Household Tips: Redecorate The Patio

Redecorating your patio, or refinishing your deck, can be easy, quick and fun.

The process of redecorating a patio can easily be one of anticipation and pleasure if you begin with one simple rule: Form follows function.

How you transform your patio -- what seating, lighting, hangings and other design elements to employ -- is best defined by how you want your patio to function. In other words: what do you want to do with, and in, the patio space? What role, in the scheme of your household, can and should that space play?

"Play" is usually the operative word for patio-goers, especially those who recall the days when outdoor patios came into vogue in a huge way. The very name conjures up images of sunny summer days, holiday cook-outs, a picnic table to one side and, for the grown-ups, a glass-topped wrought-iron dining table under a big umbrella made from fabric that likely matched, exactly, the stuffed cushions of the "patio furniture."

Without a doubt, patio decor in the 21st century has changed as dramatically as -- and perhaps, along with -- 21st century lifestyles. Less fuss, more freedom!

So if you spend more time on the go, less time relaxing, and have more desire for a special place to "get away" for a few hours, then here are some ideas to help you give your patio the form and the function you're looking for!

Less is More

Why keep your patio all dressed up in little-used, expensive patio furniture that mostly collects dust and tree detritus, and constantly begs to be cleaned?

Opt instead for the eclectic look this summer: a classy, casual combination of vintage canvas sun-chairs, long wooden benches that can double as tabletops (and triple as tanning benches) and one of those great, old swinging loveseats. A few spring trips to local garage and estate sales should have your furniture in place by Memorial Day! Those Saturday mornings you used to spend on your knees with a pail of soapy water, you can now spend on your back, soaking up the sun!

And store those high-glow patio lights in the garage this year. Save energy (and your eyes!) by installing a patio border of two-foot solar lamps to cast just enough illumination on those soft summer nights. Feel a need to read? Buy a few battery-powered personal book lamps, or haul out and clean up that old Coleman camp lantern you haven't used since your Girl Scout days!

Go for a new Garden Gateway

When visitors enter your patio from outside your home, what do they see?

This summer, buy or build a simple wooden or wrought iron arbor arch to mark the gateway to your "new" garden patio. Install the arch at least three feet from the patio's edge, and create a short but dramatic pathway that clearly denotes "special space." Clear the path of sod and pack the soil securely before sprinkling a fresh bed of cedar mulch to mark the path. Plant a few plugs of fragrant lemon-thyme at the beginning and end of the short path, assuring that your visitors will enjoy a sweet scent of citrus and cedar each time they enter your patio.

In selecting plants to decorate your arbor, again consider form and function: do you hope to attract hummingbirds? Butterflies? Plant a scattering of scarlet runner or snap beans; the flowering plant will attract birds, and you'll have hours of old-fashioned, relaxing fun, sitting on your patio at dusk, picking beans and snapping them into your lap.

For a sense of solitude at the end of a long commute, add a length of trellised fencing on both sides of the arbor, planted out in varieties of vibrant, climbing roses, spirea hedges, self-sowing hollyhocks and other tall flowering plants, to give your patio the look and feel of an old English garden. On the house-side of the patio, mount a series of wall-pockets planted with your favorite, heat-tolerant annuals. Cinch the flower-garden look by adding a half-dozen 10-foot wooden posts hung with large and luxuriant hanging baskets.

Plan a Putterer's Garden

If your body's at the office but your heart is in the garden, a patio-style putterer's garden is for you!

You can choose to have the garden "deck" custom-made, or build your own, but the simplest method is to group, in a circle, at least six wooden half-barrels, leaving a space between two of the barrels as a walk-through, and a space in the center from which to garden.

As time permits after the threat of frost has passed, fill the barrels with a mixture of two-thirds garden soil to one-third compost, and plant away. Mix and match sunny little annuals with kitchen-garden types, such as tomatoes, green onions, carrots and radishes. To save both time and money, you can start your seedlings indoors for transplanting out when the real "patio season" sweeps in.

Whatever your choices for patio decor make them suit you and your lifestyle, and you're certain to be pleased with them!

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