Make Over Your Yard

Make your yard the go-to summer spot with these creative tips!

Now that summer is almost upon us, it's time to spruce up your outdoor living area. Follow our guidelines for decorating your deck or patio, and you'll have everything you need to create the ideal place to relax. You might feel as if you've added a new room onto your house, one filled with fresh air and light.

Know your purpose. Think about how you use the space―grilling, lounging, entertaining guests or a combination. Then sketch out a design plan, starting with the largest pieces. Try different arrangements that support your goals. If you entertain frequently, for instance, cluster benches, chairs and tables to encourage conversation. If you're more interested in lounging, arrange the seats facing outward to take advantage of the best vistas.

Select a style. What sort of ambience do you want to foster in your yard? If you favor an old-fashioned look, choose white wicker furniture. If your tastes run more toward contemporary, try teak. For an economical option, check out man-made materials that mimic wicker or wood. Or go for a modern style with molded plastic. It isn't necessary to stick with the same decor you've employed inside, but don't make the difference too radical or jarring.

Let there be light. Candles and torches not only provide illumination, they also create a pleasant mood. But depending on how you use your space, you might need more wattage than they offer. You can try a variety of lights, including hardwired fixtures for areas where you need a lot of visibility, outdoor lamps to allow you to read, solar-powered accents and strings of novelty lights.

Add accessories. This is your chance to inject color and personality into your space. Cushions, pillows and throws offer a relatively inexpensive way to change the look. Outdoor area rugs, which come in a variety of designs, often can make a seating area more cozy. Potted-plant arrangements can add privacy or simply act as a decorative device. Also consider hanging mirrors or other weatherproof items on your home's exterior.

Integrate shade. If there's no overhang or nearby tree to offer protection from the sun, try to incorporate some other way of providing shade. It could be as simple as a freestanding umbrella or two, or a more elaborate solution such as a pergola covered in wisteria or a retractable awning.