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Monday, May 21, 2012

Outdoor refreshment: making a splash in your outdoor environment is aseasy as adding a few well-placed, period-appropriate accessories

The "outdoor room" concept has gotten a lot of press recently, but the idea isn't exactly a new one. One need only look to the classical gardens of upscale colonial-era homes, the substantial front porches of bungalows and Queen Annes, or the easily accessible patios of mid-century ranches to understand that what's outside the house has long been as important as what's in it.

If what's outside your house is less than stellar, that's easy to fix. Adding a porch light here, and some seating there will do wonders to enhance both the aesthetic appeal and the livability of your outdoor environment. To that end, we've rounded up a few choice picks for three different eras (plus one more online). So what are you waiting for? Get outside, and get decorating!

Early American

Colonial Classics

In America's early years, private pleasure gardens were a province of the very wealthy. For average homeowners, the yard was a more functional space, reserved for practical pursuits like vegetable-growing. Aesthetic enhancements were often driven by practicality as well--lanterns featured wire cages to protect delicate glass and fickle flames, and blacksmith-forged hardware was designed for maximum durability. But today, it's precisely those utilitarian details that make colonial-era accents so appealing.

(1) During colonial times, pineapples were a universal symbol of welcome. These pineapple-centric welcome mats are designed to look like intricate wrought iron, but they're actually durable, washable rubber.


Pineapple doormat, $29. (800) 414-6291;


(2) There's a reason the picket fence is an American classic--it's been around since our earliest days. This version is modeled on the one outside the Benjamin Waller Home at Colonial Williamsburg.

Benjamin Waller picket fence, $45/linear foot. (800) 343-6948;

(3) A hefty door knocker hearkens back to the blacksmith's forge; this one from Acorn Manufacturing incorporates a heart motif often found on era hardware.


Door knocker, $94. (800) 835-0121;

(4) Now purely decorative, sundials were essential time-tellers through the 18th century. Cape Cod Weathervane Co.'s aluminum one comes in three patinated finishes (such as weathered bronze, shown) with the inscription, "I count none but sunny hours."

Sunny Hours sundial, $39. (800) 460-1477;



(5) Onion lamps (lanterns that feature a round globe encased in wire) were a stalwart of colonial exteriors; Heritage Lanterns' teardrop version is based on the century-old lights used to illuminate the cobblestoned streets of Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Bracket lantern, $739. (800) 648-4449;


Alfresco Finery


You can thank the Victorians for perfecting the concept of outdoor living. In the mid-19th century, advancing technology gave the middle class more leisure time than ever before, and much of that time was spent outdoors: strolling and picnicking in public parks, conversing and courting on front porches, and playing games like croquet and lawn tennis. The abundance of pattern and ornament that typified Victorian interiors extended outside the house, too--accents that replicate intricate scrollwork, delicate lace, and stylized florals are always a good fit.

(1) Lazy, sunny days beg for a hammock in the garden. With weaving that recalls the lace curtains found in many a Victorian parlor, Victorian Trading Co.'s hammock won't look out of place next to your Italianate or Queen Anne.

Wedding hammock, $119. (800) 700-2035;


(2) Flanking the door with a pair of urn-style planters is an easy way to increase your floral bounty; this one from Haddonstone draws on a period motif of stylized acanthus leaves.

Victoria vase, $402. (856) 931-7011;


(3) A pendant light over the door adds a stately touch to the ubiquitous Victorian porch; Brass Light Gallery's London Lantern mimics the design of 19th-century streetlights.

London Lantern pendant, from $595. (800) 243-9595;


(4) A dainty letterbox pays homage to the era's frilly finery; House of Antique Hardware rendered theirs in practical rust-proof aluminum with a choice of four historic finishes (rubbed bronze shown).

Victoria Design mailbox, $140. (888) 223-2545;


(5) Need a focal point for the garden? The Victorian Bench from Charleston Gardens is a good contender--its Gothicesque tracery is certain to draw the eye.

Victorian bench, $1,665. (800) 469-0118;

Arts & Crafts

Artisan Accents


Perhaps more than any other architectural style, Arts & Crafts houses are defined by their connection to the outdoors. Instead of standing apart from their environment, they aim to meld with it through the use of indigenous materials, earthy finishes, and low-slung forms. This emphasis on communing with nature, coupled with an affinity for the artistic--hand-wrought being a major tenet of the movement--means that a wealth of hand-forged, -fired, and -made accessories designed with simple, straightforward construction are suited to bolstering your bungalow's curb appeal.


(1) Copperwork is an Arts & Crafts hallmark. These numbers are cut, formed, and beaten by hand into repousse designs by master Roycroft renaissance artisan Frank M. Glapa.

Tree house number, from $500. (773) 761-2957;

(2) Furniture designer Tim Celeski has reworked the classic Adirondack chair with an Arts & Crafts sensibility, paying tribute to Limbert's famous hall chair, with its distinctive triangular cutout.

Leschi Adirondack chair, $850. (360) 297-6699;


(3) Highlighting a gnarled oak tree--a design based on a cover of The Craftsman--Ravenstone's generously sized tile can be laid in a garden path or hung on the porch.


Old Oak tile, $50. (360) 379-6951;

(4) With period details like a Caramel glass shade and antique penny finish, plus creative touches like a conical cap and scrolled-arm bracket, Old California's Brinley lantern imparts a welcoming glow.


Brinley wall lantern, $410. (800) 577-6679;

(5) Blacksmith Matthew Harris's nature-themed mailbox features hand-riveted joinery and hand-hammered surfaces. The leaves (including oak and ginko, shown) are customizable.


Leaf mailbox, $1,200. (443) 553-6642; harrismetalsmith.


Source Citation
"Outdoor refreshment: making a splash in your outdoor environment is as easy as adding a few well-placed, period-appropriate accessories." Old House Journal June-July 2011: 32+. Home Improvement Collection. Web. 21 May 2012.
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Gale Document Number: GALE|A267517883

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