We’ve been presenting a lot of ideas lately about sprucing up your outdoor spaces to get ready for summer, but not everyone is ready to tackle a big outdoor project. Never fear! Just follow the three easy steps below, and your uninspired patio or deck will be summer ready in under an hour!

Step 1: Start with the Basics.

In the case of my tired and dull patio shown here, “the basics” are an aggregate concrete slab, a propane heater, and some faded old furniture that I bought years ago at the grocery store. Yes, really! Our last house had expansive outdoor spaces, and when we moved in, we didn’t have furniture to fill it. I was shopping at Albertsons one day and spotted a display with this inexpensive grouping of furniture for sale. I didn’t love the colors, but the pieces worked for the space, so I loaded them into my Suburban along with my groceries. My intent was for this to be a temporary solution, but … well, here we are 12 years later, in a different house, still sitting on the same worn old furniture. (And it’s still surprisingly comfortable.)

You can find all sorts of outdoor furniture, in a wide range of prices, but you don’t need to spend a lot to create a functional outdoor seating or dining area. Think about how you want to use the space: Do you want a place where one or two people can lounge in the sun? Will you be entertaining a large number of guests with a barbecue dinner? Do you want a dining table, or will a few small tables where guests can set down their plates and drinks do the trick?

Whether you decide on upholstered furniture, benches to accommodate a large number or people, or just a few folding chairs, place them in a grouping, and get ready for step 2.

Step 2: Define Your Space.

Your outdoor spaces should be an extension of your home, so make those spaces homier, it’s important to treat them like the rooms of a house. Think “floors” (decking, stone, tile, or, in this case, just a simple outdoor rug), “walls” (some kind of divider at the edges of the space, whether it’s seating, plants, a trellis, or a decorative fence or wall), and “ceilings” (as elaborate as a full covered patio, or as simple as an umbrella or a string of lights overhead).

Again, I went cheap – I found a colorful outdoor rug on sale on Wayfair to ground the space, added an inexpensive bright green umbrella to help define an edge, and strung some party lights above. See? Already it’s looking like a more inviting space.

Step 3: Finish it Off with Accessories

Here’s where you start to add a little personality to the space, with container plants, candles or solar lamps, a warm blanket or two for cool evenings, and other sorts of decorative items.

Don’t be afraid to fill the space. I’m all for minimalism, but sometimes more is just more. If your intent to create a cozy space that encourages people to gather, you’ll want to include some personal items for color, texture, and visual interest.

And done! And, yes, I cheated a bit when I said this would take under an hour, because I didn’t include time spent on shopping for any furniture or accessories that you might need. But if you start by “shopping” your house, gathering up items that you might already have, you can still pull together a party-ready space in almost no time.

And now, all we need is a little sunshine!


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