Cape Cod Outdoor Furniture & Décor Ideas

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The Cape Cod style of decorating is distinctive for its light colors, bleached woods and comfortable feel. It can help create the illusion of a cottage on the water even when your home is situated in the desert, in the suburbs or on a forested hill. That's the power of decor to help create a pleasant illusion and add grace to outdoor as well as indoor spaces.

The Cape Cod Look

The Cape Cod look is light and often uses faded or whitewashed woods. It looks supremely casual but still classic and stylish. It works well with most ocean themes as well as ocean hues like sand and deep blue. Some effective accent colors are fern green, bark brown and rusty red.

The premier emblem of the Cape Cod patio or deck is the Adirondack chair. This distinctive chair has a slightly fanned, wooden back, contoured seat and wide armrests. It's as distinctive as a summer sunset, and will help create a lakeside or beach ambience in your backyard. The Adirondack silhouette is famous in art as well as decor, and you can incorporate it in more than just your chairs. You can find variations in the design of loungers, loveseats and even in fencing materials.

Outdoor Cape Cod Furniture

When it comes to Cape Cod decor, whether it's indoors or out:

  • Opt for couches and chairs in light colors that have a plush, overstuffed look. Let the outdoors add the rustic touches and use furnishings that invite your guests to relax in comfort. White (or off white) is a good choice, but blues and greens work too. To pull off the look, prefer patterns in large scale prints, stripes, checks or plaids. Use secondary colors in your pillows and awning selection. You can also create a wonderful color palette with potted annuals in deep red, white and blue. Think patriotic and you're there.
  • Wherever possible, stain or whitewash wood a natural or light color. The idea is to make your outdoor landscape look like the salt spray has been at it for years. Sure, this is just an illusion, but that weathered look on your deck, in deck planters, fencing and trellises can make a big difference -- and go a long way toward perfecting the illusion you're trying to create.
  • Add an area rug. Outdoor rugs are very popular and natural grass rugs are durable and practical. They add texture, pattern and interest to your outdoor space, and can help define a small seating area on a larger deck. They're also surprisingly economical. Just remember to flip them over and hose them off from time to time.

outdoor cape cod furniture decor outdoor cape cod furniture decor

Outdoor Cape Cod Decor

There are a number of classic themes for Cape Cod styles. They are almost always water related. You can use them alone or in combination. Just remember that it is possible to overdo it. Here are some outdoor themes you might consider:

  • Fisherman's netting used as a roll down screen or quasi privacy screen. You can decorate it with shells, starfish or nautical pieces.
  • Hurricane lamps
  • Hanging life preservers
  • Loops of heavy chain along a deck railing
  • Coils of thick rope
  • Painted buoys on the walk leading to your deck or patio
  • Lighthouses stenciled on deck posts
  • Shells
  • Ship motifs in textiles and tableware
  • Colorful fish
  • Sextants
  • Lobsters, crabs and other denizens of the deep

Protecting Your Outdoor Cape Cod Furnishings

These days, outdoor rooms are very popular, and why not. They can add living space to your home three seasons of the year for a lot less than you'd pay for a room addition. Making outdoor living spaces comfortable can be a challenge, though. To be inviting, an outdoor room should have attractive decor that's comfortable, too. Here are some tips for making any outdoor items you buy more appealing and durable:

  • Choose items designed to be used outdoors. All weather fabrics and furnishings are typically UV resistant, made of materials that discourage mildew, and are designed to dry quickly after a rain. They are also made with colorfast dies that won't fade as quickly as conventional fabric dies.
  • Prefer quality. When choosing cane, aluminum, PVC or wrought iron pieces, spending more typically means you'll be buying a better product. For instance, where wrought iron is concerned, a good table, chair or lounger will be fired to bake the colored finish onto the surface metal. Although there are spray painted furnishings on the market, nothing beats a baked on finish for durability.
  • Situate items carefully. Where you put your furnishings will help determine how long they'll last. Wherever possible, place textiles like cushions and pillows in locations that are protected from afternoon sun and heat exposure. Place furnishings under an awning that provides at least a little protection from rain and wind.
  • Perform regular maintenance. Natural bamboo, rattan and other furniture materials may need periodic maintenance. Read the directions on any furnishings you buy and follow the care instructions consistently.
  • Cover or move outdoor furnishings into winter storage. If you live in an area that experiences harsh winters, take the extra precaution of covering or bringing your outdoor furniture indoors during the winter months. The good news is that much of the outdoor furniture sold in the U.S. conforms to standardized size specifications. That means most conventional loungers and outdoor tables can be protected with mass market grill, bench, glider, patio sofa, loveseat table and lounger covers. These covers typically have handy zippers and usually last through at least a couple of seasons.
Last Updated: May 27, 2012
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About Sara Elliot Sara Elliott is a freelance copywriter and dedicated blogger. Her popular gardening, cooking and crafting blog, The Herb Gardener, was cited by The Wall Street Journal for its fun and frugal tips. Sara has a degree in English, and you can find her health, crafting, and lifestyle pieces on sites like,, and

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