You’ve got the basics on your patio — a barbecue, a few chairs, and a dining table. But is it as great as it could be? Maybe not.

With a little effort and imagination, your perfectly ordinary garden and back patio can become a delightfully unexpected treat. Here are some hints to make your patio a destination:

• Think accents and art, such as groupings of candles or lanterns or interesting pieces set upon tables. And don’t forget other surfaces. Painted sculptural pieces such as large plywood flowers, or cutouts of the sun and moon, or a series of lanterns, for example, can be hung on shed or house walls, or along a fence.
• Mirrors hung on a wall or fence reflect a lovely garden, and make a small garden look bigger.
• But before you start buying accents, consider what look or theme you wish to create. Know this so you don’t buy things that do not fit into your space.
• For example, some people may prefer a nautical look with painted decks; or a serene and calming Asian-themed space; a modern minimalist look; a wildwood garden complete with floral fabrics, an antique-looking birdbath and wrought iron furniture; or a party patio with brightly-coloured furniture, twinkly string lights, and fake palm trees. You may also opt to simply extend your indoor decor style outdoors. Your imagination may take you in any direction you wish--as long as your outdoor décor hangs together in colour palette or theme.
• Floor coverings really take things up a notch. Lay down an outdoor rug under the table or to centre a seating area. I’ve also seen painted canvas laid on the patio floor to stunning effect.
• Opt for weatherproof cushioned furniture. Include throw pillows and perhaps even a throw or two for those chilly evenings.
• If you don’t have shade, an umbrella or an awning structure is a must. Also grow plants or train vines to provide shade.
• Plan for privacy. Barriers in crucial areas together with partial barriers with vines or other plantings in less critical areas will be attractive to both you and your neighbours.
• Large coordinated planters or urns are a wonderful way of bringing plants into a patio area. Stairs can also be beautifully decorated with plants, as long as they don’t become a trip hazard.
• Consider lighting as it plays a big role in creating mood. For entertaining, soft lighting is a must.
• Small burbling fountains add the sound of water, which is soothing and can screen out some urban noise.
• Aside from a patio barbecue area, a dining area and perhaps a sitting area, a fireplace pit area is another great idea, if you’ve got the room.

– Sylvia Putz is a journalist with an interest in decor and design. She’s written for TV show Arresting Design;

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