How to Design Your Outdoor Space

Bunny Williams visits the Boston Design Center to share her tips.


Photos clockwise from left: courtesy of Century, courtesy of Shutterstock, courtesy of Century.

Admired designer Bunny Williams says that for her, Boston is where it all began, as she recounted her days as an interior design major at Garland Junior College to a packed house at the Design Center this week. In addition to her keen eye for classic antiques and her graceful approach to traditional decor, Williams has a big passion for gardens, reminding guests that what we look at through the windows of our homes should be part of the design.

With a new line of garden furniture that she designed for Century, Williams shared her thoughts on creating beautiful garden spaces. No matter how big your yard, start with beautiful plants and remember her tips:

Add an object: “It will be the animate inanimate object in the space,” says Williams. Choose something natural to draw your eye—an urn to accentuate an opening, a sundial or a statue in the middle of a garden. Add an object that’s similar in style to your interiors, like abstract sculpture for a contemporary home.

Provide seating: “Do this, or you’ll walk around and then go back inside without enjoying anything,” says Williams. Even if there’s not much space, a single bench or chair will get you out to spend time in the garden.

Focus on one Color: “Keep furniture colors consistent so that plants stand out,” says Williams. For a shaded area, she loves bright white, and in addition to the natural wooden tones, bright blue is a favorite shade because it stands out against green gardens. This rule also applies when adding pots and planters: “Choose different shapes, but keep the color the same,” Williams advises.

Choose materials with care: “Know that the elements are a factor when you furnish your garden,” says Williams. In the northeast, pots made of metal, hard stone, or plastic can stay out all winter. Williams embraces rusty chairs and moss-covered benches, but those who don’t should look for weather-resistant materials.

Don’t discount planter boxes: “Planter boxes can make a garden,” says Williams. “A row of boxes with trees or annuals creates an architecture on the outside and makes for an interesting space.” For those who aren’t egger to dig in the dirt, Williams recommends low-maintenance evergreens or boxwood.