If you’re lucky enough to have outdoor space in this summer of staycations, you may want to upgrade the spot to convert it into a more inviting exterior living room. Whether your budget is big or small, there are ways to make changes for a more usable space that will entice you outside in nearly every season.

We asked for suggestions about patio upgrades from representatives of two home builders at Embrey Mill, a planned community in Stafford, Va., where hundreds of families have moved in and are personalizing their patios. They came up with seven ways to make the most of your outdoor space:

1. Consider the possibilities. The best place to start is with a daydream about what your ideal patio would look like followed by a realistic plan that fits your space and budget.

“Plan around the strengths of your outdoor space,” Garrett Hutzel, sales manager for Integrity Homes, wrote in an email. “Do you have endless natural lighting? Do you have a great view or will you need a focal point in your patio? Think about the aesthetic you’re trying to create and what types of furniture you’ll need to get you there.”

Remember to go below the surface, too, Kim Ambrose, director of marketing for Atlantic Builders, wrote in an email.

“That outdoor kitchen, waterfall or hot tub you’re dreaming of will need gas, electricity or water to function,” Ambrose wrote. “Consider the rough-ins needed to complete it. You don’t have to get it all done immediately, but clear plans help transform your dream patio into a reality.”

2. Stay flexible. Staying flexible in your outdoor design will go a long way in cultivating a space that can change with the seasons. Ambrose recommends a portable fire pit, for example, which gives you flexibility to move it around and a natural focal point for socializing in spring, summer and fall.

3. Tone it down. “Choose the color palettes that soothe and suit you,” Hutzel wrote.

If you want to be on trend, Ambrose says that homeowners at Embrey Mill and in other communities are following these styles: modern, clean and natural.

“Rattan and wicker furnishings are highly demanded trends this year,” Ambrose wrote. “In addition to their clean lines and comfortable feel, these materials balance being better for the planet with better for your budget. We’ll continue to see sustainability at the forefront of environmentally friendly outdoor design and decor.”

4. Light it up. Mix and match intimate light fixtures with brighter area lights that fit the needs of every section of your patio.

“Hanging Edison lights or placing tiki torches can easily create a cozier space for conversation,” Ambrose wrote. “Bright solar panels provide ample light for spaces meant for outdoor reading, studying or taking meetings."

5. Let your space work overtime. “With the potential to transform into an exercise area, a second office, an outdoor dining room and a territory of tranquility in the blink of an eye, your patio really can do it all,” Hutzel wrote.

He suggested looking for hard-working outdoor furniture.

“With all the pivots you’ve already made this year, let your furniture do some of the heavy lifting in your outdoor space,” Hutzel wrote. “Creating a clear line between ‘work’ and ‘play’ doesn’t mean doubling up on decor, though. There are tons of clever ways to reuse multipurpose furniture — use ottomans to store your exercise equipment, offer casual seating or double as a footrest or surface for drinks. A well-crafted daybed or couch is perfect for working comfortably, napping in nature and seated crunches. Removable cushions also make any cleanup a breeze.”

6. Embrace the outdoors. Relieve some of the cabin fever by surrounding yourself with greenery, suggested Ambrose. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, low-maintenance, drought-resistant plants such as succulents or sage can provide outdoor color without as much work. Or try a vertical garden of wall planters to bring the greenery to eye level.

Of course, nature, especially in the D.C. area, comes with mosquitoes and humidity.

“Screened porches and ceiling fans are fashionable ways to deter unwanted visitors in an easily customizable way,” Ambrose wrote.

7. Don’t forget your pets. “With animal adoptions on the rise right now, it’s important to consider what your outdoor space offers your canine and feline counterparts,” Ambrose wrote. “A dedicated ‘doggy park’ or ‘catio’ can really change the game for pet owners.”

Whether you want a serene getaway with pillows and low lighting or an outdoor home office, start with inspiration from patios on websites and in magazines, and then adapt what you love for your personal Pinterest-worthy patio.

Read more: