As the warmth of summer is upon us, thoughts turn to spending long, lazy days outside, soaking in the sunshine with family and friends.And certainly after spending a long winter hibernating indoors, expanding our horizons to the outdoors by creating beautiful outdoor rooms elevates living. In fact, studies show that spending time outside around green spaces can positively impact our lives on many levels, from improving our creativity to lowering our blood pressure and heart rates.“Having an outdoor space is not only functional, esthetically pleasing and a great place to entertain, it’s also a space to relax, decompress and refresh,” says Seema Ramani, interior designer at EQ3.But there is more to creating a beautiful outdoor space than just plopping down a hammock in the middle of the backyard, and it starts with highlighting nature as the focal point — the gardens, water features and trees.“Consider it the backdrop. Nature is filled with intriguing stimuli and natural forces, which help us de-stress,” says Ramani.Then begin by painting brush strokes of colour and texture with materials that speak to you — wicker, rattan, metals and teak.Kicking it up a notch with various shades of a single colour provides the most impact, shares Ramani.Pops of vibrancy can be infused through cushions and coverings.“But don’t try to match the colours in your flower garden, as nothing man-made can truly compete with Mother Nature,” she says.Keep in mind that earthy textures and cool tones will neutralize high voltage hues, while white and shades of pale chalk will make the verdant greens and chartreuse notes of nature pop.Joe Raboine, director of residential hardscapes at Belgard, a brick and concrete paver manufacturing company, agrees that the trends in outdoor living reflect the shifting values towards health and balance.Sleek and modular esthetics are definitely in, while less is more is definitely the trend du jour. Styles are coming full circle and reflect 1970s and ’80s designs with deep seating and modern lines all the rage.“Simple, soft and neutral colours like grey and taupe are blending with clean design lines to create approachable, modern outdoor spaces,” says Raboine.When it comes to choosing furniture, the sky is the limit — think porcelain, hand-woven rope, Cartenza weave, stainless steel resin and exotic woods, but it is important that comfort and longevity are top-of-mind. Summer style is all about ease of living.“Shop for your outdoor furniture like you would shop for your indoor furniture,” says Terry Welch, designer and sales at Patioline, a family-owned outdoor furnishings store in Calgary.To maximize seating potential, consider a sectional, a sofa grouping or the newest design trend — a curved sofa. Try everything on for size before you buy. Sit on as many chairs as you can to get an idea of what works for you. Welch also suggests buying cushions made with luxury foam for the ultimate in durability and plushness.“If you buy good quality, the furniture will last for 30 years. You will just need to change up the cushions and fabrics. Good quality companies keep these lines year after year,” she says.Neutral colours are on trend with graphite topping the charts, while extruded aluminum, cast aluminum, and kiln dried Indonesian teak will last in Calgary’s harsh climate.Long Tuscan-style dining tables, crafted from steel and ceramic are also all the rage. “They are like a stunningly beautiful piece of art,” Welch.If you are a high-rise condo dweller wanting to furnish a cozy outdoor space, ensure that the furnishings you consider have considerable weight. Wrought iron, marine grade stainless steel and extruded and cast aluminum are good choices.“On a high-rise balcony, you really need something that is not going to blow around, especially in Calgary where it can get quite windy,”And last but not least, don’t forget the piece de resistance — fire tables, heaters and lots of mood lighting. “They are a must, after all we live in Canada. They work beautifully to extend the season and warm up the space to keep it as cozy as your living room indoors,” says Welch.