May 25th, 2011 / posted by paularath

A welcoming lanai can add useful space to a home.

When it comes to interior design, there’s a natural resource the majority of Hawaii people ignore: the exterior. What a waste! We have ideal weather for outdoor living all year long and we all have at least a little outdoor space we can use, whether it’s a lanai, a deck, a rooftop or an entryway.

So why not use this valuable exterior space? That’s the thinking behind a new Hawaii company, Outdoor Spaces (, created by Jill Braden of Kaneohe. The ASID interior designer offers a one-stop service to design and create outdoor rooms and landscapes for Island residences and businesses. She offers design services in conjunction with numerous retail and trade-only lines of furniture, outdoor fabrics and lighting, as well as outdoor art from selected local artists and crafstmen.

Custom designed light fixture from Outdoor Spaces and Hale Tropical Living

The biggest mistake Island folks make, Braden said, is not planning our outdoor spaces. “People don’t put the same level of thought or planning into their outdoor spaces as they do with their interiors. The result is often haphazard evolution of plants and purchases which may or may not really work together. I call it Tutu’s garden – one pot of this and one pot of that and no plan or unity.” It’s missing the harmony an outdoor space can have, she explained.

Braden added, “We don’t have a lot of sources for interesting garden art and accessories other than pots, so we don’t see the integration of those neat accessories which add so much character. This is one area where designers, with their access to many sources, can be very useful.”

Braden works with Hale Tropical Living to create copper lights, wood and stone carvings for custom projects. She  also works with landscaping companies and even gets involved in plant sellection to create a unified look.

Art in an entryway or lanai can create a welcoming feeling.

I asked Braden how people in Hawaii can better utilize the space on their condo lanais. Here’s what she said: “Small spaces have the advantage of ‘a little goes a long way.’ Think of the space as another room, or an extension of the living room. I love using art outside, a small wood or stone carving or metal wall art goes a long way toward giving a lanai presence. Add character with interesting accents like a rain drum side table or ceramic garden stools. On the green side, succulent container gardens are hot. The beautiful combinations of color and texture and low maintenance found in the succulent family make them a natural for small scale container gardening or vertical planters mounted on a wall. Or, if you’re the kind of person who remembers to water – a small herb garden in an attractive pot does double duty. An interesting piece of driftwood combined with air plants can also make a great wall accent.”

Succulents are easy to care for and add color and life to outdoor spaces.

If you have a budget for your outdoor space, Braden suggests “Upgrading the seating with something new or refinishing what you already have and adding some color and pattern with outdoor pillows or an outdoor rug might have the greatest impact. The choices in outdoor fabric and floor coverings have exploded over the past few years and there are almost unlimited opportunities in this area.”

There are many more outdoor furniture options now than there were ten years ago.

In regard to entryways, Braden said the easiest and most impactful way to add interest to an entryway is “By changing the door. This can be a new door or a new coat of paint on the old door. Changing the color of the door alone in many cases can make a huge difference.

“Other easy upgrades to the entry would include changing the light fixtures and adding an interesting accent such as a beautiful large pot or sculptural object. If space allows, a bench at the entrance is always welcome, possibly a small chest for storing shoes. Today’s homes are often accessed most frequently through the garage, leaving the actual entry under utilized and often ignored, but regardless of how it is used, the entry is an important visual component and the first thing your visitors see and one of the easiest areas to revamp. More ambitious projects could involve extending the size of the entry approach, adding stone or tile to a plain concrete slab, redoing the approach pathway paving and plantings or adding a portico.”

Growing food is another opportunity we often pass up in Hawaii. Braden said it requires a small space to grow food, especially herbs and vegetables. They can be grown in pots on the lanai or in a plot in the backyard.

Braden, who has a degree in interior design from Parsons in New York City, lived and worked in Japan for several years. There she learned the economy of outdoor spaces and making the most with the space you have. The Japanese aesthetic is often evident in her work.

Braden’s understanding of the economy of space serves her well in Hawaii. Although our homes are not often as tiny as Japanese homes, they can be on the small side. That’s why it’s so important to maximize our outdoor spaces.

To learn more about Braden, go to the site of the interior deisgn firm she runs with her partner, Geeta Mehta:

– Paula Rath

Art in the outdoors can make a strong design statement.

What are they saying?
Leave a comment below.
May 27th, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Wonderful pictures…love it!….Hawaii Website Design

May 28th, 2011 at 1:47 am

Me too! Writing this story has really made me think about our deck and how we should be maximizing our outdoor space there. Now I just have to DO something about it!

Francisco Spradlin
May 24th, 2013 at 2:45 pm

A beautifully landscaped property can bring pleasure to you, your family, as well as your neighborhood. This practically brings pride to your humble home, making you a proud owner of your lot. To create a landscape that is both grandiose and easy to maintain, you need to consider some important things and basically some useful home landscaping ideas. The scope and limitation of your property size, the climatic conditions of your area where you live, and the types of soil you have to deal with in your property are some of the primary factors you should consider…**`

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