If you plan on spending more time at home, give your outdoor spaces a retro makeover.
By Diane Franklin
Outdoor living spaces have become the “go-to” place for in-home entertaining. Whether having an intimate get-together with immediate family or socializing at a 6-foot distance with a small group of friends, you may want to consider broadening your decorating options for patios and decks. Going with a “retro” vibe can be a fun way to give these areas a unique sense of old-fashioned charm.
Choose an Era
The first thing to do when considering a retro look is to choose an era. A lot of people these days love the mid-century modern look, which was originally popular from about 1945 to 1969. You can replicate the look in your outdoor spaces by choosing patio furniture with clean lines, minimal ornamentation and natural materials like organic stone. Find appropriate furniture pieces in antique stores or at estate sales. Paint them in colors that were popular during the mid-century modern era, such as orange, brown, mustard yellow, chartreuse and gray.
Another idea is to go classic Bohemian. Create a Boho look by choosing patio furniture in warm, earthy colors, metallics and jewel tones. If your patio has a ceiling to keep out the rain, you can add a few fabric touches evocative of the Bohemian style. Use a multicolored area rug to add some extra pizzazz and pattern to the space. Use macramé plant hangers, throw pillows and other accessories in the aforementioned Bohemian colors. And to augment the ceiling, you can use a Boho-style light fixture.
Sometimes just a single piece of furniture can create a retro style. Remember those metal lawn chairs that populated the outdoor spaces of yesteryear? That can be a real blast from the past! If you’re lucky enough to locate them at a local antique store or resale shop, use spray paint to give them a facelift, choosing a vibrant color like lime green, bright yellow or cranberry red to represent the bygone era.
Consider the Floor
An important element for creating a retro patio is the area beneath your feet. With the use of self-adhesive masking stencils, you can use decorative concrete stain to add a retro design to your patio floor. Create the look of a retro vinyl floor with a multicolored geometric design. Or use the decorative concrete to create a crisscross brick pattern, which is a classic mid-century modern look.
For a retro deck floor, you can go “au natural”—using a translucent toner or semi-transparent stain to let the beauty of the wood show through. If you want to evoke a specific era like the ’70s, choose stains in earth-tone hues such as chocolate or walnut browns, ochre, taupe or olive green.
Accessorize your outdoor space with fun retro pieces such as milk jugs, canning jars, antique vases and ceramic pots. Another common outdoor accessory is the firepit, and there are many retro styles available. For instance, you can find mid-century modern steel firepits in lively colors like sky blue, orange or green. They make for a great focal point to your seating area, and as a bonus, they provide an easy way for those in your social circle to maintain social distancing.
Retro signage is another great way to accessorize your outdoor space. You might be able to find old-timey signs in antique shops that evoke either a retro or vintage style. Choices might include signs that advertise classic brands like Coca Cola or Mobil Oil.
If you are talented at free-handing or have expertise in creating stencils using Cricut or some other method, you can create a customized sign for your space. For the ultimate retro look, use a classic-style typeface (there are plenty of options here), and then paint or stain your message on wood or a piece of corrugated metal. An excellent choice for retro signage is chalk paint, since it will give your sign a weathered, washed-out look. For the best results, use high-contrast colors—i.e., the background in light blue and the letters in bright red or yellow—which is in keeping with the retro color palette.
If your patio has a ceiling, consider accessorizing with a ceiling fan. It’s a nice retro touch—and as an added bonus, it will provide a nice breeze on a warm later summer evening.