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Secrets to Comfortable Outdoor Spaces

Linda is a seasoned writer and home-decorating authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.

As summer approaches, our thoughts instinctively turn to outdoor living. We yearn for the season of grilling, fireflies, casual cocktails among friends, and patriotic holiday celebrations. Fortunately, readying the patio, deck, or balcony for relaxing times is easier than you might imagine. All it takes is some elbow grease, planning, and incorporation of the comforts of home to make your outdoor space the pride of the neighborhood.

Cleaning and Updating

Start by giving your outdoor furnishings a good scrubbing, and maybe even a new paint color. Don’t worry if your deck is dingy or if your concrete slab is cracked or discolored. Rent a power washer and blast away the grime.

Tack down loose deck planks and smooth splinters with a sander. Finish by applying a deck sealer. Fill patio cracks and update the surface with specialized concrete stain. Give new life to an old grill with a coat of heat-resistant spray enamel.

Power washing outdoor furniture and surfaces is a great way to remove dirt and grime from the previous winter.

Power washing outdoor furniture and surfaces is a great way to remove dirt and grime from the previous winter.

Identify Your Preferences

Next, determine what you want to accomplish with your outdoor space. A small balcony may only have room for a bistro set for two. Increase the functionality by adding a small electric grill to create an intimate outdoor cooking and dining area.

Delineate larger outdoor spaces by function as you would inside your home, such as a seating arrangement, grilling space, and dining area. Say you want a quiet place for yoga and your partner wants to tend a small garden bed. Carve out these specific areas before planning the placement of your social zones.

This portion of the deck has a comfortable conversation area.

This portion of the deck has a comfortable conversation area.

Create a View

While it would be marvelous to overlook the ocean or a sparkling pool, not every home is blessed with a fabulous view. Invent a view of your own by creating a focal point with attractive plantings or well-placed accessories.

Conceal an imposing block wall by installing a trellis and covering it in fragrant trailing jasmine. Adding a bubbling water feature surrounded by river rock creates Zen-like calm. Design a corner of your small patio as the center of attention by including a sculpture or classic wall fountain.

A vertical wall planter provides a verdant view for your urban patio.

A vertical wall planter provides a verdant view for your urban patio.

Go Under Cover

One key ingredient to an outdoor space is a cover to provide shade or protection from the elements. Not everything needs to be under cover—just primary entertaining areas. If you don’t have a patio cover, consider purchasing a large umbrella or two for much-needed shade during the day. Consider installing a versatile retractable awning or a stationary canvas sail so you can entertain guests in any weather.

Multiple umbrellas easily take the place of a covered patio.

Multiple umbrellas easily take the place of a covered patio.

Bring Indoors Out

If you’re stumped when it comes to furnishing entertaining spaces, simply apply the same design sense you would follow when decorating you interior spaces. Start by pulling furniture away from the perimeter and creating groupings that invite social interaction. Place a sectional or two sofas directly across from each other to create a comfortable and intimate seating area. Use side tables and a coffee table as you would in a living room. Everyone needs a place for a drink, book, or small plate of hors d'oeuvres.

Overstuffed cushions and colorful throw pillows give outdoor furniture a luxurious feel. Enhance nighttime entertaining with a stylish damp-rated pendant paired with a table or floor lamps. Forego electricity altogether and let candles light up the evening’s festivities. Visually separate spaces by using textural outdoor area rugs in colors that complement your furnishings. Envelop the space and add softness with weather-resistant curtains hung from the pergola.

A sectional on the patio offers the perfect space for conversation, entertaining and TV viewing.

A sectional on the patio offers the perfect space for conversation, entertaining and TV viewing.

Cook and Dine al Fresco

Why heat up the kitchen on a warm summer day when you can cook and dine in comfort outside? Select a table and comfy seating that accommodates all of your guests. A buffet table gives you extra serving space and storage for larger gatherings.

Place the barbeque grill nearby and locate the dining table adjacent to your kitchen entry. This will allow for easy access for indoor prep and cleanup. Dress the table with rustic linens, dinnerware, candles, and a weather-proof centerpiece.

This traditional outdoor kitchen and dining space is easily accessible to the indoor kitchen.

This traditional outdoor kitchen and dining space is easily accessible to the indoor kitchen.

Punctuate With Plants

Whether you are into drought-tolerant landscaping or lush tropicals don't forget to add plenty of decorative plantings to your outdoor living space. Plant life of any type will soften hard edges and create a soothing backdrop for your furnishings.

Even if your little slice of outdoor heaven is a mid-town high rise, you can get back to nature by using a variety of potted plants. Select vegetation of different heights and choose planters that reflect the aesthetic of your design. An assortment of dwarf trees, potted hedges, grasses, and flowers create a verdant, yard-like setting.

Whether you have a large or small outdoor space, plants give your patio a lush feel.

Whether you have a large or small outdoor space, plants give your patio a lush feel.

5 Additional Ingredients for a Cozy Outdoor Space

1. Bar Setup - An outdoor bar offers a fun place to munch and enjoy a cocktail. Set it up with a bar top and chairs. If the budget allows, take it up a notch with a bar fridge, icemaker, beer keg, blender, and Margarita machine.

2. Soft Seating - Extra comfortable outside seating will rival your indoor furniture. These are perfect for patios and decks but you’d never know the super soft design was made specifically for outdoor use.

3. Fireplace or Fire Pit - Were you ever expecting a warm and cozy fireplace on the patio? An outdoor fireplace or freestanding fire pit brings the comfort of indoors to the backyard. It’s the perfect solution for spring and fall get-togethers.

4. String Lights - Lighting is the perfect mood setting. Vintage string lights give your outdoor scene a party atmosphere. If you don’t have an electrical outlet, hang a variety of solar fixtures from your patio cover to brighten the evening festivities.

5. Lounge Chairs or Hammock - Don’t forget to include lounging furniture. Chaise lounges and hammocks are the perfect places for relaxation. Lay back and take some time out to read a book, get some vitamin D or take a lazy summer snooze.

© 2018 Linda Chechar