outdoor living

All photos: Devin Miller

Transforming backyards into additional living spaces is a growing trend in North Texas. Even the hottest summer day turns into a pleasant evening, and the other three seasons are mild.

Upgrading outdoor living spaces can range in investment. A higher-end renovation and finish-out could include utilizing a professional designer and contractor to implement adding structures like cabanas, swimming pools, built-in kitchens, and covered patios. A DIY project could include updates to existing structures and surfaces that homeowners can implement themselves.

We talked to Nicole Arnold, who owns a full-service Dallas interior design firm, Nicole Arnold Interiors, recognized as a Dallas Top 10 Design firm and a Best of Houzz in 2014 and 2015 for customer satisfaction.

Nicole Arnold

Nicole Arnold

She’s worked with many homeowners to create cool, comfortable outdoor living spaces that work with the rest of their home’s design.

“In a lot of cases, these outdoor retreats are visible from a main living area inside your home—therefore, make sure they look on par with the rest of your home, and, ideally, a natural extension of your interior style,” Arnold said. “Of course there’s a wide spectrum of upgrades and accouterments available to personalize your particular space, make it aesthetically pleasing, comfortable and functional.”

Read on to see her top 5 tips for accentuating an outdoor living space, regardless of the scope of your project.


I want to give a great big shout out to Denise McGaha Interiors! Denise is the interior designer who designed the fabulous kitchen and interiors in the State Fair’s House of the Future. She’s also in our Designers Corner over on SecondShelters.com, where she offers design tips from the many second home residences she has created for happy families.

I caught up with Denise for some behind the scenes House of Tomorrow scoopola:

There are three houses: the micro home is only 175 square feet, designed by that genius David Yates! The renovated Home has interiors by moi and was built by Dallas Renovation Group. Then there’s Glen Boudreaux’ Net Zero Energy Home, built by Scarlett Custom Homes.

My house showcases some of the best high end interior design elements out there. Do you not love that bright yellow Bertazonni Italian Range painted in the actual Ferrari yellow from the Ferrari factory?

(God I do!)

I used 1 3/4″ acrylic floating shelves in the kitchen to hold plates and other necessities…  shows how upper cabinetry is now so passé. I used a chevron patterned porcelain tile on the floors. Anyone can do porcelain, but every tile was cut to form a chevron pattern… so Missoni… so NOW.  I also created a radiating pattern on the bath floor with this product.

(Me: to die for!) 

New countertops in kitchen are from Santa Margharita… the new Wave product is non-porous, quartz and limestone made to feel like slate or soapstone. We also used it on the fireplace surround, and tee hee everyone thinks it is soapstone.

The fireplace wall is reclaimed barn wood from farms in Ohio. Beautiful texture! We made shelves and covered the entire wall in the product. New Life Hardwoods are the suppliers

There is Hickory Chair furniture throughout the home which is ALL FOR SALE NOW!!  You just go to THEhomeoftomorrow.mobi and click on furniture sale.  The details are all there.

Beautiful original art is from Craighead Green gallery…also all for sale

This is ingenious: A Mom’s Desk that doubles as a buffet, in the breakfast nook.

Lighting by Currey and Co. all with circular or orb shape.  A definite design trend and we are asking everyone to see how many things they can find in the home with a circular motif.  I used it everywhere…drapery, chair fabric, lighting, even cabinet hardware.

This I love: a fabric backsplash covered in glass so you can change your backsplash on a whim, just like your pillows. Who’d have thunk it? Fabric is from F. Schumacher.

Metal brackets are applied to the face frames of cabinets as jewelry.  Also, black leather covered cabinet hardware. Beautiful fabrics: The Hable Collection, the Hable sisters (Texas gals from Corsicana, as in Hable Construction — their grandfather started a road and bridge company there) are partnered with Hickory Chair and they also sent us fabric for our draperies and made pillows on the sofa.

Must-have: the water closet has a urinal AND toilet.  The men love it.  The flushers have panels where you can apply fabric or wallpaper inside the frame.

I have nautical stripes in the master bath shower made of glass mosaics, with navy paint on the walls.  The cabinet has a built in hamper pull out designed under the cabinet with a trash can holder behind that, it’s all about multi function for small spaces.

The Master Bath countertop is reclaimed black walnut found under the floorboards of an old warehouse. I used that to make custom frames for the mirrors and made the entire countertop from it.  We used an oil on the wood instead of varnish to help it retain it’s original beauty and repel water.

Outside there is an outdoor grill, The Green Egg smoker and a Pizza Oven from Renatos.  

So, as you can see, there is lots to see in my home alone, not to mention the others.  I have also filled the Net Zero Energy home with furniture from Hickory Chair for sale. COME SEE IT!