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Zen and the Art of Outdoor Living

A garden room offers the perfect platform for unwinding, yoga, or quiet reflection. Close your eyes, relax, and let stress melt away in a Zen-inspired space.

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Achieve Zen-like beauty, harmony, simplicity, balance, and tranquility on your patio or deck by combining natural materials, soothing colors, and clutter-free design.

Define your room with a rug, such as this water-resistant floor covering with a sisal look. (Natural sisal will deteriorate and absorb rainwater, making it so heavy that it could cause your deck to collapse.) Lay a smaller rug or tatami mat on top to define the seating area.

Choose furnishings made of natural materials, such as cotton and linen fabrics, bamboo, stone, seashells, wood, earthenware, and metals, in a color palette of earth tones. Concentrate on solid colors rather than patterns.

Add a low table and large, plump pillows covered in easy-care cotton sheets for cushioned seating comfort. For subtle sound effects, incorporate a small fountain or container water feature, or hang wind chimes.

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Floor

Lay the groundwork for outdoor relaxation with a hand-woven rushgrass tatami mat. This square mat is filled with polyester and edged in tan fabric. 35 1/2 x35 1/2 x 1/2 inches, $79 from www.chopa.com; 800-961-2555

Cushions

Take five on your deck and sink into a comfy Sunbrella all-weather floor pillow. 26 inches square, 7 inches deep; #25524; sand; $69 each from www.frontgate.com; 888-263-9850

Bliss out in your garden room by playing to your senses. Introduce soft lighting, soothing scents, and restful sounds.

We put together an assortment of candles with smooth stones and succulents, such as sedums, in a metal planting tray.

Choose aromatic candles with the calming fragrance of lavender, chamomile, jasmine, or sandalwood.

Bring Mother Nature on deck. Decorate rails or benches with plant-filled containers. Choose pots made of natural materials, such as redware and stoneware -- simple, shapely extensions of earth.

Mix easy-care flowers, such as petunias, with stunning ornamental grasses and a fragrant herb or two, such as rosemary or myrtle.

See more ideas below.

Orchid

Contemplate beauty with an orchid plant. Moth orchids such as Phalaenopsis Ching Her Golden Princess x P. Ching are the easiest types to grow. www.orchidmall.com/iowaorchids/

Chimes

Enjoy the rich sound of a wind bell. We like the Emperor Gong made of brass and ash. $72; www.nybgshopinthegarden.org; www.chimes.com for an Internet retailer or store in your area

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