnished 10×10 space. It was probably meant as a display/idea/color space. With that said, I thought Elaine’s space was WONDERFUL! Spread it out in an area three or four times larger and it would be stunning!
    My biggest issue is that I’m so anal, that the outdoor dust, flora and fauna, drive me a little crazy. The bird just did WHAT?

  14. Hey Centsational Girl,

    As a feng shui designer, I certainly appreciate their wonderful creative designs and given that there is not a ton of space in NY, they did a great job.

    From my feng shui energy, a little more flow and a little less ‘stuff’ would make it feel more relaxing and welcoming. I particularly loved Marcella’s use of live plants (or what looked like) in the space and the pictures on the wall to bring in the elements used in feng shui.

    The colors in Elaine’s room is amazing. I love how she used the height with the hibiscus trees. Height in feng shui lifts the energy and helps you feel happier (think of standing up tall or slouching shoulders). I also loved the piece of drift wood and the fish on the pillow, symbolic of water, which is flow, relaxation and abundance.

    And Danny’s outdoor space is a great balance for the use of the space, as an outdoor theater space. I like how he anchored it with tall trees, however it feels very masculine energy for me. I like to design spaces with a mixture of feminine and masculine energy. When I look at Danny’s space, the first thing I missed was the grounding of the space with an outdoor carpet over the tile floor.

    But hey, kudo’s to each of them for designing a beautiful space and I hope you enjoyed your trip to NY. I’m in Massachusetts!
    xo Christine

  15. I understand the comments about the spaces being “too cluttered,” but it makes sense for the designers to add a lot of ideas to the spaces. These rooms are not actually for people to use, after all, they are for display. And for people like us to take away ideas. More stuff = more ideas to grab!

    Anyways, I think they all are beautiful, but I am in love with #3, just because it fits my lifestyle. I would LOVE to watch movies outside like that! I would only change one thing, and swap out the chairs for ones with arms, better for relaxing movie-watching. Although that might not work with the space limitations.

    Great post and great pictures! Thanks for sharing!

  16. All the spaces are lovely in their own way. I know not all of the things in the spaces came from Lowes, but I am in love with the white ceramic garden stools at least two of them feature. With their subtle argyle pattern and shiny finish, they would be perfect for my new house in California – I would love to know where I could get one (or two). Kate if you could help with that I would be grateful!!!

  17. Yikes! Too much stuff! My eyes don’t know where to go and nothing gets to shine because it’s all competing. I love that they were working with small spaces because that’s the challenge I (and many others) have. But, other than the third option, I just couldn’t get past all the stuff.

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