Solutions: New outdoor design inspiration taking root

Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

For whatever reason, I did not inherit my mother’s green thumb. Still, I’ve tried to maintain colorful garden containers throughout the years without much luck. Fortunately, there are other ways to invigorate an outdoor space.

To get inspired, I’ve been admiring some of my neighbors’ creations whenever I walk the dog, get the mail or head to the bus stop.

For instance, many of them set decorative urns or other types of containers on either side of the garage. This seems particularly fitting when they’re filled with flowers that pop against the neutral backdrop of the brick façade.

I’ve often thought of incorporating more permanent fixtures in that area, such as garden statues that don’t require much care.

In addition, I’ve noticed some homeowners have placed a bistro table and chairs or a garden bench on the front porch, which is something I’d like to try when I happen upon the right piece.

Unlike seasonal plantings, these additions don’t have to wait for warmer weather to arrive.

The same can be said for other outdoor decor like the terra-cotta sun that hangs above a neighbor’s deck across from our condo. I often feel we get to enjoy it more than she does because we have a better view.

This makes me think it’s time to finally buy some of the whimsical garden art my daughter and I have been admiring at a local flower shop that displays a fun selection.

The exterior of our home already has strategically placed hangers and hooks from a previous owner that I plan to utilize this season. In lieu of the flower baskets that might not last in my care, I’m considering a metal lantern or some wind chimes.

Though our condo also came with ample outdoor lighting, I’d like to add some more along the walkway.

This year, I plan to clip our hydrangeas and other blooms for indoor use where I can see them more often.

Out back, I’d like to add a retractable awning for the deck at some point, but for now I need to simply embrace the covered patio below.

Eventually, I’d also like to replace our outdoor furniture, but I’m content to embellish what I currently have with some pillows and cushions for added comfort and an accent table or two for beverages and books. I’m hoping the addition of an outdoor rug might entice the dog to stay outside a little longer.

Online research offers plenty of inspiration like the conversation sets and other pieces I’ve seen on that stand out from the crowd. I’m especially drawn to those that feature the same black finishes in my living room that connects to the deck.

Although many consider outdoor grilling to be a cinch, I haven’t had that experience. But I’m willing to give it another try with a little electric grill recommended by a friend who usually entertains in the summer. Who knows? I may even add a hanging basket nearby, filled with succulents of course.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at