These days, the trend in outdoor living is to create a living room, or even an entire kitchen, outside. Gone are the days of simple patio furniture and a folding lawn chair or two. However, there are some simple ways to make any outdoor space as comfortable as an interior room.

Here are the best (and most affordable) ways to decorate an outdoor room:

Choosing Outdoor Fabrics

There are a variety of fabrics available for outdoor furniture. Vinyl and plastics are durable and inexpensive but do not emote the feel of a living room. In addition, on really hot days they are sticky and uncomfortable. Consider choosing fabrics that are breathable, (like Sunbrella) treated to resist fading and dry quickly. They do cost a bit more but they will last as much as 4 times longer than the cheaper versions, so in the long run they save money and provide functionality and aesthetic appeal.

Outdoor Heating

Spring and fall seasons can bring unpredictable weather such as rain and even snow. To lengthen the outdoor season, think about investing in outdoor heating. Some of the newest options on the market are propane burning portable heaters that come in a variety of attractive tabletop portable units and lamp post style upright versions.

Floor Coverings

It is hard to imagine but companies exist today that just make rugs for outdoors such as area rugs for the deck, terrace or patio. Made of polypropylene, these attractive outdoor rugs resist mold and mildew and can be washed or hosed down. Generally, they are inexpensive and really go a long way to pull a ‘room’ together outdoors.

Clever & Stylish Storage

When creating an outdoor living space that is completely uncovered and open air style, plan ahead and add a large deck box or a small cabana shed to your budget. When you are not using the outdoor living room, put away the cushions and weather sensitive accessories, to protect them from the elements. Everything will last longer and you don’t have to drag them into the house or garage. Positioning a covered deck box close by offers a protected place to stow the cushions until the next time they are needed.

Adding Shade To An Outdoor Room

Unless the space where the living room will be located is covered by a roof, a source of shade is often necessary. A shade source will offer a welcome respite from the heat of the sun in spaces with southern exposure, and may offer protection from the rain, as well.

As an alternative to a roof, constructing a pergola is another permanent option for shade. A pergola is a wood structure made of large beams with cross joists at equal spacing across the top. Without a full roof, the patio beneath it is open to the elements, but a pergola still offers shade from the sun at various times throughout the day. Climbing vines can be planted near the structure, and allowed to camouflage some of the wood to soften the effect.

Another option is to add an awning to the deck or patio. An awning will roll out when needed, to supply protection from either sun or rain. By coordinating the awning fabric to the rest of the “room”, as well as to the exterior finishes of the home, it will add another accent in the space.

By far, the least expensive and easiest source of shade is a simple patio umbrella. They are available in many shapes, colors and sizes. Homeowners need to be sure to select an umbrella large enough to cover the space adequately. For example, for a 48″ round table, a 9′ umbrella diameter is a minimum recommendation; this size allows those sitting in chairs around the table to be covered. In a living room setting, several smaller, adjustable patio umbrellas can be placed in various locations around the seating areas.

Outdoor Furnishings

Furniture is the next element to consider. Outdoor lounge furniture is available in several different materials and styles, offering options for every home. Cast aluminum furniture is a durable, long-lasting option for patio furniture. There is no worry about rust, as with wrought iron furniture, and it is available in many styles and colors.

Wood furniture adds warmth to a concrete patio, and blends beautifully with the outdoor landscape. Wood does not necessarily mean high-maintenance. Teak, a hardwood naturally resistant to rotting, is an excellent choice for outdoor furniture. In its natural state, teak is a golden brown color; if left in the elements, the wood turns silver gray. To maintain the brown tones, teak must be oiled every season; this is not necessary, however, as the color change does not affect the integrity of the wood. Teak furniture works well with contemporary, Arts & Crafts or even rustic home styles.

For a more traditional look, all-weather wicker fits the bill. Available in several colors, all-weather wicker can be exposed to the elements without fear of rot or high maintenance. Wicker furniture fits beautifully in an English garden or outside a Victorian home.

For homeowners looking for a green alternative in their outdoor chairs, a company in Jordan, MN, offers maintenance-free outdoor furniture made from recycled plastic milk jugs. It is available in many styles and colors, and keeps waste plastic out of the landfills.

Furniture should be placed on a deck or patio space much like it would be inside a home. Adequate seating should be provided, to accommodate the family as well as visitors to outdoor barbecues and parties. Chaise lounges, chairs and sofas are all suitable for outdoor living, depending upon the space available. End tables and stands should be placed near the seating areas, offering a place to set a drink or a book. Circulation space also needs to be considered, so the furniture does not impede the flow of traffic to and from the space.

It may seem odd to be featuring an article about outdoor living spaces with winter just around the corner. However, all great projects take planning, and what better way to spend snowbound days stuck in the house than planning and dreaming of outdoor living space.

Looking for an indoor project for the winter months? How about transforming your bathroom into a spa retreat!