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How to Outfit your Outdoor Living Area for Summer

Whether you’re lucky enough to live in a home with a wraparound porch and a huge backyard that backs on a bird sanctuary or you live in a modern condo with a small but lovely patio, outfitting your outdoor living area for summer is a fun challenge. Decorating a patio is sure to make you appreciate your home more, regardless of its size.

Principles of Outdoor Home Decor

There aren’t really many rules about outdoor home decor other than those imposed by HOAs and condo associations. Within those bounds though, the first principle of outdoor home decor is to define how you want to use the space. If it’s your escape from the chaos that reigns within, your design choices should reflect that secret garden approach to make it your own personal sanctuary.

If, however, you want your outdoor space to be the place you do all your summer entertaining, you’ll want to emphasize the openness of the space and create gathering points within it.

Remember not to try to make a small space serve too many purposes at once. Your small patio can’t be a children’s play area and a quiet reading space simultaneously. If you want to use the patio primarily for entertaining, decide whether you want the space to be formal, with a sit-down table, or informal, with guests eating on their laps or small side tables.

Here are some other tips for outfitting your outdoor living area for the summer.

Backyard patio area with table, chairs and umbrella

Scale Your Furnishings

No matter how comfortable an overstuffed chair is, if you’ve got a small patio, you’ll want to make sure it isn’t overwhelmed by décor. Try choosing chairs without arms and, if possible, use stackable chairs so they take up less space when not in use. Consider using benches as seating, since their backless nature means they take up less room visually and allow unobstructed views when not occupied.

If you’ve got a huge backyard, consider creating several different outdoor spaces: one for entertaining, one for getting away from it all, and one for making mud pies or playing tag.

Pillows on hammock on terrace with round rug and rattan sofa in the garden

Take Lounging Seriously

Whether you want to sit outside for 10 minutes every morning with a cup of coffee or retreat to your backyard sanctuary after a hard day at the office, don’t forget that the whole point of this outdoor space is to help you relax while you feel the breeze and can admire the trees and flowers comfortably.

Invest in a hammock, a really comfortable lounge chair, or a swing. It’s up to you whether you want to control the sounds you hear while enjoying your outdoor space, but if you find water features or wind chimes soothing, indulge yourself. Both items lend themselves to individualization, and there are lots of DIY water feature and wind chime projects you can create that won’t break the bank and will give you a sense of satisfaction every time you see and hear them.

Beautiful landscape design for backyard garden and patio area on walkout deck

Create Some Shade

Whether you’re a sun worshipper or not, you and your guests are going to want some shelter on hot days. There are so many ways to achieve this, whether it’s buying a patio umbrella, building an open-air gazebo, or just placing large potted plants at strategic intervals outside.

You can also attach a sun-resistant fabric canopy to your deck railings to keep the sun from beating down. If you start early enough in the season, add posts to your deck and create a pergola or lattice canopy by building an overhead frame with chicken wire and growing scarlet runner beans to provide shade (and color, since they have beautiful scarlet blooms).

A sail shade is also a quick, cheap and easy sun deflector. Cut a piece of fade-resistant fabric into a triangle, punch eyelets in the corners, and attach the shade to nearby trees, poles, or the side of the house.

Alternatively, you can enclose your entire deck in canvas shades for shelter from the sun and enhanced privacy (sort of like being inside a four-poster bed with the curtains closed).

However you decide to decorate your outdoor living area for the summer, make sure you create a space you and your guests will be able to use comfortably. You’ll probably need more small tables than you realize so guests have somewhere to put their drinks.

Additionally, you’ll want to pace out the furniture placement so the traffic flow makes sense—if you’ve decided on a formal dining area, track the way you move from kitchen to barbeque area and from barbeque area to table to make sure you’re not going to trip over either guests or furniture. But most importantly, make your outdoor space comfortable so you can enjoy the lazy, hazy days of summer while they’re here.