Expert Advice

Get Ready for Summer with Carmen Johnston's Guide to Designing Your Outdoor Space

Trex has partnered with landscape designer Carmen Johnston to create the ultimate homeowner's homeowner's guide to designing an outdoor living space like a pro! With almost 15 years of experience, Carmen's work has come to life in the pages of Southern Living magazine, Country Living magazine, and across her social channels. Her accolades don't stop there; she has even worked on the HGTV® Smart Home 2023 and 2022 as the outdoor living designer and on-camera expert. Let's dive in!

March 31, 2023

1. Visualise Your Design

The first step in Carmen's process is putting her ideas on paper, or more accurately, in the Trex Deck Designer tool. This tool gives her a 3D model of her design and allows her to play with different options, colours, and layout options. Plus, she can see how each design change can alter the material cost for the project, all the way down to the number of fasteners needed.

"I love a big outdoor space, and when I'm planning the design, one of the handiest ways to give me a great visual is the Trex Deck Design Tool! I can input dimensions, choose decking colours, and add elements like stairs and railings—it helps me to "see" what is in my head before I get started!"

Carmen Johnston, Outdoor Living Designer

One of Carmen's favourite things about using this tool is that once she has finalised her design, she has all of the measurements for her deck plan. With these measurements, she can start planning her furniture placement and decor before the project breaks ground.


2. Create Seating Zones

Picking the right furniture for the space is next in Carmen's design process. She looks for comfortable yet durable seating in neutral tones to ensure her designs will last her clients a long time.

"I always want to have a nice size table for hosting plus comfy couches and chairs so that all my guests have a spot to sit and chat while they eat or enjoy a yummy drink! This table and chair set from the Trex® Outdoor Furniture™ Collection is so sturdy and durable. It is made specifically to withstand extreme weather conditions, and the neutral colour means it can really work anywhere!"

Carmen Johnston, Outdoor Living Designer

3. Add Accents and Layers

Natural elements like potted plants can bring visual interest, new hues, and height into a design.

"My favourite way to make an outdoor space feel cosy and welcoming is to layer in plants. Simple potted greenery on the table, along with sturdy melamine plates and pretty linens, make entertaining pretty but not too precious to enjoy!"

Carmen Johnston, Outdoor Living Designer

These little touches connect the deck design to the rest of the backyard. To finish the look, Carmen pops patterned pillows in the chairs to soften the look and introduce another texture to the design.

"Containers are my go-to for seasonal pops of colour. I think it's so fun to flank a fireplace with matching ones. In summer when you won't be lighting a fire, you can even place one directly in the fireplace!"

Carmen Johnston, Outdoor Living Designer

Colourful accents are a go-to choice for designers to add personality to a design. Adding containers of vibrant blooms and trailing greenery is also a great way to soften the corners of a deck, or you can even line the steps with pots of anything pretty, like begonias or Sunpatiens, to elevate the entry points.


4. Build with Low-maintenance Materials

There are so many ways to bring in extra decor that adds dimension to your deck, but starting with Trex decking as your surface will ensure a long-lasting, beautiful base for your outdoor space that will never tether you to time-consuming maintenance and cleaning!  

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