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Bring the Indoors Out
Time: 15 to 30 minutes.
Starting budget: $0. Use what you've got.
If you're saving for patio furniture but want to host an al fresco dinner party, you don't have to wait. Simply move your dining room table and chairs onto the patio temporarily.
Paint Your Patio Furniture
Time required: Half a day to clean, prime and paint two coats.
Starting budget: A gallon of primer, a gallon of paint and a brush will run you around $50. Chances are, you already have a few of these things stored somewhere.
Your tired old picnic table will take on a whole new look with a bright coat of paint. If you want to get a mix and match look, paint the table and chairs different colors.
Fill the Edges with Exuberant Plants
Time required: 1 day.
Starting budget: I recently found a 3.5-gallon Endless Summer Blue Hydrangea at Lowe's for $30. If you keep your eyes open, you can find 2.5 gallon shrubs for around $15, and perennials and annuals for just a few dollars.
Perennials, annuals and shrubs enliven the patio and transform the color palette.
See great design plants
Time required: A weekend.
Starting budget: I found a 30-inch portable fire pit for $40; the DIY fire pit shown above cost $450 in materials.
Whether it's a permanent installation or one of the many portable versions available on the market, a fire pit lets you enjoy your patio later into the night and later into the fall season. Best of all, you can toast marshmallows over it. Erin Lang Norris shows us how she built this one.
Browse more fire pits
Build a Pergola
Time required: A weekend if you're very handy, potentially a lot longer if you're not. Hiring a professional may be in order, as you will want sturdy foundations for your structure.
Starting budget: If you use cedar to build a DIY 8-foot by 8-foot pergola, it will run you around $700 to $1,000 in lumber.
These architectural structures define outdoor rooms, and you can suspend items like candleholders, paper lanterns and hanging plants from their rafters.
DIY: Turn Your Carport Into an Outdoor Dining Room
Outdoor Rooms: The Perfect Pergola