Earth-conscious entertaining

Combine comfort with eco-friendly products for an outdoor entertaining oasis.
This deck by Fuchsia Design allows the homeowners clear views of the lake by keeping railings, furniture and decor at a low profile. Courtesy Fuchsia Design

The best outdoor spaces are ones that can easily transform to accommodate a plethora of activities. While it’s important to consider your entertaining needs when planning your backyard, it’s also important to think about how it will work for everyday living.

Whether it be al fresco dining, yoga on the deck, water balloon fights or shared conversation with friends while sipping wine under the stars, we’re kicking off hotdog and s’more season with a discussion on what makes a great outdoor entertaining space.

Set into a dune on Lake Michigan, these homeowners planned their backyard layout around nature so as not to disrupt the dune. In our space planning, we focused on the orientation of the lake and planned wire railings and low furniture to avoid obstructing their indoor view of the lake.

The best part? While this deck can easily accommodate outdoor summer gatherings, it’s also perfect for Friday night s’mores, weekend sunbathing and even morning yoga thanks to a yoga mat storage bin close by. Just off the house is a covered dining space with an outdoor kitchen for yet another outdoor entertaining zone.

Tip: Give your guests, including kids, options and opportunity for intimate conversations by arranging your furniture in smaller groupings with a variety of different types of seating.

Outdoor furniture
One of my favorite outdoor furniture materials is Marine Grade Polymer (MGP). In addition to being 100% recycled, it doesn’t fade, splinter or warp, and it’s practically indestructible, which makes it great for any Michigan backyard — even ones that take a bit of a beating on the lake.

It’s also important to consider the weight of your outdoor furniture and accessories, especially if you live near water. Michigan can get some pretty strong storm winds, so while pillows, throw blankets and small accent tables make an outdoor entertaining space more homey and attractive, these items can become dangerous to boaters and water wildlife if they blow into a lake. But don’t worry, there’s a simple solution. Make sure your furniture cushions have ties on the back and place a storage bin near your seating area so your smaller items can be easily accessed before a party or pulled out for watching the sunset.

When it comes to selecting energy-efficient outdoor lighting, there are a few things to keep in mind. Consider switching out the bulbs in your outdoor fixtures to LED and using timers or motion sensors. Looking to create a big impact with minimal lighting updates? Up-lighting trees and adding path lighting with solar lights can highlight the landscape beautifully during the summer months.

Polypropylene certainly doesn’t sound like an eco-friendly rug material, but it’s actually made from recycled pop bottles and other plastic packaging. Don’t worry, it doesn’t feel like walking on plastic bottles. It’s great for outdoor rugs because it dries quickly, doesn’t mildew, resists stains and can be cleaned using a garden hose. Tip: Not all rugs are created equally; look for 100% UV-stabilized polypropylene to avoid any fading from sunlight.

When thinking about environmentally-friendly firepits, you may be surprised to find out that natural, wood-burning firepits are not the best way to go. In addition to being safer, a gas firepit will give you a controlled flame with less smoke released into the air, so there are less resulting environmental pollutants. If a gas firepit feels similar to putting fake plants in your backyard — rest assured, the flame produced by gas is still real fire that is just as hot as a wood-fueled one. Equally important, it’s easier to start and put out so there’s less risk for a forest fire.

This story can be found in the July/August 2021 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine. To get more stories like this delivered to your mailbox, subscribe here

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