Retrofit New Spaces
Painted metal lawn chairs (just like Grandma and Granddad's outdoor seating) remain sentimental favorites that blast us back to gentler times. Find original vintage versions at sales, antiques shops, and Internet auction sites; reproduction options are seasonally available at home centers and discount stores. Complete the retro look with an antique iron table and a freestanding umbrella.
Master the Blend
Make sure outdoor spaces furnished with flea-market finds stay in tune with their surroundings. Opt for an organic palette, worn wood finishes, and metal accents that gain interesting patinas with age. This textural grouping of old, new, and handcrafted furnishings takes its color cues from the stone fireplace and its moss-stained mantel, where vintage lanterns and flowerpots contribute sculptural silhouettes and worn patinas to the nature-inspired mix.
Pick Things with Patina
Touched-by-time finishes, whether on farm tables, stepladders, birdhouses, or garden gear, are essential components of flea market design. These aged patinas -- often caused by exposure to wind, rain, and sun -- work well in outdoor spaces. Use stepladders as trellises; exhibit old birdhouses as lawn art; and employ vintage vessels as charming planters.
Whether crafted of lattice, fabric, or iron, walls define an outdoor room, create a sense of enclosure, and -- most important for the collector -- provide backgrounds for displaying cool things. This tented gazebo showcases a fine-tuned arrangement of vintage wicker, captivating fabrics, and accessories such as a tree-trunk table and the framed painting over the wicker love seat.
Carry Inside Comforts Out
Think of your porch as an outdoor great-room that can easily (and chicly!) accommodate sitting, dining, and display. Hang vintage mirrors to reflect the landscape; lay area rugs for underfoot warmth; and repurpose flea market tables, shelves, and chairs to handle your form and function needs. Showcase canning jars, old-timey pottery, and vivacious fabrics to give shabby furniture finishes a lift.
Plot a Course
Further "life's a beach" character by arranging tag-sale wicker refreshed with white paint alongside old and new pieces in a palette of tropical sea, sky, and citrus shades. Exhibit large-scale letters that spell out your theme. Energize the view with colorful sea-critter figures and nubby striped textiles.
Set a Hospitable Stage
Alfresco dining offers pleasures aplenty, including exposure to fresh breezes, starlit skies, and passing-through wildlife. But fresh-air eats ascend to celebratory status when served on finely dressed tables. Kraft paper, newspaper place mats, black-and-white dishes, and shiny cans filled with blousy blooms formalize an ordinary picnic table lit by a candelabra crafted from a garage-sale tray.
Put On the Glitz
Even the most battered and diversely styled curbside finds take on refined airs and coordinated character when updated with paint. When you want extra-special results, grab a can of metallic silver, gold, bronze, or copper spray paint to give end tables, chair frames, bookcases, and table bases an unexpected glow. Before you spray, clean, sand, and prime to-be-painted surfaces to ensure successful outcomes.
Modernize the View
Old-timey doesn't have to look old-fashioned. Use unexpected paint colors to give flea market wicker chairs, rattan settees, and metal lawn chairs contemporary cachet. Layer in modern furnishings, geometric area rugs, and a mix of retro and refined fabrics to fashion eclectic outdoor rooms that pay tribute to the past while accommodating present-day needs and flea market finds.
Transport your outdoor living spaces to far-off lands using an array of ethnic-influenced treasures. Look for furniture, fabrics, and accessories that sport Asian profiles, Mideastern motifs, French panache, or Tuscan character. Anchor conversation groupings with a painted trunk that evokes images of sea travel. Arrange tropical foliage in oversize vintage urns to reference exotic ports of call.
Mind Your Materials
Consider the style you wish to achieve and search out metal accents that complement that specific look. Here, black-iron lanterns and a wall-mounted iron grid partner with Mediterranean-type copper chairs to create a Spanish attitude, which suits this outdoor nook's rustic beams and tile floors. Like something more modern? Seek out midcentury modern accessories rendered in chrome, stainless steel, and aluminum.
Maximize a pergola's purpose by making it a base for leisurely pursuits. Cap the structure with lattice panels to create a shade-providing framework that you can use to support an old-timey rope hammock. Decorate the relaxation station with hanging planters, dangling copper stars, antique lanterns, or a collection of prismatic crystals.
Arrange an Alfresco Bathing Station
Fashion a spa-like sanctuary in a private corner abutting your home. Have a plumber install pipes that to carry water through a showerhead and a vintage faucet that can be used to fill a footed tub. Underscore the haven's pampering purpose by adding an antique garden chair, a shelf to hold toiletries and candles, and a repurposed bookcase equipped with iron baskets to corral plush bath towels.
Pile on Patterns
Look to your stash of vintage fabric remnants, collection of pretty printed hankies, or bolts of outdoor textiles with period-apt patterns to establish a color scheme in your outdoor room. Use era-evocative bark cloths, splashy oilcloths, and ticking fabrics to cover cushions, pillows, and tabletops. Display hand-painted trays and serving pieces boasting nostalgic motifs to round out your design.
Tell a Story
Mount a thematic exhibit that rises from foundation plantings to create interest alongside your home, garage, or shed. Group like-minded treasures around a beat-up table that will look even finer with further weathering. This homeowner, who has a penchant for rural references, combines fowl figures and scintillating signage to compose a chicken-and-egg narrative.
Repurpose Printed Materials
When shopping flea markets, antiques shops, and tag sales, keep your eyes open for bags, crates, and containers bearing their original labels or printed graphics. Burlap sacks once used to hold coffee beans, animal feed, or seeds for planting make noteworthy chair covers. Boxes -- from colorfully stickered fruit crates to ink-stamped wooden beer cases -- stylishly stack up as bases for patio tables, serving bars, and storage shelves.
Accentuate Every Corner
Arrange shapely antique urns and oversize pots as garden centerpieces and to mark entry points to pathways, sheds, and outdoor rooms. Give no-frills outbuildings an eye-pleasing presence. Paint shutters, doors, and woodwork so they stand out from the building's siding. Adorn shed walls with whimsical plaques, birdfeeders, and planting boxes spilling over with vines and colorful blossoms.