Summertime is all about that good old-fashioned stoop livin’.
When I was a kid growing up in Queens, New York, we’d spend every summer afternoon-into-evening on our stoop. We played hopscotch, jacks and catch. Sitting on old cushion we’d cornrow each other’s hair as the boom box blasted Run DMC. After a particularly vigorous round of double dutch, my mom would appear like the frosted-tip fairy godmother she was way back in the 1980, with ice pops for everyone.
Young adulthood brought with it block parties, festivals and summer concerts. Stoops? They were for children and old people.
But this summer, the stoop is where it’s at. It’s where it’s safe. With a few minor tweaks, we can turn our stoops — and our porches and backyards — into outdoor oases. If we are careful, we can even have two or three friends over. Just remember, please maintain a distance of 6-feet-apart from the people who don’t live with you.
Check out these decorating tips for any outdoor space, whether you’ve got a stoop, roof top, fire escape, porch or full backyard.
If you've got a stoop
What your stoop — or fire escape — lacks in square-footage it makes up in classic, city charm.
Make sure you have a comfortable place to rest your bottom on that top step, says Rasheeda Gray, of Jenkintown’s Gray Space Interior Design. Pick up seat cushions in summery shades of hot pink, orange, Kelly green or turquoise. If you don’t want to lay out the cash, use some old pillows or cushions to stay comfy, just make sure they have a washable cover.
Potted plants will bring joy to your stoop, too. “The key is choosing the right size containers for the space,” Joseph Crescenzo, store manager of the Northeast Philadelphia Lowe’s wrote in an email. Pots that are too big can be a tripping hazard. Too small, your plants will go unnoticed. Try bright blooms like yellow daylilies or a flowering vine, like sweet pea. “These can withstand the summer heat or even the occasional drought,” Crescenzo said.
Swap old house numbers to improve stoop appeal. “It’s a small change,” Crescenzo said. “But you will be surprised how much a new set will change the overall look and feel of your front door.”
Pro tip: Consider coordinating your mailbox numbers, too.
Other extras can help, too: Gray suggests adding a tiny water fountain because even on a bustling, busy street, the sound of water can be calming. Monique Greenwood, owner of Akwaaba Philadelphia is pro wind chimes as “the sounds are welcoming,” she says (though be careful if they annoy neighbors).
Pro tip: Keep cushions, magazines, chalk, jump ropes and citronella candles in a storage bin near the front door so you can get your hands on everything quickly.
If you have a porch
Your porch is an extension of your living room, says Jaimi Blackburn, a Villanova-based certified interior decorator. “It’s the first thing that people see so you want it to be welcoming and reflect your style.” So, Blackburn said, give it some color. “Pick a color that makes you happy,” she said. “I love pink and have pink flowers on my porch with all pink accents.”
If you can afford it, pick up some good lawn chairs in a material that can withstand the elements like wicker, stainless steel or teak, Gray said. (And, of course: don’t forget the cushions.) And find a rug to match. “It’s a nice way to bring the indoors, outdoors,” Gray said.”
Think about comfort and utility. If you have the space add end tables for drinks and reading material. Be mindful of the space. You don’t want so much clutter that you can’t walk around. But leave room for plants. “Greenery is everything,” Blackburn said.
Think about installing a swing or hanging chair, to catch a breeze, a swing or a nap, Greenwood said.
Pro tip: Keep a rolling bar cart near the door stacked with disposable cups, plates, stirrers, napkins and coasters.
If you have a backyard
This is the perfect summer to turn your backyard into your favorite vacation destination.
Landscape, landscape, landscape. You don’t want your yard to be marred by weeds and overgrown grass. Greenwood said. Fill your garden with your favorite flowers and herbs like thyme, cilantro and dill. Pro tip: If you have a wall, attach greenery wall panels. “It’s like an accent wall for the outside,” Gray said.
Hook up your outdoor dining area. While indoor dining is still off limits, your backyard can fill the void. Set up whatever table and chairs you have space for. If you can, make it fancy: Find a beautiful gingham tablecloth and matching napkins. Put all of your disposable serving utensils, dishes, silverware and cups in a storage bin that you can keep outside for easy access. Try battery-operated candles and string lights for ambiance: “This can quickly transform the look and feel of the yard,” Crescenzo said.
Think of your grill as your outdoor kitchen. Your grill area should be well organized and functional, Greenwood said. Pro tip: Get a cooler or an outdoor refrigerator to keep your beverages cold and maximize your relaxation.
Glamp it up, Greenwood said. Erect tents. Install a hammock. Install a cozy fire pit for making s’mores and a little bit of cuddling. Your backyard has the privacy for rest, relaxation and even overnight camping.
Most importantly, don’t let bugs get the best of you this summer. Be prepared with citronella candles and bug spray. If the bugs are really bad, talk to a professional. Your ankles — shoot, your whole body — will thank you.
©2020 The Philadelphia Inquirer
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