Bring your home and your life outdoors by creating little living rooms on porches and patios. Arrange seating as you would in a family room to encourage gathering for good conversation and relaxation. Use comfortable cushions and pillows covered in outdoor fabric liberally, and your outdoor spaces will become the most popular rooms in, and outside, the house.
Check out other ways to arrange outdoor furniture, including how to stylishly enjoy porch swings and hammocks. Video: Porch Seating Arrangements
Your outdoor spaces should be an extension of your interiors. Expand a bedroom by opening French doors out to lounge areas, or make a small kitchen feel spacious with doors that lead out to an alfresco dining area.
See what other decorative porch structures, such as columns and louver doors, can do to define your outdoor rooms. Video: Decorative Porch Structures
Excite your neutral patio furniture with pops of color using cushions and pillows covered in vibrant outdoor fabric. Use key lime greens and yellows to welcome the summer time. Switch to warmer oranges and reds when the weather starts to cool down in the fall.
Find out the many more ways you can utilize outdoor fabric to spruce up your backyard and patio. Video: Decorating with Outdoor Fabric
A coiled hose is a necessary evil in a garden -- you need one, but when it's not in use, who wants to see it? Instead, conceal one or two hoses in this handsome bench built from common 1 x 6 boards.
How-To: Make a Storage Bench
A mortarless flagstone path is a practically foolproof project.
"It's not very technical and doesn't require any power tools," says garden designer Tom Piergrossi. "Still, there's enough artistry involved to make it satisfying."
How-To: Make a Flagstone Path
Cooking outdoors doesn’t only have to happen on the 4th of July with a couple of burgers on the grill. Building an outdoor kitchen is an extravagant luxury, yes, but a luxury none the less. We love this coastal outdoor kitchen and its built-in dishwasher.
An outdoor dishwasher too over-the-top? Get a few more outdoor kitchen tips that are certainly achievable. Video: Get Outside With the Kitchen
Create a “party pantry” on your back porch or patio made out of an old hutch or console table, for impromptu parties. Stock it with the bare essentials for spur of the moment outdoor entertaining: plastic plates, cups, napkins, and a few serving pieces.
See how extra tall candelabras and a bucket of fresh produce can help set the perfect outdoor entertaining table, with Southern Living’s Assistant Homes Editor, Todd Childs. Video: Tips for Entertaining
Yet another reason to clean out your garage. Convert the space into an elegant dinner party dining area by moving cars out to the street, hanging fabric panels in the garage doorways, and arranging tables and chairs. Bringing in lamps for warm light, and accent the space with a few potted plants, and a piece of serving furniture.
Be astounded with more outstanding entertaining ideas. Video: Outstanding Outdoor Entertaining
A simple string of party lights brings something special to backyard; whether you’re enjoying a weeknight meal out back, or hosting a dinner party. Tie up a set between two trees, add a bottle of wine, some friends, and you’ve got yourself a party.
See the dozens of ways you can light up the night in nature. Video: Outdoor Lighting
Dress up some lanterns with ribbon, add simple fabric panels to a plain umbrella, and you've created the perfect setting for a romantic dinner alfresco.
How-To: Make a Party Umbrella
For after-dinner fun with friends, make like a Roman and roll bocce balls toward a target pallino. Long familiar in places like California's Napa Valley, bocce is appearing in backyards across the West.
Beautiful perennials can thrive for years in a single container. Grow just one, pair companion plants, or have fun mixing a variety of complementary colors and textures.
You can make a charming little patio like this in just one weekend.
Tuck it into a border or garden corner, where you can linger with a Sunday morning latte or an evening glass of wine.
How-To: Create a Patio Instantly
Fill your garden with nectar-rich flowering plants, and monarchs and other winged beauties will drop by regularly. This 8- x 10-foot butterfly garden uses only long-growing perennials for years of easy of care.
How-To: Plant a Butterfly Garden
So you still haven’t gotten around to planting that hydrangea bush? No worries. Create an instant garden using containers. Planters in all different shapes, sizes, and colors are the perfect antidote to a colorless, flowerless garden.
See more ways you can use containers to create the garden of your dreams. Video: Container Gardens
Don’t plant too many bulbs close to your house. Overcrowding the edges of your home with too many plants wastes money and creates more pruning work later.
Get more front yard gardening tips like this one from Southern Living’s garden experts. Video: Front Yard Ideas
In this simple homemade fountain, an azalea container supports a strawberry pot and hides a small water pump; a low terra-cotta bowl forms the base and catches falling water.
If distance discourages regular visits to the beach, try turning a corner of your yard into a quirky personal seashore like this one in Sunset's test garden in Menlo Park, California.
How-To: Create your own mini beach.
In his backyard ramada, artist Jeff Zischke houses candles in antique carriage lamps and ordinary mason jars. "That flickering glow just draws people in like moths."
How-To: Make an Easy Jar Lantern
Make your home feel like its straight out of New Orleans’ French Quarter by installing gas light sconces on porches and patios. The flickering light will cast a warm glow throughout the space, perfect for enjoying once the sun has set.
Find other regional outdoor lighting styles and get great porch decorating secrets from the editors at Southern Living. Video: Making the Most of Your Porch
Enjoy your backyard and garden on a sweltering summer day by cooling off with color. Paint outdoor furniture and planters in cool blues, and top off arbors with light-colored wisteria. Light blue and white hydrangea plants will also make a balmy backyard feel breezy.
Get more cool, colorful backyard ideas from Southern Living’s Garden Editor, Rebecca Reed. Video: Cool off With Colors
Plant a bed of flowers in pale shades, especially white, to make the most of the moonlight. The bright colors of most flowers disappear once the sun has set. Plants with white flowers or white in the leaves will be illuminated in a dark backyard.
From outdoor lamps to tiki torches, explore all of the ways you can light up the night. Video: Making the Most of Moonlight
Add fabric panels to an arbor to create your own personal cabana. Low to the ground, lounge-like furniture covered in sumptuous outdoor fabrics and large floor cushions add to the zen, relaxed vibe of a poolside cabana.
From unconventional decking to waterproof seating, see more ways to achieve poolside perfection. Video: Poolside Perfection
Place containers filled with colorful flowers and leafy plants around a pool. Plants in decorative pots are a quick and easy way to make a simple patio feel like a lush oasis.
Check out more ways to decorate poolside with tips from the editors at Southern Living. Video: Pool Décor Details
Craving a screened-in porch or an arbor covered patio? Get the look for a fraction of the cost in no time with a tent or cabana that you can pick up at most outdoor furniture stores. Customize your piece with outdoor fabrics in colors or patterns that match the style of your home. Best of all, pack it up and store it when the weather turns cold or if you’re expecting a storm.
Learn about loggia, pergola, arbors and other outstanding outdoor architecture. Video: Outdoor Architecture