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Go the Extra Yard

Come summer, city dwellers are so excited to expand beyond their apartment’s walls to begin entertaining in any quarters that can loosely qualify as an “outdoor space”: true balcony patios, genuine backyards behind a brownstone, an extra-wide sidewalk outside a walk-up apartment building or even an unfinished roof.

Regardless of your space’s resources, here are some helpful tips for you to spruce up your outdoor patio for your next al fresco soiree!

Start with a neutral base and use colors as an accent. If you are investing in patio furniture, you want the furniture to be simple and neutral so that it can be used year after year and doesn’t look dated or passé come next summer. Instead of purchasing trendy furniture, dress up a neutral patio set with bold or printed throw pillows, table linens or cushions in a summery print like ikat, abstract florals or nautical stripes.

Use a single color to harmonize mismatched furniture. To cut costs on furnishing your outdoor space, turn to yard sales, hand-me-downs, Craigslist and the like for interesting chairs and side tables. Once gathered, miscellaneous chairs can look intentionally offbeat. But, if your collection is looking more confused than distinctive, spray paint your chairs in a single color like white or charcoal grey. The uniform color will instantly bring the dissimilar furniture together for a cohesive appeal.

Add a light source to your space. Globe bulb string lights are a fantastic way to brighten up your space with just a soft glow. For that casually European look, hang the lights in a zig-zag pattern, slightly sagging under the weight of the bulbs, over your patio—a particularly attractive option if your space is asymmetrical or has limited ledges from which to hang lights.

Create some shade. For outdoor spaces that lack any tree coverage or shade, consider investing in a freestanding umbrella or a canopy to make the space comfortable all summer long. To create a faux-awning, hang up a large piece of muslin, thin cotton or voile fabric either from strings on the corner or draped over four poles staked into the ground. Apartment Therapy has a great and inexpensive tutorial so you and your patio will have it made in the shade.

Up the presence of the plant life and flora. For urbanites whose outdoor space usually has more concrete than greenery, bring in plants. A large plant or fern in a bold ceramic pot can breathe new energy into the space. For smaller areas, an herb garden in a flower box or tabletop cacti and succulents still add that needed bit of nature.