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Tips to improve the quality of your outdoor space and patio
by: Nicole Martins
Itís easy to get overwhelmed trying to figure out just how to bring an outdoor room together to make it a peaceful spot to relax or enjoy quality time with friends and family. But if you think of it as yet another room to decorate and furnish, the space will come together more easily.

Measuring and a simple site analysis

Just as you would for a room inside your home take the measurements of your patio or outdoor room area. This most important step is essential for scaling in comfortable sized outdoor furniture, patio accessories, planters and such. The next step is to conduct a simple site analysis. For this you will want to jot down factors such as the direction (north, south, east, west) your patio is facing, prevailing winds, if any; areas in sun or shade and any other relevant observations that will impact the quality of people spending time in that space.
Now for the fun part, create a realistic wish list beginning with how you would like to use your patio: to relax, to entertain friends, to grill/barbeque, to eat outdoors, to hang out with friends and family, to converse, etc. Now go back to your site analysis and determine, if applicable, where you can start staging the pieces to your outdoor room. But before you do so, here are some tips and ideas for you to consider.

Arrange patio furniture and elements thoughtfully

In order to create a comfortable space with pleasant atmosphere it is important to consider these details: Circulation Ė how will people walk through the space; Seating Ė where will people be sitting; Views - what will people be looking at when sitting. For circulation, you want to position a sitting area in a location where circulation will not pass directly through, making the space distracting, unless you have no choice. For creating comfortable seating for conversation, orient chairs, sofas, and gliders towards each other, 6 to 8 feet apart; this is a comfortable distance for talking without feeling too close. For views, you can create focal points with trees and shrubs in the distance, or planters and ornaments closer by.

Dealing with wind and sun

From your site analysis you have discovered information about how the wind blows. By knowing the direction of the prevailing winds you can make some good decisions about the placement of certain items. First, if you are going to include a grill or barbeque be sure to locate these accessories in a location in which the wind will carry the smoke from the cooking fire away from the outdoor space; thereís nothing more irritating than the uncomfortable sting of a smoky grill. Also, if you have an area with cold wind, you can block it by creating vertical planes; this can be done by planting trees or shrubs in the ground, or by placing them in planters within or around a part of the patio. Fences and walls can also help. As for sun, these same vertical planes can screen hot, late afternoon sun. For overhead sun, retractable awnings can be a very effective way to minimize both sun and heat. These awnings are designed to extend (open) or retract (close) to create shade or sun options. Other ways to create shade from the hot sun: patio umbrellas and trellises, pergolas, or arbors.

Creating a sense of enclosure

Creating a sense of enclosure is a great way to make your outdoor space more intimate; it is also a great way to create separation and privacy from your neighbors. Think of the walls and ceilings inside your home: the walls are the vertical plane and the ceiling is the overhead plane. Outdoors these vertical and overhead planes help create the foundations to an outdoor room. While you donít want to overdo it or completely enclose your outdoor space, adding elements: shrubs, trees, arbors, trellises pergolas and such in a careful way can improve the atmosphere of your patio space. see:

Buying patio furniture and accessories

Once youíve measured your outdoor space, done the site analysis and figured out the area where you will be putting your outdoor furniture itís time to begin reviewing outdoor furniture and accessory options. If your patio is very small, you may only want to buy 1 or 2 chairs or loungers for conversation and relaxing, and a small bistro table with chairs for snacking. If your space is large, you may be looking for a larger seating arrangement: sofas, chairs, coffee tables, in one area and a patio set with umbrella in another. There are many options and styles available and you can learn more about the materials and brands available by visiting a local patio furniture store or by shopping online. Popular furniture materials include: outdoor wicker, teak, wrought iron, cast aluminum, recycled plastic and casual aluminum. You can buy this furniture individually or as a set such as a dining table complete with chairs. With many patio furniture options to choose from you can easily create an outdoor space that will be well used. Additional outdoor decorating accessories such as patio lamps, fire pits, garden arbors and trellises, and outdoor heaters fit in well to create a great atmosphere outdoors as well as being extremely functional. For example, outdoor heaters will greatly extend your time outside, allowing for more time to enjoy yourself outdoors later into fall, and earlier into spring. Outdoor fireplaces such as: chimeneas, fire pits or even a gas outdoor fireplace create a great atmosphere and focal point, as well the opportunity to grill, heat, or just enjoy hanging out by the fire.

About the author:
Nicole Martins is the editor of Everything Patio Furniture, a patio furniture and accessories review site, which provides valuable tips and information as well as great products for your outdoor space. You can visit this site at

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