Summer brings to mind many wonderful things, including everything from hot sunny days to cool nights in the backyard with family and friends. Whether you’re planning on doing lots of outdoor entertaining this season or you’re looking to create a tranquil escape for you and your nearest and dearest to enjoy, the right outdoor space can make all the difference. 

Read on for a how-to guide to setting up an inviting and comfortable patio or other outdoor area to enjoy this summer and beyond. 

1. Know Your Needs for Outdoor

Before you can design and decorate the perfect outdoor space, you must first consider your own wants and needs. 

The primary question at hand: How will you use the space? Some people may have big plans for everything from neighborhood gatherings to cocktail parties. Others may envision a serene spot to read and relax. Your intention for space directly informs the type of decor.

For example, if you’re planning frequent al fresco dining this summer, a spacious outdoor table and comfortable seating is essential to executing your vision. If more leisurely and laid-back lounging is on the agenda, cozy seating will be a priority. Whatever your goals for space, you’ll also need shade and a lighting plan — especially if your objective is to get the most out of the area. Ample shade will keep things cool during hotter parts of the day, while lighting will keep the party going long after the sun goes down. 

It’s also important to ask how you want the space to feel. Perhaps your goal is to create a refreshing and invigorating atmosphere, or maybe you’re all about peace and serenity. The right furniture and accessories can help you achieve the desired aesthetic. Take lighting, for example. Love casual country? Twinkle lights will add an element of charm. Going for something more sophisticated? An outdoor chandelier can amp up the elegance factor. 

2. Think Smart About Scale

All outdoor spaces aren’t created equal. In fact, from small deck areas to large backyards, there are a breadth and depth of sizes and configurations. Acknowledging your space constraints can help you set up your outdoor area in the most efficient way. 

If you’ve got a lot of room to work with, you’ll have more options for everything from seating to dining furniture. You may also want to consider creating “zones” to break one larger area into smaller areas for different functions, such as eating, drinking, lounging, and entertaining. 

Working with less space? Efficiency is everything when it comes to maximizing square footage. Your furniture should be in scale with its surroundings. Smaller spaces may call for smaller chairs and tables and a more thoughtful setup regarding the furniture itself and flow. If you’re planning on entertaining, guests must be able to move freely throughout the space. 

3. Check In on the Outdoor Trends

Trends are trends for a reason: they capture the feel of the moment. For example, many people have spent the past year indoors and social distancing. This has resulted in increased interest in creating home interiors and exteriors that truly speak to who we are and how we want to spend our time. 

The seamless transition between indoor and outdoor spaces is one of the biggest trends underway. Attractive and inviting porches, patios, and pool areas are no longer afterthoughts but priorities. More homeowners seek to create an organic flow between interior and exterior spaces by incorporating features like rugs, cushions, plants, and high-end furniture. Sticking with a style that’s consistent with your home’s interior decorating scheme can also support a harmonious and cohesive outcome. 

Mixing and matching materials also has a significant impact. Gone are the days when everything had to be perfectly coordinated. Your outdoor space should reflect your personality while also feeling livable. Feel free to mix and match different furniture, fabrics, and textures — just as you would in your home. Other trends include incorporating natural materials, stoves and fire pits, and vibrant pops of color. 

4. Start Shopping in Style 

Now here’s the fun part: shopping. This is not your mother’s patio furniture. Today’s outdoor furniture is far from the plain utilitarian furniture of day’s past. In addition to improved weather resistance and durability, outdoor furniture is also available in various materials, colors, and design styles. Looking for something beyond basic, blah, and boring beige? It’s out there just waiting to be discovered. 

Whether you outfit your entire backyard in an eye-catching color scheme or stick with neutrals enhanced by an occasional burst of color for visual interest, today’s chic outdoor furniture can breathe beautiful life into your outdoor space. And remember: You don’t have to buy a matching furniture set or purchase everything at once. By seeking out unique pieces you truly love, you can create a space that speaks to your personality and vision. 

One last thing to keep in mind? Just as your interior decorating scheme is an opportunity for creativity and self-expression, so is your outdoor decorating project. With proper planning and the patience to seek out beautiful furniture and accessories that work with your space, you can create a true haven in your backyard.

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