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When I first moved to Los Angeles, I remember being so madly in love with the idea of dining outdoors on our tiny apartment’s balcony. Watching the sun set over the Pacific ocean with a glass of wine and light breeze in my hair quickly became an after-work habit of mine and I vowed never to take it for granted.

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After all, growing up in the Midwest meant that I often spent six months out of the year indoors, battling less-than-desirable weather conditions with high allergy counts, mosquito infestations and dense humidity.

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Now that we’re back in Indiana, I’m dreaming of my L.A. al fresco evenings on the balcony and conjuring up image after image of outdoor-inspired dining. And for this reason, we chose to transform our dining room into something reminiscent of our sunny SoCal days. Although we may not be sporting a fancy balcony, we’ve switched the existing windows for sliding glass doors that give direct access to the exterior deck, perfect for summer evening entertaining. And yes, it may be humid, but that won’t stop us for creating the aesthetic of our L.A. adventures.

Care to snag an al fresco dining space in your own home? Here’s how to bring the outdoors in, no matter the weather:

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1. Light it.
This may be obvious, but you’ve got to have some serious natural light for a space to feel outdoorsy. Even if you don’t have sliding glass or French doors opening up to an outdoor space, large, open windows will give the same effect, leaving you bathed in blissful light all day long.

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Keep the drapes light and airy with a hint of texture. I always opt for a soft shade of cream or ivory. White can sometimes be too stark in certain lights, and you’ll want the room to feel calm, serene and peaceful.

2. Floor it.
Similar to the drapes, keep floors in a natural tone. If your dining room is a high-traffic area and a rug is a must, choose a sisal or other woven option that will pay homage to the great outdoors.

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3. Green it.
Keep the space looking healthy and vibrant with a few plants, flowers and herbs. If you simply can’t bear the thought of testing your black thumb, try alternative natural elements such as rocks, coral or pebbles, or keep your furnishings organic (like a lovely rustic farmhouse table).

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4. Open it.
Keep accessories to a minimum. Let the natural light of your space shine through with a bright, open floor plan and minimal furnishings.

You feel more relaxed already, don’t you? Me, too.

Check back in the next weeks to see what our dining room looks like now. (Hint: It’s not even close to al fresco yet, but you’ll be amazed at the progress!)

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Design Inspiration

17 Responses

  1. kgseymour says:

    Love these ideas. I'm dying to put some work into our screened porch dining area, but I want to get the back yard in order first — I'm worried that doing work right next to the porch will mess up any work I do ON the porch, you know? But love the light airy feel!

  2. erin / dfm says:

    Ha — smart girl! ;)

  3. laura trevey says:

    Fresh flowers bring a smile to every table!! Great tips ~~

  4. erin / dfm says:

    thanks, laura!

  5. Bonnie says:

    Beautiful ideas Erin. :)

  6. The Lil Bee says:

    I love this kind of dining room, especially the top image, Erin. Such an open and airy feel. And I love the contrast of metal chairs with a white or wood table. Gorge!

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