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Patio Makeover Ideas

So, you just built a fancy new patio, eh? Or, if you're allergic to back-breaking hard work like me, you hired a pro (smart move). Either way, you've probably been left with a giant rectilinear or amoeba-like structure, sitting alone and naked in your backyard. Don't leave your patio shivering in the cold, fully exposed. Your new patio needs a little love, and a lot of bling.

Beyond impressing friends and neighbors, dressing up your new patio space will ensure that you actually use it (imagine that). If you plan your space properly, it will complement your home's architectural style and d├ęcor, and reflect your own fabulous tastes. It will also serve as a comfortable and functional transition between your home's interior and exterior. Furnished properly, it will beckon visitors and encourage lingering, making your new patio the hangout for the cool kids on the block.

Have I convinced you yet? Then get out your tape measure, and let's go shopping. Here are six tips and ideas for patio design guaranteed to make your patio fabulous.

Design Pointer: When designing a patio, bigger is better You can create a more dynamic outdoor environment by dividing your patio space as a whole into individual spaces, with each serving a unique purpose, such as cooking, dining and lounging.

1. Use furniture groupings to define each space.What good is your big, new slab of concrete if you can't sit down and relax? Cushioned deep seating sets work well for lounging, entertaining and backyard napping. Mix in a bistro table and chairs, and you've just brought the bar scene to your backyard.

A table 48 inches in diameter or larger and with room for at least four chairs is ideal for dining.

If you're going to soak up all those beautiful UV ray, at least do it in style in a classy chaise lounge. Every patio should have a dedicated space for sunbathing.

2. Think in three dimensions to create dynamic spaces.If you're going to become Mr. and Mrs. Fancy Patio, you'll need to utilize all three dimensions of your space.

A bare "floor" of concrete or brick is boring. Break up the monotony and set off a space with a vibrant and stylish outdoor "rug." (See this example.) You can also bring the inside out and impress your friends by hanging some outdoor artwork.

Go vertical by adding a trellis to screen or divide spaces. Or how about a vertical garden? Very chic, indeed.

Make a space all its own by giving it a "ceiling" using patio coverings, such as a pergola or colorful awning.

Design Pointer: What you do to dress up the inside of your home can often be done on the outside as well.

3. Use container groupings to divide your patio into unique spaces.An easy and elegant way to create unique spaces on your patio is to utilize groups of container plantings. These container groupings control circulation patterns from space to space-just like inside your home.

Simple, elongated planter boxes can serve as a "wall" dividing your outdoor kitchen space from your Yoga station.

4. Add drama with color.Containers are also a terrific way to introduce much-needed color to your patio. Glazed ceramic containers offer vibrant color selections, while the traditional earthy color of terra cotta containers is more subtle, yet equally elegant.

When adding plantings to your patio containers, keep in mind the "warm colors" (red, orange, yellow) will be more dramatic compared to the more understated "cool colors" (blue, violet, green, white).

Fabrics and paint are also easy ways to introduce color. Give that old trellis or faded bench a face lift with a coat of Cerulean blue paint (one of my favorites). Select fabrics for your outdoor furniture that will make a statement-something that even designer Nate Berkus would drool over.

5. Accessorize.Okay, I'm a guy, and I don't want to lose my "man card." But I will admit that a great way to add color and style to your patio space is by accessorizing, just like inside your home. This could mean colorful pillows, outdoor rugs, table top arrangements, glass hurricanes and more.

6. Step it up a notch.If you take all my advice thus far to heart, you will no doubt have a fab patio space to call your own (and flaunt). But, it will still be relatively static. By bringing water into your patio space, you will add the exciting dynamics of sound and movement. I suggest using self-contained fountains because they are easy to install and can even be moved around if needed. My favorite: A sleek and elegant ceramic vase spilling water over its rim. Wall fountains are equally beautiful, and also provide stunning vertical impact.

For you firebugs out there, a portable fire pit is another great way to enhance the patio experience. Unlike a built-in fire pit, you can actually move these portable units around wherever you want some flame action. More and more stylish fire pits are being introduced each year, with John T. Ungers Artisanal Firebowls being a personal favorite of mine.

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