Outdoor Living || Relax and entertain al fresco with cool seating, patio umbrellas, fire pits & more If you live in a part of the world with four distinct seasons, it feels incredibly invigorating when you first open your home to the outdoors in spring. Because the season can seem short, it's key to make your outdoor space as comfortable and inviting as possible, especially if you entertain a lot. If you happen to have a swimming pool, this will probably be the focal point of your setup. Organize your space much as you would inside, with designated seating areas, complete with area rugs – durable synthetics, or natural abaca or sisal are ideal. Sprinkle in garden stools or small tables that can be easily rearranged. For finishing touches, include hanging flower pots, large planters, and string lights to make the view even more enticing. Furniture Must-Haves || Start with the coziest seating you can find. Depending on the size of your space, you can include a sofa, loveseat, chairs, or even a sectional. Consider how you plan to use the space. If dining al fresco is number one, invest in a table that accommodates an umbrella, and make sure the chairs include cushions. If frequent naps and reading time are on the agenda, a chaise, swivel chair or glider will feel especially welcoming, along with a convenient side table to place your beverage, snacks, and a book. When choosing fabrics for seat cushions, pillows and umbrella canopies, decide if they will receive full or partial sun exposure. Generally, acrylic fabrics such as Sunbrella are the most durable and soft, and will not fade, while spun polyester fabrics are durable, but stiffer, and more likely to fade. Inviting Extras || A memorable outdoor soiree includes many elements. Obviously, a fun mix of family and friends is essential, but as afternoon segues to evening, certain factors make people want to linger. If it gets chilly, a fire pit can provide just the amount of warmth and ambience you need to keep the party going. If you prefer an upgrade to your old beach cooler, you can set up a portable trolley cart on casters for a "help yourself" bar. A large tray to organize accessories like napkins, cups and plates is helpful. And, if your gathering is still in full swing during evening hours, don't forget citronella candles to keep bugs at bay – except for fireflies, of course. You may want to count or chase them. Light & Shade || There's simply no comparison to natural light. It just makes you feel more energetic. But when temperatures sizzle in midsummer, you need to shield yourself and guests a bit. This is where a great patio or deck umbrella will do wonders. As the day progresses, adjust the umbrella's angle to keep direct sunshine under control, and if you feel a sudden raindrop or get a downpour, a strong, sturdy umbrella really helps. If you're making s'mores come nightfall, hang some string lights or battery-operated lanterns to make the scene magical.