Backyard Bliss

7 ways to spruce up your outdoor space in Austin this winter

7 ways to spruce up your outdoor space in Austin this winter

Backyard at 4412 Lakeside in Dallas
Enjoy the cooler temperatures in Austin by enhancing your outdoor space with decorative and functional design. Photo courtesy of Dave Perry-Miller & Associates

One upside of Austin's unpredictable winter weather is that you can never fully rule out the great outdoors. Even when the trees are bare and the days short, the subtle chill of a December night can beckon you out to your patio, which you can finally enjoy with fewer mosquitoes. Take full advantage of a pleasant evening by decking out your own backyard with these tips.

There's nothing like a nice rug to really tie a room together, and that's true outdoors as well. With limitless design options on indoor/outdoor rugs made of tough natural fabrics like sisal or bamboo, it's easy to add warmth and style to chilly concrete slabs. Many synthetic materials are mildew resistant and easy to clean. For a low maintenance fabric foundation, choose a rug that will allow water, leaves, and bugs easy passage. Try Anthony's Patio for a great selection and take advantage of the Westlake clearance sale before the shop moves to new digs on Burnet.

Gather around the old fireside to share stories, roast marshmallows, or simply watch the fire dance. Chimineas originated as Mexican bread ovens and live on as an enchanting way to entertain and keep warm on a chilly night. The traditional shape — a round bowl to hold the fire tapering up into a chimney — directs the smoke upward and off the patio while keeping the flames under control. Miguel's Gallery & Garden carries a number of options from the traditional oven shape to whimsical stone animals with mouths full of fire. Throw in a fragrant wood to create the perfect ambiance.

If Franklin has taught us anything, it's that people will stand around outside for hours for good barbecue. Whether you choose clean-burning propane or the classic taste of charcoal, a grill is an entertaining must. If you're looking for something simple or portable, grills are available at most hardware stores. But if true luxury calls, let Flo Grills of Austin build an outdoor kitchen in your backyard and see who's lining up for your next shindig.

Planters are a great way to house native plants and add pops of color, even during the winter months. Miguel's carries everything from Vietnamese pottery to traditional Mexican hacienda styles. Glossy styles will reflect light, while terra cotta is porous enough to allow plants to "breathe." Stone vessels feature an abundance of small rocks stacked into delicate rows, available in mosaic patterns as well as simple earth tones.

Furnish your fete with something new or used from Austin's Furniture Depot. It's the place to get retro lawn furniture in an array of candy colors, as well as random oddities to feather your nest. Outdoor furniture should honor form and function with sturdy materials and fabrics you can wipe or hose off. Personal taste is your best guide, but consider heftier options like a padded sofa for more heavily wooded yards, or delicate wrought iron for xeriscaped grounds.

Twinkle, twinkle, little lights! The shortest days of the year make good outdoor lighting a must, and that old porch light may not cut it. Repurposing white Christmas lights makes the easiest and cheapest option, but avoid icicle or colored varieties that may make it seem you've just forgotten to take yours down from the holiday. For sophisticates, check out Texas Outdoor Lighting's before and after gallery to see what a difference well-placed lighting can make. Texas Outdoor Lighting proudly lights the Alamo, which is all the endorsement we need.

Add flair to your function with vintage finds. Whether you're combing through Goodwill for funky ashtrays or strolling the North Loop vintage stores for unusual planters, you're going to need to find something one-of-a-kind to distinguish your amazing party from all the others. Relax your guests with a water feature from Miguel's, available in a dizzying array of shapes and sizes, or take a fairy garden workshop (yes, really) at the Great Outdoors to learn how to bring a little whimsy to your yard. You've got to keep it weird somehow.