Earlier this month, we talked about getting your home “summer ready” and about how decks, porches, and patios can expand your living space and allow you to have a better outdoor experience. Today we’re chatting about how to enjoy and make the most of these beautiful outdoor additions.

Put practicality first. Think about how you’re going to use the space. Accessibility and convenience should be key considerations.

Plan to enjoy lots of al fresco dining? Then set up your eating area in a spot where travel to and from your kitchen and food prep spaces is easy and obstacle free (or go big and design a gorgeous outdoor kitchen like one of these featured on House Beautiful).

Want a firepit but don’t want to flambé your home? Think about where in your outdoor space you can create your evenings by firelight…without torching the place. Love water features but not the look of a two-hundred-foot garden hose? Take inventory of where you have access to hoses, faucets, sprinklers, etc. before you put in that koi pond you’ve always wanted. When you know what you want to do in your outdoor space (and what’s required to meet those needs), you save yourself countless time and aggravation from having to move around fixtures and features constantly.

What about the view? Stage any seating or furniture with the view in mind. Your neighbor’s trash and recycling containers? Not ideal. The woods in the back of your home or the flowering trees nearby? Perfect. Pick your view and then work your plans around highlighting your chosen focal point.

Invest in the right furnishings. Gone are the days of institutional-looking plastic seats (unless those are your thing). Wicker, wrought iron, wood, or treated fabrics are just a few of the options you now have available to you. Look for the best furniture your budget will allow. You want comfort, of course. But you also want furniture that can stand up to wind, rain, sun, and frequent use (not to mention pets, children, and beverage spills). And your aesthetic matters. This is your home outside your home (literally). What matches the style of your home or your personal preferences?

There’s more than just tables and chairs. Fire pits, outdoor fireplaces, lighting—the addition of any of these can beautify your front or backyard. But even more than making your space attractive, each of these features has the added benefit of allowing you to prolong the warm weather well into the colder seasons (if you’re “lucky” enough to enjoy more than one season).

And don’t forget the things that make you smile. What would make your outdoor spaces uniquely yours? Flowers, plants, gardens, water features, your gnome collection, or your penchant for pink flamingos? Make room for those things!

Bring the indoors outside. A front or backyard need not be totally utilitarian. Bring your comfy blankets and pillows out (and then remember to bring them back in or sacrifice them to the weather gods). The same can be said of music systems, your favorite punch bowl set, or that ceramic “ashtray” your favorite little person made you in kindergarten. Need some design inspiration? Start here with these 12 Fresh Ideas to Transform Your Outdoor Space by FOOD52.

All that’s standing between you and your outdoor oasis is your imagination and a team of experienced, reliable professionals who can make your vision a reality. HPI’s experts can help you restore your existing porch, patio, or deck or design and install a new space to help you enjoy outdoor living. Take advantage of a free in-home estimate on all services. Call 410.757.2658 to schedule your appointment.