How to Design Your Terrace for Summer

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May 26, 2016

Our friend Jackie has what you could call a knack for entertaining. No gathering, small or large, formal or informal, can stress her. Seated dinner for 30? Baby shower for 12? Cocktail party for 150? We’ve attended all of the above at Jackie’s home. We love to watch her in action and even more to be recipients of her unparalleled hospitality.

But Jackie knows, as much as any host or hostess, that space is everything. Having a comfortable setting for hosting friends allows you to jet off to the kitchen for last minute preparations or to grab another bottle of wine before anyone even realizes that their glass is empty.

That’s why last summer, she hired friend and architectural/interior designer Charles Fletcher to come and make over her terrace. He did a fabulous job! And we would know because nearly all of our free summer evenings were spent up there last year…

We asked him to share some of his wisdom about how to approach any outdoor space and transform it into a perfect entertaining canvas.

Over to you, Charles…


People use their terraces most when they feel comfortable.  If you enjoy spending time outdoors, no matter the climate, make sure you set up your terrace to that effect.

  1. Define the space you are going to use.  Will you mainly be dining, lounging, entertaining, or all of the above?
  2. Once that decision is made, make sure leave space for the main purpose.  Meaning, if you want to lounge, leave enough space for a very comfortable sofa and perhaps an ottoman to put your feet up.  If you only occasionally use the space for dining, you can make that ottoman work as a low dining table.  On the other hand, if you love to entertain your guests with a beautiful and delicious dining experience, find the right table for your deck that will accommodate your ideal number.  If you occasionally just want to relax, find two comfortable chairs that will act as both dining chairs and relaxing armchairs. 
  3. Indoor/Outdoor space defined.  Find your definition of Indoor/Outdoor space.  Is it important for you to have plants surrounding you for a natural and intimate feeling?  Do you want your terrace to be considered an extension of your home – another room added to the living areas that gets used just as much?  One way is to coordinate your palette.  Whether it be with a simple pillow color, umbrella color, or outdoor rug, make sure your transition is as visually seamless as possible.

  4. Speaking of intimacy – plants, lighting and rugs!  These are my favorite items to use. Plants are key to a visually stunning space. Scale and color of your plants will play a big part in the visual texture of your terrace.  Lighting is key to intimacy as well.  Find the right lighting that is not too bright but also bright enough to see the satisfied faces on your guests.  Usually, if you uplight your surrounding plants, you will achieve the perfect level of lighting.  I LOVE to use outdoor rugs to define the most important space.  There are so many options out there now for outdoor rugs you can much more easily find one to fit your personality.
  5. ScALe.  whatever you do, measure first! find the right scale for your space.  Whether it be a sofa, dining table, storage or lounge chairs, they need to fit comfortably.  Also, don’t be afraid to get some height.  Use plants/trees, floor lamps, umbrellas, or taller storage cabinets if you have the space.  Just, of course, don’t block your view if you have one.

Lausanne and surrounding areas offer many options for any budget.  From Pfister to Conforama, furniture and accessories can be found in many places and in many forms.  Jumbo is an ideal place for plants and some furniture as well.

Speaking of…don’t forget to make your terrace work for you as well. An herb garden and/or a tomato plant is very pretty as well as satisfying when you need that one ingredient but forgot to pick it up at the store.  If you have a view of your terrace in the winter, evergreens are also a good choice so you can enjoy the view on those snowy Lausanne days.

My love for redefining a space based on personal interests and discovery led me into interior design.  Having my Masters in Architecture and working as a residential architect for the last 15+ years inevitably led me to realize the importance of how well you surround yourself inside a space is just as relevant, and most of the time, more relevant than just trusting what you own will fit into where you choose to live.  I loved discovering that it’s ok to let go of pieces that just don’t work and replacing them with pieces that harmonize a space.  This includes, color, lighting, rugs, art, etc.  Helping a client realize a space that defines who they are but also takes it to a place they never thought possible is a highly satisfying aspect of my job.

The beauty of this idea, is that it can be done on ANY budget.  A paint color is not an expensive thing to change and can transform a room in one day.  Correct lighting is also an inexpensive way redefine a space.  The options are endless.  Yes, that statement can be overwhelming, but once you’ve completed a project and see the outcome, you will always ask yourself “Why didn’t I do this sooner?”  So get started!


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