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Here comes the sun

By Keegan Prosser on July 27, 2012 – No Comment

By Christine Watson

It’s that time of the year we Washingtonians have been waiting for. Time to dust off the patio furniture, break out the sandals and hope that swimsuit still fits. I’m talking about summer!

After a long hibernation, Eastsiders are setting up shop outside for the warmer months and what a better way to enjoy
our sunny days than creating your own outdoor room.

Whether entertaining a large group of family and friends or just seeking a quiet reading nook where you can enjoy the
serene sights and sounds of nature, there is an outdoor room that will suit your needs.

Those with a flair for décor and a passion for design will likely find shaping their outdoor space a fun summertime project. For the less artistically inclined, a relaxing outside oasis is not beyond reach. If you are lacking the creative touch or just want some pointers, Karen Stefonick has a solution.

A veteran of outdoor room design, Stefonick has been in the business of creating elegant outdoor living spaces for more than 15 years. Holding true to the mantra “less is more,” her design philosophy is rooted in maintaining a cohesive feel from inside to outdoors.

While hiring a personal designer like Stefonick certainly has its perks, the cost can run from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the amount of
hours spent.

If you’re up to the challenge of being your own designer, you can save some serious cash, but keep in mind a few tips to keep you on track.

First, plan around what you already have. Do you have an outdoor fireplace? A killer view? Or is your grill your pride and joy? Make the most of the assets you already have and make a plan that points to them as a focal point.

Second, keep in mind that even the balmiest Seattle summers can be unpredictable. Incorporate awnings and an outdoor umbrella in case nature decides to intrude. Awning and coverings also will enable you to utilize your outdoor room more throughout the year. If you’re not sure where to start, Stefonick has a portfolio on her website,

Finally, if you thought that outdoor rooms were only doable for those with large spaces, think again. Stefonick reinforces the idea that grandiose spaces and over-the-top opulence are not necessary when building your outdoor room. Rather, a patio or balcony can just as easily be transformed into your own soothing sanctuary.

If you are working with smaller square footage, optimizing the space you have is even more pivotal. For an apartment balcony or diminutive porch or patio, consider space saving décor such as vertical gardens and multi-purpose furniture. As Stefonick says, “It’s not how much you put in, but what you put in that makes a great design,” so err on the side of minimal.

Seattle summers are infamously short lived, which means it’s all the more important to make use of the season. An outdoor room can be more than just an extension
of your home; it can be a catalyst for relishing the uncommon appeal of Pacific Northwest summers.

Christine Watson lives in Bellevue.