Design — 30 June 2017
Designer ideas for life by the pool, patio

By Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub

City & Shore Design Writer

We live in a land of endless summer. No need to take in the outdoor furniture for the winter. Water features calm the garden year-round. We can even decorate the outdoors with rugs and furniture to make it comfortable and accessorized. Check out our designer suggestions for sprucing up this season, from plantings to furnishings.






Susan Lachance, a Boca Raton interior designer, has seen just about everything in her 40 years in the business.

She recalls that in the 1980s many communities close to the Everglades needed large screened structures to keep the bugs and critters away from the pool. Times have changed as developers took over what was once farmland and using land closer to the beach because of more frequent teardowns.

“We don’t have to use those ugly screen enclosures,” she says. “Now we design in the way we should enjoy Florida’s water and tropical breezes. Outdoor living now means not having an [insect] screen overhead. We enjoy the outdoors with spaces that enable us to entertain better with bars, barbecues and fireplaces. It allows us to have living-room settings instead of old-fashioned pool furniture. You can create the atmosphere of a living space and make it an extension of the house.”

Lachance’s clients in St. Andrews Country Club in Boca Raton asked her to gear the home design – inside and out – to large family gatherings. This project is a grand example of how we live or want to live now. The 750-square-foot loggia has plenty of space for all the essentials – a stylish living room with comfortable furnishings and colorful accessories, a dining table for 10, a television, barbecue and a seating area for cocktails with chairs so comfortable that cushions aren’t needed.

She made the loggia in this home an extension of the family room, with ceiling fans and lots of color. The pool area is neutral except for red end tables. Another innovation is the beach entry that allows lounge chairs to be partly submerged. The white chairs under a wood slate roof are so comfortable cushions aren’t needed. When guests look at them from the interior, they are subtle rather than drawing too much attention.

“I like to use wood ceilings or synthetic wood ceilings for a warmer look,” she says. “The floor doesn’t have to be old-fashioned pavers. It can be porcelain tile that comes in a larger range of colors and sizes. It enables you to transition smoothly from the inside to the outside. [And] it has motorized screens that can keep the bugs out when needed.”




Elle Décor called Fernando Wong “one of the most influential landscape designers in America.” Garden Design magazine called him “a genius with the soul of a poet.”

In the 12 years since he opened his business in Miami (with branches in Palm Beach and Southampton), Wong has certainly seen changes in his clients’ requests.

“Outdoor spaces have been getting larger, with an awning or an entire loggia,” he says. “They have become an extension for outdoor living with a TV and barbecue space. Those who come from New York City, the Hamptons or Argentina like to use the space for outdoor entertaining. Doors can fold in and disappear; [insect] screens appear with the touch of a button.”

Swimming pools have evolved from kidney shaped to rectangular. Wong says kidney-shaped pools need a larger space; rectangular pools are best suited for a moderate-sized lot. Today’s spas are often rectangular rather than round. Northern clients who have homes here want something to remind them of home but still have a Florida aesthetic, he says.

Plantings depend on whether the space is a condo balcony or a home’s larger garden.

“A lot of times people get inspired by magazine articles or Pinterest,” he says. “We try to create a specific look after getting information from the interior designer, the homeowner and our ideas.”

Wong’s firm has created gardens at The Colony on Palm Beach, the Capri on Miami Beach, The Retreat Garden in Nassau, Bahamas, and the only LEED Platinum Certified House in Palm Beach County. The firm also has completed or is working on residential projects in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, New York, England, the Bahamas, Panama and Mexico.



  Fernando Wong, a landscape designer with offices in Palm Beach, Miami and Southampton, shares ideas for giving your garden a distinctive look.        

 Create a focal point

Wong used a tree in the backyard of a contemporary Miami Beach home to draw the eye. “When well-designed and well-positioned, you should be able to appreciate the focal point indoors and out,” he says.

Don’t forget the walls

Add plants to transform a blank exterior wall into an artful oasis. Look to surrounding elements for inspiration on how vines can complement your home’s architecture.

Planters add artistic flair

Pottery and large planters can make a big difference, especially when arranged in a symmetrical pattern.

 Let there be water

Add a fountain or other water element. The water feature provides a soothing sound and is good Feng Shui.

  Don’t be afraid of pattern 

Evaluate the role of windows or fencing and echo the look in a driveway, sidewalk or hedge planting. “Think of your home’s windows and doors as frames, and how the vignette you’re creating will appear in them.”

—Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub



Fernando Wong: Fernando Outdoor Living Design, Palm Beach and Hobe Sound, 561-515-0213; Miami, 305-604-0003,

Susan Lachance: Susan Lachance Interior Design, 1001 Clint Moore Road #100, Boca Raton, 561-241-3800,



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