Spring is a great time to get your outdoor spaces ready for summer living. If you have a patio, balcony, yard, or porch, you can add elements from indoors to create an extension of your home.
The first step to a usable space is lighting. Outdoor dining is fun and can be romantic and relaxing. String lights are simple and inexpensive and can be wound around the porch posts, strung from a structure, draped in your trees and bushes, or hung from a trellis or umbrella. I hang a candelabra from the roof line that has glass globes since I love flickering candle light. If you are creating a permanent space, install lights on timers or sensors, and be sure the housings and covers for your bulb are all waterproof. Hurricane globes are fantastic outdoors. You can use real candles without fear of your landscape catching on fire, and they protect candles from the wind. I always look for interesting candlesticks that I can add to a large hurricane on the patio floor, the table, and even on the steps. Many years ago I found some glass and ceramic oil candles. They're pretty, resilient in the wind, and add a touch of indoors to my patio.
Comfortable seating is critical. If you have the budget, permanent seating should be furniture that will weather well outdoors. Wrapped wicker, teak and wrought iron are all good choices. For temporary seating, you can bring out folding chairs and tables. Bring out your entry bench - keep it dry - and create a table from a large planter by adding a glass top. Add pillows, some accessories, and you'll create instant ambiance. I do use porcelain garden seats. They double as a tabletop and add color and shine with their glazed finish.
Fabrics make a space cozy. For outdoors, polypropylene rugs are perfect. They are weatherproof, easily washed down with a hose, and they last for years. They dress up a space and make the seating areas comfortable. I do use cotton and jute rugs on covered patios, decks and balconies for a more formal feel. Pillows - floor pillows to decorative accents on seating - is one of the simplest ways to brighten an outdoor space. Using outdoor fabrics will extend their life and make them easy to clean. Try getting a mix of patterns and solids for a custom look. If you purchase or make pillows with zipper covers, you can clean them before you put them away for winter. Add a throw for cool nights or a snooze on a windy day. Acrylic throws like those at www.tot-home.com can withstand some wet weather and are easily washed.
Set the table. Use a tablecloth that you can clean. Don't use your regular dishes or glasses. Purchase an inexpensive set or mix and match pieces for outdoor use only. Use easily washed cotton napkins, planters filled with real plants, candlesticks or hurricane lanterns and make the table look inviting. I often store all of my outdoor table items in wicker hampers. They add texture to the patio and I don't need to find room indoors. If you have a large space, invest in some teak or other waterproof deck boxes or storage benches for your dishes, pillows, and more.