Eclectic Al Fresco: Outdoor decor gets free-spirited

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There are those who prefer perfectly matched furniture and a monochromatic color scheme in decor. But for those who like to shake things up, it's time to take it outside.

There's a free-spirited attitude now in outdoor decor, with mix-and-match elements and an easy, colorful, playful charm.

“People are setting up their outdoor spaces just like their family rooms, with a focus on comfort and conversation,” says Better Homes & Gardens editor Amy Panos.

“The idea of mixing different furniture styles is coming outdoors. Rather than a matching set, pair different styles. Put a modern sofa with a raw wood table, for example. Pair a teak dining table with brightly colored, molded plastic chairs.”

Consider throw pillows and rugs as inexpensive ways to add eclectic flair.

The range of colors and patterns in durable outdoor materials is greater than ever.

“I like eclecticism,” says Ikea's creative lead Karin Gustavsson. “It allows you to create an environment that's more personal, and much more interesting.”

Gustavsson was inspired by Indonesian prints and colors for Ikea's new JASSA collection, which includes throw cushions, spatterware plates, plaid woven seagrass baskets and rattan lounge chairs. (www.ikea.com )

Crate & Barrel's vice president of design, Raymond Arenson, concurs. “We're living at an increasingly fast pace, bound to a sleek computer that we keep in our pockets. We need relief, warmth and texture to help us relax,” he says.

Crate & Barrel has a new indoor/outdoor sectional with a powder-coated steel and mesh frame. With navy Sunbrella upholstery, it's a modern piece on its own. But Arenson suggests incorporating a couple of white, cast-aluminum drum tables with mismatched lattice motifs, a variety of concrete planters, and a bold, checkered blue rug. (www.crateandbarrel.com )

Pieces that get the conversation started are great additions to an eclectic outdoor space.

Include collections if you've got them — a bowl of pretty stones or shells; a group of vintage tins or bottles.

And don't forget lighting: Battery-operated or electric string lights, lanterns and candles put the finishing touches on a welcoming outdoor space with lots of personality.