Vintage Outdoor Living Ideas

garden shed
Incorporate vintage treasures, salvage scores, and flea market finds to create stylish, comfortable outdoor rooms that reflect your design and collecting preferences. These 21 expertly arranged alfresco spaces are sure to inspire.

Retrofit New Spaces

Painted metal lawn chairs (just like Grandma and Granddad's outdoor seating) remain sentimental favorites that blast us back to gentler times. Find original vintage versions at sales, antiques shops, and Internet auction sites; reproduction options are seasonally available at home centers and discount stores. Complete the retro look with an antique iron table and a freestanding umbrella.

Assemble a Room

No outdoor living space? Construct an open-air entertaining and relaxation station from architectural salvage. Build a framework that will support a tin or fabric ceiling, as well as walls crafted from old shutters, doors, and windows. Cushion the novel nest by hanging drapery panels, throwing down vibrant area rugs, and fashioning a pillow-plumped daybed from a twin-size mattress set atop upside-down clay pots.

Make an Impact

Think of ways to move your favorite finds to center stage. Modernize vintage metal chairs with a vivid paint color that shows up against verdant backdrops and mimics a painted detail on your home. Pair the pieces with vintage red wagons playfully packed with an array of potted plants.

Master the Blend

Make sure outdoor spaces furnished with flea-market finds stay in tune with their surroundings. Opt for an organic palette, worn wood finishes, and metal accents that gain interesting patinas with age. This textural grouping of old, new, and handcrafted furnishings takes its color cues from the stone fireplace and its moss-stained mantel, where vintage lanterns and flowerpots contribute sculptural silhouettes and worn patinas to the nature-inspired mix.

Create a Billboard

Express your personality by outfitting an outbuilding or porch wall with meaningful signage. On this structure, vintage advertising signs, outdated license plates, and road signs combine to fashion a fetching exhibit that reflects the homeowners' travels and interests.

Pick Things with Patina

Touched-by-time finishes, whether on farm tables, stepladders, birdhouses, or garden gear, are essential components of flea market design. These aged patinas -- often caused by exposure to wind, rain, and sun -- work well in outdoor spaces. Use stepladders as trellises; exhibit old birdhouses as lawn art; and employ vintage vessels as charming planters.

Establish Boundaries

Whether crafted of lattice, fabric, or iron, walls define an outdoor room, create a sense of enclosure, and -- most important for the collector -- provide backgrounds for displaying cool things. This tented gazebo showcases a fine-tuned arrangement of vintage wicker, captivating fabrics, and accessories such as a tree-trunk table and the framed painting over the wicker love seat.

Get your patio or deck ready for summer with this simple but whimsical light fixture from Do It Yourself magazine.

DIY Bottle Lamp

Put that collection of gorgeous glass bottles to use! Create a colorful, whimsical light fixture for your favorite outdoor room using a few simple supplies. Watch the video to see how it's done.

Carry Inside Comforts Out

Think of your porch as an outdoor great-room that can easily (and chicly!) accommodate sitting, dining, and display. Hang vintage mirrors to reflect the landscape; lay area rugs for underfoot warmth; and repurpose flea market tables, shelves, and chairs to handle your form and function needs. Showcase canning jars, old-timey pottery, and vivacious fabrics to give shabby furniture finishes a lift.

Plot a Course

Further "life's a beach" character by arranging tag-sale wicker refreshed with white paint alongside old and new pieces in a palette of tropical sea, sky, and citrus shades. Exhibit large-scale letters that spell out your theme. Energize the view with colorful sea-critter figures and nubby striped textiles.

Set a Hospitable Stage

Alfresco dining offers pleasures aplenty, including exposure to fresh breezes, starlit skies, and passing-through wildlife. But fresh-air eats ascend to celebratory status when served on finely dressed tables. Kraft paper, newspaper place mats, black-and-white dishes, and shiny cans filled with blousy blooms formalize an ordinary picnic table lit by a candelabra crafted from a garage-sale tray.

Put On the Glitz

Even the most battered and diversely styled curbside finds take on refined airs and coordinated character when updated with paint. When you want extra-special results, grab a can of metallic silver, gold, bronze, or copper spray paint to give end tables, chair frames, bookcases, and table bases an unexpected glow. Before you spray, clean, sand, and prime to-be-painted surfaces to ensure successful outcomes.

Provide Sweet Seats

Outfit porches and patios with seating that's guaranteed to kick-start conversations. Invite folks to stay awhile by hanging an old-fashioned swing made cushy with an antique quilt and colorful pillows. Place salvaged theater or stadium seats where they can be appreciated by passersby and used as front-row seats for watching neighborhood doings.

Modernize the View

Old-timey doesn't have to look old-fashioned. Use unexpected paint colors to give flea market wicker chairs, rattan settees, and metal lawn chairs contemporary cachet. Layer in modern furnishings, geometric area rugs, and a mix of retro and refined fabrics to fashion eclectic outdoor rooms that pay tribute to the past while accommodating present-day needs and flea market finds.

Think Globally

Transport your outdoor living spaces to far-off lands using an array of ethnic-influenced treasures. Look for furniture, fabrics, and accessories that sport Asian profiles, Mideastern motifs, French panache, or Tuscan character. Anchor conversation groupings with a painted trunk that evokes images of sea travel. Arrange tropical foliage in oversize vintage urns to reference exotic ports of call.

Follow these easy steps to make a hanging planter from a wood pallet.

DIY Pallet Planter

Turn a castoff pallet into a work of outdoor art using these how-to tips.

Mind Your Materials

Consider the style you wish to achieve and search out metal accents that complement that specific look. Here, black-iron lanterns and a wall-mounted iron grid partner with Mediterranean-type copper chairs to create a Spanish attitude, which suits this outdoor nook's rustic beams and tile floors. Like something more modern? Seek out midcentury modern accessories rendered in chrome, stainless steel, and aluminum.

Suspend Interest

Maximize a pergola's purpose by making it a base for leisurely pursuits. Cap the structure with lattice panels to create a shade-providing framework that you can use to support an old-timey rope hammock. Decorate the relaxation station with hanging planters, dangling copper stars, antique lanterns, or a collection of prismatic crystals.

Arrange an Alfresco Bathing Station

Fashion a spa-like sanctuary in a private corner abutting your home. Have a plumber install pipes that to carry water through a showerhead and a vintage faucet that can be used to fill a footed tub. Underscore the haven's pampering purpose by adding an antique garden chair, a shelf to hold toiletries and candles, and a repurposed bookcase equipped with iron baskets to corral plush bath towels.

Pile on Patterns

Look to your stash of vintage fabric remnants, collection of pretty printed hankies, or bolts of outdoor textiles with period-apt patterns to establish a color scheme in your outdoor room. Use era-evocative bark cloths, splashy oilcloths, and ticking fabrics to cover cushions, pillows, and tabletops. Display hand-painted trays and serving pieces boasting nostalgic motifs to round out your design.

Tell a Story

Mount a thematic exhibit that rises from foundation plantings to create interest alongside your home, garage, or shed. Group like-minded treasures around a beat-up table that will look even finer with further weathering. This homeowner, who has a penchant for rural references, combines fowl figures and scintillating signage to compose a chicken-and-egg narrative.

Repurpose Printed Materials

When shopping flea markets, antiques shops, and tag sales, keep your eyes open for bags, crates, and containers bearing their original labels or printed graphics. Burlap sacks once used to hold coffee beans, animal feed, or seeds for planting make noteworthy chair covers. Boxes -- from colorfully stickered fruit crates to ink-stamped wooden beer cases -- stylishly stack up as bases for patio tables, serving bars, and storage shelves.

Accentuate Every Corner

Arrange shapely antique urns and oversize pots as garden centerpieces and to mark entry points to pathways, sheds, and outdoor rooms. Give no-frills outbuildings an eye-pleasing presence. Paint shutters, doors, and woodwork so they stand out from the building's siding. Adorn shed walls with whimsical plaques, birdfeeders, and planting boxes spilling over with vines and colorful blossoms.

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