I remember so clearly my first “summer” back in the Bay Area, after having lived away for a few years. It was February, and I was cutting class to go to the beach. Summer in February? Yes. That preview of the warmth to come, during the few weeks in very early spring that our majestic magnolias and plum trees burst into bloom, and then the chill descends again.

Outdoor kitchen installation -- Lafayette

Depending on the day, or even time of day, when you read this article, we may be getting a spring tan, or we may already be wrapped back up in our scarves. If today is a gray day, think back, just a few days ago to when the sun was surprisingly warm, and then think forward with me, to the actual summer months, and Indian Summer — later in fall. We will be lounging outside again  soon.

Do you have an outdoor space that with a huge dose of love and thoughtful design could be a place where you and your friends and family “cut class” to relax and renew — over a glass of wine, a dinner cooked al fresco, dessert and intimate conversation?

Outdoor Kitchen Installation - Lafayette

With conveniences like plush cushioned sectionals, elegantly designed heat lamps, and beautiful heat-producing fire pits that double as coffee tables, creating an outdoor living room expands your square footage for entertaining. In my own home, we noticed that when we made our outdoor space a priority, our dinner parties became more energy rich and fun.

Pro tips for increasing your outdoor pleasure: try simply adding blankets, an outdoor grill, and indoor/outdoor area rugs to your current space. Custom pillows can add personalized beauty and drama to a quality retail couch (try QueeN, 3338 Grand Avenue, Oakland). Also — Did you know? You can have heated outdoor seating — available at Mulberry’s Home (


The cool weather and gray skies can lull us into a sense that summer is still so far away. But the truth is, if you have a vision for your outdoor entertaining space, or even an inkling of desire for a change, now is the time to begin planning.

Outdoor kitchen with fold away seating

In my work as a designer — and I notice this in my daily life as well — I see over and over that things always take longer than we think. When it comes to design projects, there is the vision process, planning, sourcing materials, and implementation. Not to mention mid-project inspirations that can cause a change of course. An outdoor entertaining space that only involves furnishings and finishes may take 8-10 weeks or more; an outdoor kitchen or other large construction project may take considerably longer.

So if a warm week in the earliest days of Spring has stirred your imagination, and you would like help laying out your space and customizing your décor in time for summer, you might consider contacting an interior designer now. And if you would like guidance on selecting a designer who is right for you, whether that is my firm, or another of the amazing artists among our colleagues, please contact us; we would be happy to help.

This is the perfect time to start thinking about how you would like to use your outdoor “room” to enhance the quality of your life.


A version of this article originally appeared in the Piedmont Post.

Projects pictured in images 1, 2, 3, and 6 were executed in collaboration with McCutcheon Construction.


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