Lake Tahoe Home: Embrace style with your outdoor living spaces |

Lake Tahoe Home: Embrace style with your outdoor living spaces

Amelia Richmond
Special to the Tribune
Lakeside deck by IMI Design Studio.
Vance Fox / |

Read more in Lake Tahoe Home

This story has been adapted from the August 2016 edition of Lake Tahoe Home, a monthly magazine produced by the staff at Tahoe Magazine and the Sierra Sun, North Lake Tahoe Bonanza and Tahoe Daily Tribune newspapers. Visit to read a digital copy of the magazine, which is available now on newsstands throughout the greater Truckee-Tahoe region.


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A North Lake Tahoe transplant of seven years, I originally hail from the land of bugs. Mosquitoes swarmed the summer dinners on my family’s New England patio, and no-see-ums attacked any exposed skin the mosquitoes left untouched.

Here in the Northern California mountains, however, our evenings are gloriously bug-free, and gardens, decks and patios offer outdoor space with the potential to create living spaces as welcoming and comfortable as our indoor family rooms and kitchens.

We asked the design experts for tips to create the most useful and inviting outdoor living spaces for mountain homes.


Natalie Malik of Talie Jane Interiors in Stateline recommends considering your patio as an extension of your home.

“Use the same ideas about furniture placement as you would a living room,” says Malik. “Couches, coffee tables, lighting, rugs, pillows and fabrics should all work together and reflect your home’s interior.”

Just as you would inside your home, Malik suggests designating specific zones for eating, conversing and relaxing, as well as mix and matching furniture and fabrics.

“Everything should not match,” she cautions. “Instead, create an interesting, eclectic mix of pieces to add character to your patio.”

For those looking to spruce up their space on a budget, Malik recommends visiting antique stores, flea markets and salvage boutiques for outdoor furniture, especially wrought iron pieces.

“Reupholstered cushions can make all the difference in the world and transform these treasures,” she says. “It’s fun to spend a morning or afternoon hunting for old pieces, and then using your creativity to repurpose and transform them to suit you and your space.”

When it comes to fabrics, Malik notes outdoor fabrics have come a long way in both color and pattern offerings, and stain resistance and durability. She recommends Ballard Designs for their furniture that won’t break the bank and their wide selection of outdoor fabric choices.

“This is a place you want to spend quality time relaxing and entertaining, so it helps to provide a variety of seating options such as lounge chairs, benches, stools and couches,” says Malik. “The trend is toward bar stools and deep, casual seating arrangements rather than typical dining sets, allowing for a more versatile, comfortable and relaxed setting.”

When it comes to choosing furniture, comfort is at the top of the list for Elisa DiNallo of Truckee’s DiNallo Designs.

“If you have outdoor seating around your fire pit, make sure it’s comfortable and there is space for a decent-sized group,” recommends DiNallo.


Tahoe’s cool nighttime temperatures can at times put a damper on outdoor dining and patio parties. DiNallo and Malik recommend incorporating heating elements into your outdoor space, whether it’s a fairly inexpensive wood-burning fire pit or a custom-designed piece.

DiNallo tends to prefer gas elements for their convenience and fire safety, noting they can be hand built by landscape architects or purchased off the shelf.

“There are so may beautiful gas fire pits and fire structures, and they make for clean and simple use,” she says. “They’re generally safer, as you don’t have sparks flying or embers at the end of the night. Just turn it off and go to bed!”

Malik is also an advocate of fire pits, as well as fireplaces.

“Fireplaces are such a nice touch to outdoor patios, and they can also act as focal points,” she says. “Get the most use out of your outdoor space by using it on chilly days or nights. Having drinks fireside is a great way to spend a romantic evening, and it’s also fun for parties.”

In addition to fire elements, good lighting is key for outdoor spaces. Malik notes reflections from inside the house are not enough to illuminate your patio. She adds that while tiki torches, paper lanterns and Christmas lights are fun, they are not best suited for high-end patios. Instead, she looks for high-quality, permanent outdoor lighting solutions.

“From sconces to pendants and chandeliers, Restoration Hardware has some great outdoor lighting options,” she says. “Flea markets and vintage stores are also great sources for outdoor lighting. Try not to limit yourself. Unique pieces can easily be converted into fixtures. ”


Our high-elevation sun has the potential to scorch both skin and fabrics, so it is important to create shaded areas on your porch or patio.

“Areas of shade provide a wonderful respite, whether it’s a pergola, umbrella, awning, or curtains, or incorporated into the furniture, such as covered or canopied lounge chairs,” says Malik.

For DiNallo, shade is all about layering.

“I love creating layered shade — ideally incorporating natural elements such as trees and shrubs so it’s not just an umbrella,” DiNallo says. “Shrubbery around the space also creates a natural barrier and added privacy.”

She adds that freestanding umbrellas can be a great choice, as you can move them with the sun.

For the ultimate outdoor space, Malik highlights the importance of planters and flowers.

“High quality planters and flowers can add so much to your space,” says Malik. “They bring out bright colors that complement your furniture and fabrics. Less is not more. Don’t skimp!”

Malik notes there are many types of flowers that are easily cared for without a lot of effort, which local nurseries can help you find. She also recommends looking for creative ways to display planters, such as vertically along an exterior wall, hanging in baskets, grounded in heavy pots, woven within a built structure or lattice work, or planted around the edges of your patio.

As for DiNallo, she loves creating different spaces within a property, such as a rock or flower garden in one particular area.

“I really like the way a space can meander from one type of space to another,” she says. “You might have some grass or stepping stones leading from one place to an area, or add a bench in a little wooded area.”

The most important factor is to create an outdoor space that reflects your style and intended uses.

“This is your backyard escape,” says Malik. “Use furniture and accessories that you love and inspire you.”

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