The warmer months are on their way so now is the time to start thinking about how you want to enjoy your outdoor spaces this year. If you’re hoping to add a few upgrades to your deck, but aren’t prepared for a full renovation, here are a few ideas for getting more from your current arrangement.

Add Shade

The high, hot summer sun can wither any outdoor gathering and send you indoors sooner than you’d like. Although shade doesn’t change the actual temperature, you can feel 10 to 15 degrees cooler just from getting out of the sun. Plus, staying out of the sun is better for your skin in the long run!

Simple solutions include deck umbrellas on weighted stands or the addition of a retractable awning. For a complete solution, consider adding a roofed-in area such as a pavilion, complete with lighting, ceiling fans, and screens. Or, to achieve a classic garden look, try a pergola with climbing plants such as ivy, climbing roses, or fragrant clematis.

Update Lighting

Proper lighting will not only make your deck area look more finished, but it will also keep your family and guests safe long after sunset. Sitting areas and walkways should always be illuminated for safety. Lighting corners and edges can dispel any gloom, and decorative lighting such as string lights, or spotlights to emphasize your favorite features will add a bit of personalization.

Table lighting is another way to set the mood while also brightening up your gathering areas. Candles are a popular choice, and flameless LED models provide a soft, kid- and pet-friendly glow. Another idea is to put your umbrellas to use after sunset and hang string lighting from the underside. Solar-powered models are perfect here as you won’t have to string extension cords and your lights will have all day long to recharge.

Fire pits are another way to add lighting and warmth to your gatherings. Large fires should be set several feet from your deck for safety, or you can have a deck-safe fire pit added to your current arrangement. For the simplest addition, choose a contained tabletop fire bowl that burns small tins of fuel.

Plants & Landscaping

If your deck is in great condition and your furniture is just right, but somehow your spaces feel unwelcoming or lacking, it might be the landscaping! Outdoor spaces look the best when you add natural elements such as plants, shrubs, bushes, trees, and flowers so they blend with the landscape. The idea is to create a transitional space from indoors to out to get the best feel.

To get started quickly, simply add a few planters, pots, and planter boxes and plant colorful annuals. If you lack a green thumb, don’t be afraid to choose artificial plants. Not only will these stand up to weeks of neglect, but you can also pack them away in the fall without having to buy fresh every spring. Or, if you’re ready for a complete overhaul, add low shrubs around the perimeter of your deck, shade trees, a vegetable garden in the yard, or even a stone path leading from your deck to other areas of your yard.

Build an Addition

If you love your current deck and yard, but there’s just not enough room for everything you’d like to do, consider adding more space to your deck. For example, a small extension designed to house your grill, prep tables, and other cooking needs can free up space to add more seating. Or, add a screened-in seating area for insectless relaxation.

Maximize Your Enjoyment

Your deck, patio, and other outdoor spaces are meant to provide a place to relax, spend time with friends and family, and reconnect with nature. Even the smallest additions can make an area more welcoming so you can get the most from your deck without having to start from scratch.