CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Designer extraordinaire Kristan Cunningham was raised in West Virginia, and she's coming back for a homecoming at Tamarack on June 21. She took time out of her busy schedule (she's filming a new show for OWN Network) to give me some great ideas for outdoor spaces.
I spoke with Cunningham from her Los Angeles studio. Her DIY spirit combined with her designer eye led to a partnership with Lowe's. She's giving design tips using its products, but these ideas can be translated for any home.
"As we head into summer, we want our homes to feel topnotch -- we want it to be done! The trend over the last few years is, 'Let's make the outdoors an extension of the indoors.'
"It used to be a couple of plastic chairs, but you've gotta up the ante now," she said, with indoor-type furnishings designed for outdoor conditions.
Cunningham is redesigning her mom's patio with the help of online shopping.
"The whole shebang looks like it belongs in a living room," she said. But every DIY project doesn't have to be extensive and overwhelming, Cunningham said.
"Lightly decorating gets a lot of impact, especially outdoors because it's less expected."
She suggested a one-hour do-it-yourself project she calls an "unexpected garden moment." Placing an urn, a pedestal or a fountain can make an artistic statement while creating a visual destination or focal point.
"Think of how nice it is when you open that back door. If you put one rug down, that's impactful -- that's a space-changer. The whole yard looks well appointed now because there's a great rug."
She advises that you walk out your door and see where your eye falls; that's where you put your "statement piece." Scale, she added, is key.
A simple cherry-red or canary-yellow lacquered arbor with uplighting can add a pop of color and is an easy project. Paint, she said, is cheap, and it gives you the biggest bang for your buck.
The Los Angeles-based designer, who admits to reading Architectural Digest at age 9, said painting a front door is an inexpensive and easy way to add a dash of color to the front of the house without much commitment on the homeowner's part.
"The front door is your calling card, it's the outfit you put on your house," Cunningham said. She recommends using a product that's paint and primer all in one, and use a brush, not a roller.
"With a roller, you get that orange-peel look. Use a brush on any millwork, and with any type of paint it looks like it's done with old-school, oil-based paint. It just looks more expensive.
"If you don't like it, it's a can of paint and an afternoon. It can be changed," she said. She suggested using the popular decorator colors such as bright orange, salmon, shrimp, turquoise, bright green.
Going with a color that's on trend says "I'm hip!" But when it's just the front door, it's a good way to use the color without painting the whole house.
Painting the floor of a front porch, using tape to make "barcode stripes," is another way to introduce color to the outdoors. You can paint the whole porch, or paint a "rug" on one section.