37 Easy Ways to Upgrade Your Outdoor Rooms
Set out a daybed, weather-resistant cushions, or one of our other finds, and in a short time you'll have the ultimate staycation escape
There's no more natural extension of your home's living area than a porch. But all too often, furnishings are bare-bones. The trick to making this outdoor space more inviting is to layer on the same comfortable and stylish touches you'd expect indoors.
A lively paint job makes the floor an accent wall. The floor paint on this porch, a few shades darker than the watery blue-green walls, offers a fresh alternative to the usual gray.
Behr Premium Porch & Patio Floor Paint, about $30 per gallon; homedepot.com
Guests linger longer when seats are supportive. In this setting, mismatched pillows and blankets in the same muted tones add cottage charm.
Similar to shown: Simply Shabby Chic Ditsy Patchwork Quilt, $80 for a twin, and Rosalie Ruffled Pillow, $23 for two; target.com
The more sit-down options you have, the easier it is to entertain. Look for a love seat to encourage close conversation. Vintage wicker sets pop up on Craigslist needing only a fresh coat of paint, and an upholstered footstool can double as a pint-size perch for kids.
Similar to shown: Feedsack Foot Stool, $59; homedecorators.com
Make a seating area the main attraction. This cobalt-painted set looks fetching against white.
Vintage wicker, finished with Impervex Latex High-Gloss Enamel for wood or metal in Delphinium, about $65 per gallon; benjaminmoore.com
Area rugs, especially when positioned under hanging lights, can help define distinct spots for dining or lounging. Here, furniture arranged around a rug forms a mini sitting room.
Similar to shown: Pond Stripe Indoor/Outdoor Rug, about $90; dashandalbert.com
A line of trees, tall shrubs, or bamboo plants can provide privacy. For a faster, summertime fix, train sweet peas up a trellis or another support.
Packet of sweet-pea seeds, $3.95; fragrantgarden.com
Hang quick-dry drapes to provide shade and privacy, and array coordinated throw pillows for a cohesive look.
Similar to shown: Parasol outdoor curtains and pillows, $30 per panel and $15 per pillow; lowes.com
Highlight the ceiling with a more saturated and energetic shade than traditional sky blue.
Emerald Exterior Acrylic Latex semigloss in Honorable Blue, about $62 per gallon; sherwin-williams.com
Personalize the space with all-weather artwork. The khaki-hued paint on these shadow boxes echoes the window trim and provides protection from the elements. The coral clusters inside are man-made.
A freestanding structure, set away from the bustle of the house, can be a real draw. Build it yourself with some key parts, and make it complete with just a few furnishings.
Salvaged porch posts mark off the footprint; diamond-pane windows and a gingerbread panel create the cornice.
About $85 to $250 per item; columbusarchitecturalsalvage.com
An antique chaise or daybed like this one evokes Victorian-era gardens—and can easily top $1,000. Opt for an easy-care resin reproduction.
All-Weather Resin Outdoor Easy Care Wicker Chaise in white, about $250 (cushions are extra); plowandhearth.com
Position an arbor in front of a tent-pole canvas cabana to serve as a dramatic portico. This metal one holds variegated potato vine.
Similar to shown: Oakland Living Single Arbor with Base, about $130; wayfair.com
Establish entry points with portable greenery. Oversize green ceramic containers stand sentry here.
Similar to shown: Garden Odyssey 16-inch Glazed Milano Planter in Crackled Green, about $15; amazon.com
Make sure any upholstery is weather-safe, and finish bare wood with exterior-grade acrylic-latex enamel paint or stain.
Similar to shown: La-Z-Boy Outdoor Benjamin 3-Seat Sofa, about $650; sears.com
A little structure makes a patio feel like an outdoor room. Consider a paved or loose-stone floor, and use the house or a fence for a sidewall or two and a pergola or tree boughs for a "roof."
A pergola offers sun protection without blocking breezes, while its open sides frame the view and establish a sense of enclosure. This pergola was custom-made, but DIYers can build one from a kit.
Similar to shown: Outdoor Living Today Breeze Cedar 8-by-10-foot Pergola, about $2,350; homedepot.com
No babbling brook nearby? A fountain can mimic its soothing sounds. Just be sure there's a spigot for replacing evaporated water and an outlet for running the pump. This sculptural fountain also adds a formal touch to an otherwise casual sitting area.
Similar to shown: Artmada Selia Indoor/Outdoor Fountain with LED Light, about $400; simplyfountains.com
Hang a mirror on a wall or fence to create the illusion of a window to another room.
Similar to shown: Bronze Ornate Vanity Mirror with a water-resistant polystyrene frame, about $30; walmart.com
An eating area near the house reduces the number of steps to the kitchen. Add a weatherproof concrete pedestal table that doubles as a bar, and chairs that fold for easy stowing.
Similar to shown: Table, about $250; at garden centers
Jordan Wooden Folding Bistro Chairs, about $130 per pair; fingerhut.com
For an arbor-like backdrop, train a flowering vine up the wall and onto the eaves or the top of a door or window. Just add eye hooks threaded with medium-gauge wire for a support structure.
Red mandevilla in a 2½-quart pot, $15; lowes.com
An open flame draws people near and keeps them cozy after the sun goes down. If you've got the space and budget for more than a fire pit, consider putting in a freestanding prefab fireplace and surrounding it with a hearth that doubles as a low sitting wall. For a DIY version of this wall with foot-traffic-friendly contours, construct a winding base of cinder block, face it with ledgestone veneer, and top it with custom-cut flagstone.
Baskets and rugs made from natural fibers, such as jute and sisal, weather well and fit in naturally with their alfresco surroundings.
Similar to shown: Owen Herringbone Jute Rug, 5 by 8 feet, about $200, and Beachcomber Lidded Basket, about $100; potterybarn.com
Finish a simple wood platform, whether attached to the house or out in the yard, with plants and materials that fit in with the surroundings.
Use deck stain to make a checkerboard in weathered grays.
Similar to shown: DeckScapes deck stain in Cotton-wood and Kings Canyon, about $46 per gallon; sherwin-williams.com
A deck that doesn't require railings can be bordered with fencing and planter boxes for a tucked-away feeling.
Large Cedar Planters, from $140; hooksandlattice.com
Sit down for a glass of wine or dinner for two at a folding table that's portable and fits on a platform. Unpainted wood sets like this one may require annual sealing with a penetrating oil, such as teak or tung oil, to maintain their luster.
Similar to shown: Living Accents 3-Piece Wood Bistro Set in acacia, about $80; acehardware.com
Who says you can stretch out only on a chaise? This antique Spanish-cedar bed frame can weather the elements just fine, but even one made of inexpensive unfinished pine can be protected—and warmed up—with the right finish. Then, for a mildew-proof mattress, zip a custom-cut foam slab into a waterproof vinyl cover and add a fitted-sheet–style topper stitched from quick-dry weather-resistant fabric. Finish with outdoor cushions, as well as indoor linens—if you're willing to bring them inside in damp weather.
Similar to shown: Fjellse bed frame, about $40; ikea.com
Vermont Natural Coatings PolyWhey Exterior Wood Finish in Acorn Brown, about $20 per quart; vermontnaturalcoatings.com
Sunbrella Dolce Outdoor Mango striped fabric, $33 per yard; calicocorners.com
An outdoor rug brightens deck boards and cushions bare feet.
Similar to shown: Pappelina woven-plastic outdoor carpet runners in dozens of patterns, including the Lisa Runner in Pink and Vanilla, about $105; viesso.com
One of the simplest ways to enclose a space is with fabric. These three styles offer shade while adding a little drama.
Long lengths of silk can hang over a clothesline strung between the house and a pole anchored in the backyard. Secure the sides to a fence or a roof overhang with sturdy spring clips.
Cotton canvas treated to resist moisture can serve as a temporary awning when suspended from a pergola with ties or metal clips.
Similar to shown: Coated white canvas tarps with grommets for ties, from about $20; mytarp.com