Ashley Gilbreath’s Tips for Optimizing Outdoor Space


Interior designer Ashley Gilbreath has perfected the art of outdoor design. Recently appointed to design the outdoor space in House Beautiful’s Whole Home Showhouse, she is an expert in casual, yet elegant spaces.. We sat down with her to learn her best kept secrets for creating an outdoor living space that will make anyone want to linger long into the evening.

1. What should I start with when designing an outdoor living space?

Gilbreath recommends creating a foundation around durability in terms of fabric and colors – if it can withstand the elements, it’s a good start. She also implores homeowners to embrace the beauty of their home’s surroundings in their designs and to keep it simple.

2. Any staples everyone should include?

Like many, Gilbreath believes that spending time outdoors is often a destination for relaxation, so selecting comfortable pieces is key. She loves enjoying long dinners al fresco and says that having comfortable chairs and a spacious dining table makes the experience even more pleasurable.

3. How can I define my outdoor space?

“Outdoor drapery and rugs are helpful in creating a visual breaking point to define an outdoor space,” Gilbreath says. She encourages thinking of those design elements as putting a frame on the picture – they establish a boundary and give the eye a place to focus.

4. Am I forgetting any crucial accessories?

Outdoor lighting must not be overlooked. Whether you choose a chandelier or lantern, Gilbreath highlights the unmatched ambience lighting brings.

5. How many seating options should I have?

Gilbreath says your seating needs depend on your entertaining style. She notes you only need enough for comfortable conversation. If you are accustomed to entertaining large groups of people, more seating options will be necessary, but if your primary guests are your family, there’s no need to go over the top.

6. Any ways to use my outdoor space year-round?

To utilize an outdoor space in the winter months, Gilbreath recommends heaters and fire pits to combat the cold. In a three-season room, drapery and fans are helpful in regulating the summer sun.

7. What’s your favorite outdoor design tip?

“Invest in quality outdoor furniture so it will last,” Gilbreath says. She stresses the importance of having durable weatherproof pieces outdoors that you can cherish for years to come. Check out House Beautiful’s Whole Home to see Gilbreath’s backyard design.

Photo Credit: Jeff Herr

To learn more about Gilbreath’s designs, head over to our Q&A blog and follow her on Instagram at @ashleygilbreathinteriordesign.