Quarantine and distancing guidelines are keeping up us at home. However, they are not keeping us inside.

Living in Iowa, where winters are cold and long, we yearn for the slightly milder weeks of midspring when it’s time to haul patio furniture outside and plant our garden planters.

Here we are in May, and we haven’t quite absorbed the unprecedented circumstances of the past two months. We are beginning to understand a byproduct of the abrupt stop to our travels, crowded spaces, and buzzing around to events and gatherings. The greater message suggests that we slow down and just be. What better place to do this than outdoors? While we have been on pause, the daffodils, tulips, and flowering crabapples have arrived in all their joyful bounty. If regular meetings, events, and out-of-town trips had filled my calendar, I might have missed this glorious season completely.

Sure, my time inside, like everyone’s, has had me analyzing every corner and closet. I’m watching our family really use the living spaces and wondering if I should make updates or changes. Since we moved into our house only two years ago, I’ve made it into our home and it doesn’t need much. However, each spring, I look at our garden rooms and patio space with a fresh eye. This year I want to refresh our outdoor living area with vibrant hues. As I select plants and flowers to complement my property, I’ll think about furniture and accessories to introduce to the setting too.

I have a feeling that with distancing measures becoming part of our lifestyle, outdoor entertaining is going to be at an all-time high this summer. My affinity for blue and white drew my attention to a trio of melamine trays. Blue and white options are plentiful and the perfect sidekick to the natural color of bright sky. I’m ready to make my favorite green salad, and when I do, I’ll serve it in a big blue-and-white bowl. A delicate motif on clear tumblers will give the slightest hint of pretty to countless glasses of lemonade.

Outdoor style

That covers the beautiful side of blue and white. Now let’s talk about the duo’s bold possibilities. Dynamic geometric patterns on rugs and toss pillows can anchor a setting. Pots filled with favorite herb plantings will make any dish I prepare for friends extra personal.

I stand with my design colleagues. I have a clear realization that I cannot do it as well as Mother Nature, the original designer. I aim to make her proud by layering color and texture as she does. Natural wovens, like wicker and rattan, complement color with controlled roughness. Raffia placemats are foolproof on a table. And the style lover in me looks to garden stools as jewelry. So many colors and texture allow for a whimsical lift.

Regardless of the surroundings, the joyful sounds of family—and hopefully friends soon—makes the warm-weather months extra special. We will grill, we will play games, and we will hang out and relax in outdoor rooms I have refreshed for us.