10 Outdoor Living Essentials to Get Ready for Summer

1. Comfortable Outdoor Seating

You wouldn’t select an uncomfortable sofa for your living room, so keep those same standards when choosing seating for your patio. Your outdoor furniture needs will depend on your space constraints, climate and lifestyle.

Choose durable outdoor materials like teak, steel, powder-coated metal, resin wicker and anything that can handle exposure to sunlight, moisture and outdoor temperature changes. If you have the space for it, creating multiple seating areas — some for groups, others for quiet retreats — can make a yard more dynamic.

An outdoor rug under an outdoor sectional makes this Chicago deck extra cozy.
Staghorn NYC
2. Outdoor Table

Nothing beats enjoying a meal at an outdoor dining table on a warm evening. As with choosing any outdoor furniture, getting the scale right is key. As a general rule, allow at least 2½ feet (0.8 meters) from the edge of a table to the end of a patio or any other obstacle to allow space for a chair and circulation.
Lindsay Pennington Inc.
Bistro tables (which range from 2 to 3 feet wide) are often best for the smallest outdoor spaces and can provide a private seat for two.

If you have room to accommodate a more generous table to seat four to six people, choose among various table shapes and sizes to best suit your space and allow for clearance.

As with selecting any other piece of outdoor furniture, choose durable materials for your dining table and chairs so they will hold up to the elements.

AXIS Productions
3. Source of Shade

If you have a sunny outdoor space and enjoy spending extended periods of time outside, you’ll appreciate some shade protection. Shade sources can take all forms, including shade trees, pergolas draped in vines, shade sails mounted on wires, retractable awnings and more.

Freestanding umbrellas can be the most effective option (and the most budget-friendly) if you want the flexibility of being able to move a spot of shade where you need it.
Designs by Sundown
4. Outdoor Lighting

Nothing quite sets the mood in a garden like soft lighting. While installing an outdoor lighting system is a larger investment and takes the help of a lighting professional, adding freestanding solar-powered lights or battery operated LED lights along pathways is something easy to do on your own. Hanging string lights over a seating area adds instant atmosphere and is also easier than it may seem – even if you don’t have a pergola or tree branches just where you need them.

When purchasing any outdoor lighting, make sure to choose ones specifically for outdoor use, which will often have seals to keep out moisture, among other advantages. Those marked as “commercial grade” are the most durable and often come with a warranty.
Renee Byers, Landscape Architect, P.C.
5. Grill

If you don’t have a grill, or if you’d like to upgrade your setup, it’s helpful to know that grills generally fall into categories based on fuel type and overall style. While gas-powered covered grills and freestanding charcoal grills may be the most common types out there, don’t let that limit your imagination.

Maybe you’d like to try out cooking low and slow over a smoker, searing skewered meats on an uncovered Southeast Asian-style grill or half-grilling, half-roasting meats in a rotisserie grill. Many grill fanatics swear by kamado-style cookers, like the Komodo Kamado and Big Green Egg, which benefit from the radiant heat of their ceramic side walls.
Parlour & Palm
6. Cushions

Scattering a few colorful throw cushions on a neutral outdoor sofa or adding cushy seat cushions to wood chairs can make an instant difference in boosting the style and comfort of an outdoor living space.

When choosing cushions, opt for those made for outdoor use with fabrics that have been treated to be water repellent and to prevent fading with sun exposure. To keep cushions clean, come up with a plan for storing them at the end of the season, on rainy days or generally when not in use.
Trinity Builders & Design, Inc
7. Throw Blankets

Throw blankets are practical for chilly evenings and can help round out the look of your outdoor lounge.

Given that throw blankets aren’t left outdoors for long periods, choose among any blanket style you like (no special outdoor fabric required) or pull out ones you already have in the house to use as needed.

Those made of fabrics you can throw in the wash, like cotton, linen and acrylic blends, may be more practical for everyday use than special-care fabrics.

Design Alchemy
8. Serving Tray

To reduce trips made back and forth to the kitchen, choose a serving tray that’s large enough to accommodate a couple of plates, glasses and a dish or two of nibbles. Those with a deep lip around the edge can help prevent anything from sliding off the tray while you move from house to patio.
Urban Oasis
9. Outdoor Tableware

Having a casual outdoor tableware set made from durable materials can help prevent stress over accidentally dropping a glass on the patio or having cutlery from your primary indoor set go missing.

While it’s easy to automatically think of plastic as a largely shatterproof material, particularly as a safe option for glassware around pools, consider wood or enamelware as long-lasting alternatives for plates and platters.
ZEN Associates, Inc.
10. Heat Source

If you like to linger outdoors in the evening, having some type of heat source is just as important as having outdoor lighting. Throw blankets draped over shoulders can work for an individual, but investing in outdoor heaters can make an entire space feel much more cozy and inviting.

Electric wall- or ceiling-mounted models cover about a 9-foot-square “heat blanket” and can be plugged into standard electrical outlets. Two ceiling-mounted units are enough to cover a six-person dining table in this New England garden.

Bonus outdoor feature: An outdoor fire pit can be a great way to add heat, light and some nice atmosphere to an outdoor space in the evening.

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