Before: Plain and Uninviting

Make your deck the hot spot for evening parties. If your outdoor space currently says, "walk on by" rather than "please have a seat," follow these creative ideas and simple styling tricks to give it a five-star makeover.

After: Reinvent Wisely

Finding the perfect table and chairs might be the most important aspect of reinventing a deck. Homeowner and designer Mary Leigh Fitts ditched her outdated patio set to make room for a large table custom-made with an iron base and limestone top; canvas chairs fit easily around it.

"I wanted something sturdy that would last for years and that could one day be brought inside and still look beautiful," says Mary Leigh.

Hint: For a less expensive tabletop version, use glass or plywood painted and sealed for outdoor use.

Add Drama With Fabric

Nothing softens a space like fabric, so Mary Leigh made curtain panels out of weather-resistant Sunbrella fabric, hanging them on either side of the table from a makeshift curtain rod of heavy-gauge wire.

She also stretched a hemmed piece of the fabric above the table so it's always covered. This canopy gives the dining area a more private feel.

Hint: Secure fabric for a canopy by nailing the ends to side structures or by adding grommets to the fabric and using hooks.

Easy to Serve

Besides a grill, one of the best pieces to have on your deck or patio is a buffet. And if you think such a piece only belongs in a dining room, think again. We built one out of pressure-treated lumber, painted it mushroom gray, and topped it with copper sheeting.

Shine the top once in a while with copper cleaner, and you'll be pleased with its lasting good looks. Store candles, lighters, cocktail accessories, grilling tools, and extra serving trays inside the buffet.

Hint: Use lamps outdoors for a change -- they will make the space feel like a comfy interior room.

Bring the Inside Out

Fine-tuning your patio for a lovely evening requires little effort and zero money. Gather accessories (such as lamps, bowls, throw rugs, and pillows) from inside your home, and use them to decorate.

And, no matter the occasion, candles make every party brighter. Consider using the structure of your deck for display; in this case, the large, wooden beams at the end were the perfect spots for displaying candles.

Hint: Place fishbowls with live goldfish in them around your outdoor party room. Friends will love the look, and the display couldn't be easier.

Beautify the View

Because this patio had a parking area in sight, Mary Leigh came up with a clever idea to hide it. She asked a local craftsman to create the effect of louvered blinds using pressure-treated 2 x 4s.

He measured the space between the brick half wall and the top of the carport's roof, and then had wooden frames (also constructed from pressure-treated 2 x 4s) made to fit that space.

Inside the frames, more 2 x 4s were nailed horizontally a few inches and at a 45-degree angle. Then the wood was primed and painted white to match the trim.

From Southern Living Room-by-Room Makeovers

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