How to outfit your patio or balcony

With the first hint of warm weather, people are eager to get out into their backyards, porches or balconies to enjoy a morning coffee or host a chic summer dinner.

You don’t need an Instagram-worthy patio, but some fun additions can contribute to that welcoming atmosphere you’re looking for.

Hila Roberts, patio merchant for The Home Depot, said the Crossfire fire pit with cooking grate she owns prompted her family to spend more time on the patio: “When we have friends over, we cook a steak on it during the day and make s’mores on it at night.”

For visual warmth, opt for inexpensive string lights, which will add ambiance and allow you to enjoy the patio later into the night.

LED candles and ceramic lanterns are also having a moment, Roberts said.

Before browsing furniture options, shift your mindset.

Start seeing the patio for what it is: an extension of your home.

“The biggest mistake is underestimating the potential of your outdoor space and not using it enough,” said industrial designer Stephen Burks. “It can be fixed by taking your indoor activities outside.”

Swap your dining room for a meal in the warm breeze on the patio. Or take your movie marathon night from living room to under the stars.

How much to shell out for an outdoor room? Roberts helps clients do the math by taking into consideration the phase of their life. “If you’re going to be in your space for a few years, invest in furniture that you’ll use for years to come,” explained Roberts. “If you’re still renting, keep it simple.”

A big trend in design, Burks explained, is the merging of indoor — outdoor spaces. When shopping for an outdoor rug, choose one stylish enough to be reused indoors, yet made to withstand outdoor elements. He’s also a fan of modulated sofas that can be break up in smaller pieces.

Picking out the right materials is crucial. Look for tables and chairs made of aluminum, which is rust-proof and lightweight, said Roberts. For outdoor pillows and patio umbrellas, she recommends the Sunbrella fabric endorsed by the Skin Cancer Foundation to protect against the sun’s UV rays.

Even if your outdoor space is limited to a tiny balcony, you can still enjoy an alfresco haven. “This was me 10 years ago,” said Roberts who found a three-piece bistro set to be the best solution at the time.

Home Depot sells bistro sets for as low as $199.

Add greenery said David Graham, senior live goods merchant at Home Depot. Succulents are durable and require the least amount of care,

And the easiest way to spruce up a patio? Add bright summery accent pillows.