June 9, 2016 (Gephardt Daily/Family Features) — The arrival of milder temperatures means dining al fresco, hosting neighborhood cookouts and enjoying intimate cocktail parties under the stars. When creating a backyard oasis to entertain family and friends this summer, it’s important for your space to be both inviting and able to withstand the wear and tear that goes hand-in-hand with warm-weather fun.
The outdoor living experts at Trex, the world’s largest manufacturer of wood-alternative decking and railing, suggest the following tips:
Check your deck
Nothing spoils a deck party like a nasty splinter or a trip over an uneven board. If your deck needs a “face lift,” consider replacing old, rotting or warping boards with wood-alternative decking that combines superior durability and low-maintenance with long-lasting good looks.
Unlike wood, high-performance composites resist fading, staining, scratching and mold – and won’t rot, warp, crack or splinter. Upkeep is hassle-free with no sanding, staining or painting required and food and drink spills wash off easily with soap and water.
“Who wants an outdoor space that they have to spend more time maintaining than enjoying? For me, composite decking is a no-brainer,” said celebrity deck designer Paul Lafrance of HGTV’s acclaimed “Decked Out” series. “It delivers all the beauty and aesthetics of wood without the back-breaking and time-consuming upkeep.”
Made from reclaimed and recycled materials, composite decking is also environmentally friendly, making it an ideal choice for today’s increasingly eco-conscious consumers.
Maximize the function and flow of your outdoor living space by creating different entertainment and comfort “zones.” Establish separate areas for cooking, eating and socializing, just as you have inside your home. Incorporate lots of comfortable seating and dedicate space for guests to relax and converse. Structures like pergolas, trellises, or even tall potted plants, can help separate and define different settings.
Food and drink stations – arguably the most crucial element of a party – should be prominent and accessible to guests. Because people always follow the food, you may also want to set up food or serving carts at the edge of your social space.
And don’t forget a kid-friendly zone with games, such as corn hole, badminton and ladder ball, and other fun activities that require minimal supervision to help keep children entertained and allow grown-up guests to mingle and enjoy themselves.
Frame your space
While railings provide an obvious and necessary safety function, they also serve an important aesthetic role by creating a decorative frame for outdoor spaces. Additionally, the right railing can maximize scenic views or enhance the privacy of an outdoor setting.
Available in a wide variety of designs, materials and colors, there are thousands of decking and railing combinations from which to choose. To help simplify the selection process, Trex offers a Decking and Railing Duos online tool, which delivers customized couplings based on consumer preferences and proven, designer-selected pairings. The tool even allows users to download a complete ordering guide and materials list for their favorite looks.
Let there be light
The right lighting can take any outdoor space from invisible to inviting. Adding dimmable LED lighting to railings and stairs not only adds atmosphere, but also enhances security and extends the time you can spend enjoying your outdoor living space. For maximum ambiance and safety, focus on illuminating entryways, paths, steps, railings and specific task areas, such as an outdoor kitchen or bar. On a budget? Infuse light and warmth with candles, lanterns or tiki torches.
“One of the hottest trends right now – literally – is fire features that not only add ambiance to an outdoor space but also provide heat and light that allow you to use your deck later into the evening and into the year,” Lafrance said. “Fire pits and fireplaces also provide great focal points and natural gathering spots for conversation and, of course, s’mores.”
Stock up on storage
Make entertaining a breeze with built-in storage to keep backyard bash supplies organized and at-hand. Homeowners can now outfit an outdoor living space with ingenious storage solutions for everything from pillows and pool supplies to food, beverages and tableware.
Don’t forget the finishing touches
Customize your outdoor living space to make family and friends feel truly welcome. Infuse charm and your own personal style with accessories such as vibrant weather- and stain-resistant throw pillows and cushions. Opt for elegant outdoor tableware over flimsy paper and plastic, and integrate artistic accents and accessories just as you would inside your home to give the space the look and feel of an outdoor great room.
“There is a huge trend right now of bringing traditionally ‘indoor’ comforts out to the deck, porch or patio to create fully functional and furnished outdoor rooms,” Lafrance said. “Thanks to advances in all-weather materials, furnishings and accessories, you can outfit an outdoor living space in much the same way that you would any room in the home.”
For more outdoor living ideas and inspiration, visit Trex.com.