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5 Outdoor Living Trends that Instantly Turn a Drab Deck into a Beautiful Oasis

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The weather is finally warming here in Boston, and warm weather means more time to spend outside enjoying gentle breezes and sunshine-filled days. Is your deck or patio ready for months of outdoor fun? If your outdoor space is a bit drab, there's no need to fret. The year's top trends in outdoor living will transform any deck in an instant and create a space that is truly an extension of the home.

"Homeowners are demanding expanded livable spaces and are looking for fresh ways to update their decks and patios for premium enjoyment," says Madeleine MacRae, exterior market manager for Somfy Systems, maker of motors and controls for shades, screens and awnings. "The good news is that an existing space can easily be transformed into an outdoor oasis with minimal effort and financial investment." MacRae offers top outdoor living trends that will instantly transform your deck into a beautiful, relaxing oasis:

Shade Sunny days define the warm weather months, but outdoor spaces can quickly heat up and drive homeowners indoors to cool off. That's why shade options are a necessity, with automatic awnings leading the trend. Somfy Motorized awnings not only create cooler, more comfortable outdoor spaces, but they can also be set to react to the environment with sensors customized to open and close the awning as wind and sun intensities shift. These modern high-tech awnings do more than enhance outdoor living; they improve indoor living by blocking the sun from coming inside the home, creating real energy savings by keeping AC units from kicking on in peak times.

Lighting The American Society of Landscape Architects recently released the results of its 2014 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey, and lighting topped the list of in-demand outdoor living features. As the sun goes down, there's no need to retreat indoors when your patio has the proper lighting. Solar lights are a popular option that again pair well with the sustainability theme - they charge during daylight and glow automatically at dusk. Strings of garden lights are another popular option, adding a subtle twinkle to outdoor spaces.

Ambiance Potted plants bring rich shades of green and other beautiful colors directly onto the deck or patio area to add unparalleled ambiance. A few strategically placed pots add a touch of serenity while tying together landscape themes. What's hot for 2014? Sustainability and low-maintenance continue to be in high demand, making native plants a natural choice. When deciding which plants to use in your pots, ask your local garden center expert to see what native plants will perform best in the area you intend to put them.

Some local options for advice and great plant selection include:

Mahoneys Garden Center in Brighton, (http://www.mahoneysgarden.com/mahoneys-brighton)

Russells Garden Center in Wayland, (http://www.russellsgardencenter.com).

Furniture Stylish outdoor furniture is a necessary element of designing a cozy, usable outdoor space with superb ambiance. Upholstered sofas and oversized accent pillows in a variety of colorful patterns are big this year. When furnishing your deck or patio, keep in mind the flow of traffic and embrace thoughtful arrangement of furniture to encourage conversation and comfort. In addition to couches and chairs, incorporating an eating area makes dining al fresco a joy any time of day. If you're tight on space, seek multifunctional furniture that performs double duty, such as a couch that also serves as a storage space for blankets under the cushion. If you have liberal space, installed furniture is super trendy, such as a hanging swing or sofa. If you are looking for furniture to spruce up the patio, deck or roof deck, there is no debating the quality and style that can be found locally or online. A few of our favorites:

JAUNUS et Cie located at 1 Design Center Place and online at http://janusetcie.com

RocheBobois, located in the Ritz Carlton Towers at 2 Avery Street, Boston and online at http://www.roche-bobois.com.

Brown Jordan: http://www.brownjordan.com

Frontgate: http://www.frontgate.com

Outdoor Kitchens Naturally aligning with homeowners' desire to create functional space both indoors and out, the demand for outdoor kitchens is growing. Whether it's a corner with a grill or a full kitchen with refrigerator, prep sink and all, incorporating a space on your deck for cooking food is a top trend. Whether you're slow-grilling for an intimate family dinner or flipping burgers for a cookout, outdoor kitchens will serve you well time and time again throughout the warm weather seasons, all while adding value to your overall home investment.

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