Bring the outside in

Capitalize on end-of-season sales for indoor patios

By Debbie Travis

King Features Syndicate

Dear Debbie: Immediately behind our house we have a free-standing, screened-in room, 15 feet by 20 feet, that can be used for about five months a year. It has a concrete floor covered in AstroTurf, plywood panels on the ceiling and one wall that is sealed and dark. Glass sliders are on the remaining three walls. I want to soften the plywood with paint, but what about the knots? Would it be too cold if I polished the concrete and put in an area rug? — Ruth

Dear Ruth: There’s a universal appeal to cooking and eating outdoors; it’s something that draws us all and is one of our favorite means of celebrating the warm-weather seasons.


In "The New Outdoor Kitchen" by Deborah Krasner, published by the Taunton Press, 2007, this spirit of outdoor entertaining for friends and family is richly portrayed. The room shown here is from the book, photographed by Eric Roth. Inside the screen house, cream-color beadboard walls and arts and crafts-styled lighting fixtures create a light yet cozy atmosphere. Comfy lounge chairs and a sofa are covered in summer white fabrics, and all the wood, the teak dining set and the sliding mahogany screen doors are equally at home inside or on a deck. The barbecue and grill are set up on wheels just outside the screen house, but can be moved wherever the party is.

You are absolutely on the right track. A little work will give your outdoor room a huge lift.

Begin by tossing out the AstroTurf.

Sand the paneling to rough up the sealed surface, then apply a high-adhesion sealer/primer before you apply a white or cream water-based exterior paint. Choose a semi-gloss sheen, as it will up the reflective quality. Also, semi-gloss and gloss paints are more durable, making them a good choice for outdoor surfaces.

The concrete floor can be polished or painted, but I would choose polishing it to bring out the natural hues in the floor. Laying down a carpet isn’t necessary, but it will intensify the mood and add a degree of comfort. Area rugs, a painted floor cloth or a country-style rag rug are all good alternatives, depending on your decorating theme.

Safely secure shelves or wall hangers to display lots of candles, making sure they are protected by glass. If the room is wired for electricity, check out the wide array of lighting, which will heighten the magical atmosphere when darkness falls — anything from twinkle lights to hurricane-style lamps and even a wrought-iron or twig-style chandelier.

Creating outdoor rooms with an interior-decor sensitivity is a strong trend right now. The new weave furniture suits the lounge-like atmosphere with lots of plump padding on the seating and boxy coffee tables.

Anyone who has an old shed or garage out back might think about fixing it up with new purpose. There are more products on the market to make this space work, including heaters designed for outdoor use.


Plan now for next spring; it’s a perfect time to take advantage of end-of-season sales.

Debbie Travis’ House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. E-mail your questions to

What To Read Next
Fundraising is underway to move the giant ball of twine from the Highland, Wisconsin, home of creator James Frank Kotera, who died last month at age 75, 44 years after starting the big ball.