BuildDirect Blog: Life at Home

Outdoor Room Themes: Outdoor Living Spaces As Exotic Locales

If you’re like me, you think your backyard or deck is where you get to live a little.

It’s where you let loose and unwind, soak up some sun, read a book, entertain friends. It’s also a great place to have fun with a theme. Embrace your creative side and see what you can create in terms of a backyard that transports you to another time, place, and culture.

When you’re willing to do a little DIY, shop off the beaten track, and channel your craft side, it’s possible to create a whole other world just steps outside your back door.

Whether you’re a world traveller with finds to display or a Midwesterner whose budget doesn’t include globetrotting, picking a fun theme with exotic flavor may be just the getaway you need at the end of a long day.

Here are a few ideas to get you inspired.

1. Arabian Nights

Nothing says “lounging in style” like an Arabian tent. Imagine a deck with overlapping old Persian-style rugs and gorgeous large pillows for lying upon.

If you’re crafty, you can make bench seating using long custom cuts of foam and upholster it with durable fabrics in bold reds. Use low-profile tables with candles and lanterns to break up the space.

Whether you use a garden tent, an awning, or have a covered deck, suspending great printed fabrics found in import shops with a few rich solid-color fabrics as bright contrasting pieces is what brings in that lush feel.

If you want to go Arabian, don’t shy away from color. That’s half the fun.


2. British Colonial

Think “A Passage to India.”

The “colonial” look is often big on creams and whites for wall color, linens, and drapes. It’s the clean backdrop that makes all the accoutrements stand out — things like natural woods and exotic knickknacks with the occasional animal print thrown in and a always palm frond or two for good measure.

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That clean white palette plays up the contrasts so nicely. With a touch of exotic, some rattan and grass mat mixed in with stately wood antiques or rustic painted pieces, pale backgrounds keep the look crisp and light.

With British colonies being found everywhere from Africa, India, and the West Indies to Hong Kong, the colonial style can unify a lot of authentic or aboriginal souvenir pieces like masks, candle holders, fans, art, and rugs with a big dose of old-world appeal.

Most colonies were in hot, lush jungles, so the British colonial style isn’t complete without with potted palm trees and big leafy plants. (A nice zebra floor rug couldn’t hurt.)

3. Jamaica Good Deck, Mon

I love the brash yellows, reds, greens, and other bright colors in my fave Jamaican patty bakery. It’s filled with the rustic vivid folk style I associate with my imagination of what the “real” Jamaica off the cruise ship route would be like.

If you’re looking for a fun, simple, chill space filled with mixed-and-matched pieces, a Jamaican-style deck or patio might do the trick. Embrace fun Caribbean colors like pinks, purples, bright blues and yellows, and find unifying pieces, like a great old rug that can handle, that bring your colors and knickknacks together.

A comfy old hammock, some chairs and a table, maybe a casual cushion-topped bench for lounging on, some bright fabrics to hang for shade on sunny days, playful lighting, and it’ll feel like summer even on gray days.

The Caribbean folk style is often suited to used finds and hand-me-downs brought together by splashy colors and whimsical pieces, so it’s a really playful look to use for a deck get-away, and it’s a good time to go with the flow, mon.

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4. Polynesian Surf Shack

Bring out the kitsch! Carve up the pineapple! It’s Tiki time, baby.

Think American ex-pat living on a Polynesian beach. It’s time to hang ten.

And everybody knows you can’t have a surf shack without a Tiki bar. You can wrap an old wet-bar with some Lampac or other grass weave wall mats, or improv a Tiki bar something like these guys in their video.

Now, Tiki torches are not debatable, but chili pepper lights or paper patio lanterns are. Get them anyhow. They’re fun! And we like fun on a summer night.

You can throw some sand on the ground around the bar, make a grass thatch umbrella for shade and atmosphere. Surround the area with funky Polynesian masks and pictures of Hawaiian girls and boys, start collecting pineapple art, and embrace bamboo, ‘cos they’re all Tiki gold.

Buy the little paper umbrellas for your drinks. Use old surfboards for decor for anything from a place to grow your sweet peas up, all the way through to making a surfboard coffee table via DIYing it.

I don’t know if it’s getting raised on Gilligan’s Island, but I find the Tiki grass hut look captures the imagination and transports me to other worlds even in 2012. Where better to have that endless summer beverage than your backyard faux-Polynesian paradise?

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5. Hillbilly Chic

The hit miniseries The Hatfields & McCoys is set in America’s Appalachians, but it looks pretty exotic to some of us cityfolk. Besides, there’s something about rustic Americana that seems of a dreamy time and place.

Source: via Christi on Pinterest


An old shed or a cobbled-together lean-to made of weathered old timber can have a pretty comfortable feel on a summer day, and dressing it up in hillbilly Americana is easy because it’s all about a rustic mishmash.

String up a hammock, use “experienced” wooden furniture. Scatter some simple American throwbacks like collectible tins, old cooking utensils, a straw hat, and the like. Throw vintage linens on side tables for that cozy last-century look.

And y’all gonna need the hillbilly must-have: A great rocking chair with a nice plaid blanket or a quilt for chilly late nights.

Get yourself a nice tray to carry your pitcher of iced tea to the deck, and you’ll have it made.


All of these themes sort of speak to specific personalities. In each, there are ways to work a lot of personal momentoes and fun items into the looks. Have fun with it and it’ll show when others visit.

When you’ve got a fun space, lots of quirky things around, it’s the perfect conversation starter for all those summer evenings you’ll be enjoying with friends. And you’ll enjoy it when they’re not there, too.

Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.

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