Kingwood home with outdoor seating areas with a TV and grill

Photo Credit: Miro Dvorscak; Design by Pamela Hope Designs

Sunshine, summer and a relaxing back yard… It can be a setting carefully curated for an interior design magazine or in contrast an overwhelming view of kids and weeds gone wild. This article explores various tools and techniques you can use to keep your back yard free from clutter and enjoyable by all.

1). Since many homes in the South have pools, we start with tackling the common challenge of wrangling all the items that come with swimming. Top on the list is where and how to store the pool floats. From the sleek lounger favored by adults to the multi-colored, over-sized kids’ floats, these toys need to be stored away when not in use, so you can keep the back yard tidy. We prefer storage solutions that keep pool floats out of sight rather than just pulled together. Choose outdoor storage containers made of strengthened plastic like resin, wood or metal for durability and weather-resistance. With planning, you can find an option that accommodates pool floats, seat cushions and possibly even outdoor games like horseshoes.

Outdoor storage for pool floats

Photo Courtesy of Ballard Designs

The Castine Storage Bin from Ballard Designs is good-looking with beveled edges, hand cut-out for easy lid opening and small feet that keep the unit slightly raised off the ground. It’s made of hand-woven, all-weather rattan over a strong, powder-coated aluminum frame to resist moisture and rust. This bin’s sophisticated style lends itself to becoming a permanent furnishing outdoors with no need to hide it from view. This bin ranges in price, depending on the selected size, from $509.15 – $849.15 and is available in the three sizes noted below:

  • Small outside dimensions: 29 inches high X 42 inches wide X 26 inches deep
  • Small interior dimensions: 26 inches high X 39.5 inches wide X 24 inches deep
  • Large outside dimensions: 29 inches high X 58.5 inches wide X 26 inches deep
  • Large interior dimensions: 26 inches high X 56 inches wide X 24 inches deep
  • Extra Large outside dimensions: 29 inches high X 65″W X 26 inches deep
  • Extra Large interior dimensions: 19 inches high bottom & 5″H Into Top X 63 inches wide X 24 inches deep

The Elements Coffee Table with Storage from Joss & Main manufactured by Suncast is a versatile solution. It offers a 30-gallon holding capacity and measures 34 inches wide x 20 inches deep x 18 inches high. The wicker end table is compact and space-efficient, serving as either a side table or center table. It is constructed of durable, weather-resistant resin that will last for years to come. It sells for just $110 and is available in a dark taupe (shown below), dark brown and white.

Outdoor table with storage

Photo Courtesy of Joss & Main as well as Suncast

This open-air storage unit allows pool floats to dry while being stored.

Photo Courtesy of Wayfair

The Crawfordsville Outdoor Wicker Float Caddy Table Dolly from Wayfair is an alternative, if you prefer to have an option that remains open. (This is helpful when pool supplies need to air dry.) This dolly includes wheels so you can move the unit close to the pool when needed and then tuck it out of sight when the supplies aren’t being used. The lockable wheels also keep the dolly in place when you’re loading it up. It measures 29.5 inches high x 44 inches wide x 37.5 inches in depth and has a 250 pound weight capacity. It retails for $237.99 online.

Also see our “Storage for Outside Living Spaces” blog post from last month for more backyard storage solutions.

covered outdoor seating on deck

Photo Credit: Julie Soefer

2). Depending on the size of your yard, you’ll want to establish a few sitting areas. At least one seating area in the shade or under a porch covering with a fan is ideal in the hotter months. Remember to include side or accent tables where you can rest a beverage or light a Citronella candle.

If you have children at home, you may consider another seating arrangement, where they can play music, layout and socialize. Another consideration is how you use your yard, which should lead you to the type of seating you need. If you enjoying laying in the sun, a chaise or two can create one vignette. If your family or guests tend to sit and chat, comfortable chairs and sofas make more sense. Again, the size, composition and typical use of your yard are key factors.

Orla Towel Rack is convenient for hanging up wet & dry towels

Photo Courtesy of Wayfair

3). Next, plan an inconspicuous place to hang wet towels to dry. We recommend placing a standing towel rack with fresh, dry towels near the pool. If you swim frequently, beach towels can easily be hung to dry, which may allow you to reuse them. Unlike bath towels, these may not need to be washed after each use, which is a good thing since most beach towels tend to be bulky and only a few can fit at a time in a standard washing machine. The Orla Towel Rack shown at left is available from Wayfair for $289.99 and its lightweight construction means it can be placed in the garage when it’s not needed outdoors.

A swinging towel rack can hold pool towels and fold away when not in use.

Photo Courtesy of GERZ and Amazon

Alternatively, another idea is to install a swinging towel rack to a nearby wall. This heavy-duty towel bar is made from durable stainless steel materials, ensuring that it will not rust, corrode or lose its shine. It’s available with four arms and six arms, starting at $39.80 from Amazon. Push the arms against the wall to save space.

Collect sunscreen, goggles & more in baskets or bins like this.

Photo Courtesy of Amazon

4). Instead of having goggles, sunscreen, mosquito repellent and the like scattered throughout the back yard, pull these items together in a small tub or basket. These small containers can be regularly stored indoors and simply placed outside when needed. It also makes it easy for guests to use when placed on a table or bench. Choose bins in coordinating colors with your outdoor furniture cushions and sun umbrella for a harmonious look. Baskets like this are available at Amazon and Target.

5). Grilling is a popular hobby, which is why we suggest having a dedicated area for the grill. Not only should you keep a heated grill away from children and pets for safety reasons, outdoor grills emit such heat that you’ll want to escape the warmth when you’re not cooking. Plan adequate space for a preparation zone, where you can lay your utensils, spices and platter of food. While not perfect for a photo shoot, if you have a free-standing grill, a cover is a good investment.

outdoor kitchen from HGTV

Photo Courtesy of HGTV

“With breathtaking countryside views and a brand-new accompanying outdoor room, these homeowners now have even more reason to be outside. To make use of the existing white and cream limestone patio, the designers built a barbecue unit and a two-level L-shaped grill area. For a Texas-style touch and extra shade, a hand-scraped cedar and stained pergola covers the entire space. Design by Dean Marsico and Derek Stearns”*

Pamela O'Brien sports her PHD apron that's ideal for grilling.

Pamela O’Brien sports her apron that’s ideal for grilling.

6). Use large, outdoor rugs to visually define gathering areas and add interest. As mentioned in point 4 above, incorporate the colors of your furniture cushions and sun umbrella to create a cohesive look just like you would indoors. Place rugs inside your back, side and pool doors to soak up water and debris. Door mats are essential at your front and back doors in our opinion! Double coverage means less mess in the house! Even without a pool, you can minimize dirt tracked into your home with a rug intended for high traffic areas like a back entrance.

NOTE: Let us know what you think about the tips shared in this blog post. Add your thoughts to the Comments feature below. A drawing from the respondents will happen mid-July with 3 lucky winners being awarded & thanked with a Pamela Hope Designs apron like the one shown here. It’s the perfect color for BBQ stains! So… let’s hear from you!

“20 Outdoor Kitchens and Grilling Stations,” November 25, 2014,*

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