The actress shares her tips on outdoor decorating for grown-up parties and movie nights with her two kids

By Sophie Dodd
May 10, 2019 08:30 AM

JoAnna Garcia Swisher has found her “happy place” — her own backyard!

The Reba alum and founder of The Happy Place blog is ready for a summer of entertaining her loved ones, thanks to the transformation of her and husband Nick Swisher’s outdoor space at their Los Angeles home into a vibrant oasis with help from HomeGoods.

Garcia Swisher credits the store — beloved by budget-conscious decorators and celebrities alike — and its ever-changing selection of products with motivating her makeover.

“It’s endless inspiration for me,” the actress, 39, tells PEOPLE. “And for someone that entertains as much as I do, it’s so incredible. I really believe in having new moments and different kinds of parties and my themes are always changing,” she explains, adding, “It really gives me the opportunity to get creative.”

JoAnna García Swisher
Credit: HomeGoods

Her favorite themed gathering so far? A watermelon picnic party, inspired by an adorable watermelon-shape basket that she stumbled upon during a recent trip to the store.

In addition to setting up a new dining area, the actress used her finds to completely revamp her poolside lounge space, as well as the seating around her outdoor fireplace and her projector screen. “It’s been fun to reinvent the spaces, because the pieces are just so versatile and they’re classic,” she says.

JoAnna García Swisher
Credit: HomeGoods

“[The yard] has so many different beautiful, specific spaces and that’s what I love most about it — it’s all super cohesive,” she shares. “The little elements, like bringing all the greenery in, it really brought to life the way that we use the home … it’s extra personal.”

When it comes to the mom-of-two’s top tips for bringing an outdoor space to life, she says her focus is on the “indoor-outdoor flow.”

“I love throwing outdoor rugs out on the lawn — it creates a soft place to land on, but it adds interest,” she suggests, adding that “an outdoor rug’s a bit more durable than an outdoor blanket.” She’s also a fan of poufs, which she feels “set up the opportunity to bring the inside living space outdoors, to get really cozy and comfortable.”

Another big focus? Color! “I also love the use of greenery,” she says, sharing that the whimsical plant pots she found helped to tie in the vibrant pillows near her fireplace.

JoAnna García Swisher
Credit: HomeGoods

Now that she’s set up with her own bar and ample stylish space to entertain, Garcia Swisher is looking forward to enjoying the space over the summer with her friends and family, including daughters Emerson, 6 this month, and Sailor, 3 next month.

“We have a great pizza oven and the girls love making pizza,” she shares, adding that it’s important to her that she can keep the little ones entertained while the adults have fun as well. “Most of our friends have small children so we’re all kind of in it together,” she says.

JoAnna García Swisher
Credit: HomeGoods

When it comes to her dream night in her new backyard paradise, she envisions it with “everybody outside, a movie going in the movie theatre for the kids to keep them entertained once the sun sets.” And for the adults? “A few bottles of wine, if it’s a little bit hot and we’re feeling summery maybe a little tequila with some pizza.” For the Once Upon a Time alum, it’s all about “just enjoying the outdoors. Especially in Southern California, it’s one of the perks of living here!”

And while the actress loves to host parties and get togethers for her family and friends, there is one other person she’d like to hang out with in her new backyard: Oprah!

“I feel like Oprah’s always on everybody’s top five, but I just am obsessed with her,” she says, when asked which celebrity she’d most like to invite to a dinner party. “I could make her a fun cocktail. I know she likes tequila,” she muses. “I’m guessing we could make a really creative pizza in the pizza oven, and I could basically interview her for 4 hours,” she laughs, adding, “but I’d make it very comfortable and casual, I’d be super cool about it.”