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Looking to design an outdoor oasis? Here are some tips from designer Rachel Moriarty

Laveta Brigham

Home Accents Today spoke with award-winning designer Rachel Moriarty about a recent outdoor design. Moriarty is known for her use of color in both her designs and wardrobe and has been featured on HGTV and The Design Network. Q. Explain the space you recently designed pictured above and how the […]

Home Accents Today spoke with award-winning designer Rachel Moriarty about a recent outdoor design. Moriarty is known for her use of color in both her designs and wardrobe and has been featured on HGTV and The Design Network.

Q. Explain the space you recently designed pictured above and how the completed space came to fruition.

I recently completed a vibrant backyard oasis for a couple that is young-at-heart. They are color lovers and passionate cosplayers as well as gaming moguls. Their vision for their outdoor poolside space was to create a vibrant and joyful atmosphere that truly reflects their fun-loving nature.

A couple of key features of this design were the rainbow-themed palapa and the rainbow mural going down the pool slide. My client mentioned to me that she envisioned herself sliding down a rainbow pool slide into a pool full of plastic ball pit balls, which of course she made happen once it was finished!

We collaborated with the hilarious and talented comedic duo, Nicholas Scheppard and Jenson Titus of Very Gay Paint on the murals. These features are works of art and would make anyone’s inner child proud! (Side note: Very Gay Paint works with celebrity clients like Rupaul and Jason Mraz and they create really fun content and this slide project got 4.5 million views on TikTok!)

The rainbow palapa, the rainbow-painted pool slide, combined with colorful outdoor furnishings transformed this beige Mediterranean home into a colorful enchanting space that now truly reflects my clients fun-loving personalities. This space has been used for hosting parties with mermaids in the swimming pool and fire dancers for friends as well as for fundraising for children’s charities that my client is passionate about. This space always brings joy to my clients’ guests.

Q. What design requests are you receiving lately when it comes to outdoor spaces?

I have seen a shift in my clients’ mindset when it comes to their exterior spaces. They are thinking about these areas more intentionally, and really diving into these spaces as an extension of their home.

We’re giving equal importance to both the interior and exterior spaces which makes me happy because they’re just separated by a pane of glass. In the past, I would notice that clients would design the interior of their home in neutrals, for example, and then go completely off the rails with tropical and bright colors in the backyard; there was a disconnect.

I really love zoning out the exterior spaces to create conversation, dining, outdoor bars, lounge and fire pit seating areas.

Q. What outdoor manufacturers do you find yourself working with the most? And why? 

I use many different manufacturers and the materials vary with the proximity to the ocean for projects here in San Diego because the salt water can be brutal. Some of the manufacturers that I really like are Polywood, Harmonia Living, Seasonal Living, Vondom, Sunset West and Tucci for outdoor umbrellas. I love Kenneth Corbonpue and would love to incorporate their products into a future project! I also use Divani outdoor modular furniture because it’s light and easy to move around and I can really customize them with fun Sunbrella fabrics. All of these are a great blend of style and durability.

Q. Are there any special considerations when designing for the outdoors, other than the obvious weather challenges?

Shade sources, rust…

Selecting materials that are weather-resistant and can withstand exposure to sun, rain and wind. This means selecting durable outdoor fabrics and corrosion-resistant materials like teak for furniture and finishes.

Another consideration is the need to create a seamless transition between indoor and outdoor spaces – we do that by adding accordion style doors or running the tile flooring from the interior to the exterior (using outdoor rated product for the exterior).

Understanding the client’s lifestyle and how they plan to use the space creates a space that creation is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Q. Now that many home furnishings are durable for both indoor and outdoor use, how do you distinguish an outdoor space from an indoor one?

The choice of materials and finishes can play a huge role in differentiating between the two spaces. Outdoor spaces use materials and fabrics that can withstand the elements. I use outdoor rated fabrics like Sunbrella and outdoor materials like teak, rattan, and aluminum. Alternatively, I use indoor more delicate materials like velvet, silk, or even wood that require protection from direct sunlight and moisture. We also need to plan shade solutions for the various outdoor spaces or anchor a space with a patio overhang. Outdoor kitchens and bars have become popular in the last couple of years as well.

Q. What is your biggest challenge in designing an outdoor space?

One of the biggest challenges in designing an outdoor space is focusing on functionality and durability as well as aesthetics. Budget constraints and maintenance also need to be considered since outdoor spaces require maintenance to keep looking well-maintained. They can look dusty and uninviting if they are not properly looked after.

Q. What is one mistake or crazy occurrence that has happened in designing previous outdoor spaces?

When we decided to paint a rainbow on the slide, it was a first for everyone and we knew it would be a risk with water washing down it. Eventually, some of the paint wore off and the rainbow slide mural had to be removed, prepped and repainted but everyone had a good attitude about it!


See also:
Diversity in the design industry matters | Rachel Moriarty

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