Easy improvements for outdoor spaces

Maximize living space in your home: Spruce up your porch with distinctive furnishings and decorations.

Create an outdoor room: Whether your home is blessed with a generous wraparound or a small front porch just big enough for a chair or two, this is important emotional real estate. It's a place to unwind in the fresh air after a long day, an area that allows you to extend a summer evening outdoors with friends and neighbors. Should you call it a porch, a portico, or a veranda, this space is a significant element of American architecture, especially in the South, where wide, deep front porches are common. Treat your porch as you would the rest of your home, outfitting it with all-weather rugs and furniture, and other decorative touches.

A mood room: If you use your porch to entertain or simply to read and relax, creating the proper ambiance is a key concern. Be sure to install the right lighting for evening hours, and put up curtains or blinds to help filter the daytime sun. A comfy hammock tucked away in the porch corner makes a cozy spot for an afternoon nap after a day of gardening.

Light it up: Is your porch hard-wired? Then you can choose from a variety of overhead lights, such as Sea Gull Lighting's aged brass Outdoor Pendant lantern. If not, make use of electrical outlets with whimsical string lights. Light candles and hurricane lamps for extra glow at night.

Paint the porch: Paint adds color and protects your floor from the elements. For bare wood, use a primer. If it's been painted, lightly sand the surface to improve adhesion, making sure to scrape and spot-prime peeling areas. Apply one to two coats of paint made for high-traffic areas, or choose a deck stain to let the wood's beauty show through.

Read more porch tips.

Related Links:
Backyard Improvements
Decorating an Outdoor Deck
Porch Garden Border
2008 House of the Year - Porch
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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.