(Leah L. Jones/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)
THE CHALLENGE

When Joanna Wilbur bought her house in Herndon, the deck came with a hot tub. But Wilbur wasn’t a fan, so she removed it and was left with an empty 10-by-11-foot space. Now, she wants to create a comfortable spot for conversation without drastic construction.

THE SOLUTION

By removing one of the benches to make room for a buffet table, architect Miriam Dillon designs a relaxing nook for friends.

Dillon, of Barnes Vanze Architects (202-337-7225), is based in Georgetown.

Lighting can be decorative, too. Bronze lanterns with candles are romantic and functional.

Keep extra patio chairs handy. Folding chairs make for easy storage.

Joanna Wilbur. (Leah L. Jones/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Remove one bench to make room for a console table. This can serve as a buffet for entertaining.

Define the seating area with an outdoor area rug. Simply hose it clean every few weeks.

Keep decor casual and comfortable. Guests can put their feet up on the ottoman and get cozy on the cushioned benches.

Don’t be afraid to mix and match. Throw pillows are an easy way to incorporate colors, patterns and shapes.

SHOPPING GUIDE

Furniture: Lattice chair ($60), Faraday console table (no longer available) and Riviera armchair in Sunbrella Linen Sand ($648), all from www.potterybarn.com, custom boxed bench cushions in Sapphire blue (priced according to size, www.cushion.com).

Lighting: Hinkley Lighting 1524 deck rail light, not shown ($39, www.lightinguniverse.com) and Malta lanterns in bronze ($39 each for medium, www.potterybarn.com).

Accessories: Tuscan planters ($149 each for size small, www.potterybarn.com), outdoor piped round bolster pillows in Canopy Black Stripe and Sand Sunbrella ($29 each), outdoor piped throw pillows in Como Ikat Dijon Sunbrella ($40) and Solid Sand Sunbrella ($29), all from www.ballarddesigns.com.

SPLURGE . . .

Florin outdoor rug in blue-green ($399 for 5-by-8 feet, www.grandinroad.com).

Monterey round cocktail ottoman with cushion in Rumor Stone ($1,144, www.frontgate.com).

. . . OR SAVE

Saybrook indoor/outdoor rug in beige and aqua ($129 for 5-foot-3-by-7-foot-7, www.ballarddesigns.com).

Radius round ottoman in stone ($239, www.grandinroad.com).

See past room makeovers by local designers.

Wanted: Photos of kids’ rooms for a House Calls makeover. Send photos, dimensions, ages and contact information to makeover@washpost.com.