17 Ways to Update Your Deck for Laidback Outdoor Living

Add style, function, and comfort to your outdoor space with these simple projects.

deck with woven patio furniture and gray and yellow cushions
Photo: Dustin Peck

Your deck is an ideal spot for entertaining, cooking, and relaxing outdoors. A few improvements to its design—including lighting, privacy screens, outdoor furniture, and accessories (similar to this Better Homes & Gardens 20'x20" Outdoor Throw Pillow, $15, Walmart)—can ensure your deck lives up to its potential. These deck upgrades add style, function, and comfort to any deck.

01 of 17

Install a Pergola

patio seating area
Jason Donnelly

Providing structure and partial shade, a pergola turns an exposed deck into an inviting outdoor room. The angled slats shield the space from the sun during peak daylight hours while still maintaining an open feel. For sturdy support, consider an attached pergola that is secured to the side of your home.

02 of 17

Restain Your Deck

Deck with wooden floor and marble table
Edmund Barr

Give your deck a new look with a fresh coat of color. This weekend project will also help protect your deck from mold, rot, and water damage over time. Be sure to sand and power-wash the surface first to ensure the stain or paint adheres properly, then wait at least 48 hours to allow the stain to fully dry.

03 of 17

Add an Outdoor Bar

outdoor bar
Jason Donnelly

Add a beverage station to turn your deck into a hub for outdoor entertaining. Choose a sturdy cart or shelving unit with plenty of space for serving refreshments as well as shelves, hooks, or cubbies for extra glassware and cocktail-making ingredients. You can easily revamp a basic metal shelving unit into an all-in-one outdoor bar by adding a wood top and a drop-in tub for chilling drinks.

04 of 17

Lay Down a Rug

deck with woven patio furniture and gray and yellow cushions
Dustin Peck

Turn your deck into an outdoor room by accessorizing with an attractive outdoor rug. All-weather options lend a cozy feel to outdoor seating areas, help tie together color schemes, and prevent dirt and debris from being tracked inside. On large decks, outdoor rugs can delineate different uses, such as a lounge area from a dining space.

05 of 17

Pile On Outdoor Pillows

outdoor furniture
Dana Gallagher

Tempt friends and family (and yourself) to linger on your deck longer by softening your seating area with pillows, (such as this Better Homes & Gardens Multi Stripe Outdoor Throw Pillow, $13, Walmart). Pretty and durable accent pillows made from fun outdoor fabrics are easy to find in home stores and will stand up to the sun and rain. Or cover your existing pillows with an indoor-outdoor fabric you love for all-weather use. Toss several onto a sofa or bench, mixing in cheery prints and bight hues for pops of color.

06 of 17

Add Colorful Accents

blue green table and chairs wood deck
Robert Cardillo

Personalize your deck with painted furniture and fun accents. Pick a color scheme that enhances your home's exterior and try updating old or plain metal furniture with new hues. Other colorful accessories, such as pillows, throws, vases, and bowls, can also give your outdoor seating a cozy feel.

07 of 17

Use Containers for Color and Height

container flowers
Bob Stefko

Dress up your deck with knockout containers. Distinguish areas along railings or beside a door with pots that can hold tall, striking plantings such as this tropical canna ringed with fuchsia, coleus, and lantana. Bring in pots of annuals for bursts of color, or mix your annuals and perennials together like this smaller container of begonias paired with trailing creeping Jenny. Don't forget your veggies: A sunny spot out on the deck is the perfect place to grow a few tomato plants or an herb garden.

08 of 17

Incorporate Stylish Deck Furniture

back of gray house large deck patio lounging dining areas dogs
Shaun Sullivan

Outdoor furniture comes in a variety of heights, including low-to-the-ground chat sets, traditional dining-height chairs, and tall bar-height seating. Select the type of seating that best fits your deck's space and usage. On this deck, a chat-height set allows guests to easily talk while savoring snacks. This flexible seating can also easily be regrouped to accommodate large gatherings.

09 of 17

Set Up Deck Screening

screen kitchen fountain rock
Edward Gohlich

Love your deck, but not your view? Install attractive privacy structures that camouflage what you don't want to see. These small-slat screens pick up on the patterning on the long pergola overhead to create a seamless border for this backyard oasis.

10 of 17

Go Vertical with Plants

hanging burlap baskets
Marty Baldwin

Hanging baskets are a popular decorating choice on decks and for good reason. A few hanging baskets help soften the open sides of covered-deck spaces with lush blooms and foliage. Switch up your look by rotating a seasonal display of flowers in spring, summer, and autumn.

11 of 17

Block the Sun

deck green blue furniture cover
Peter Krumhardt

The evolution in outdoor fabrics has made it easy to create shade on your deck without sacrificing looks. Today's patio umbrellas and sun shades feature all-weather fabrics in an array of stylish patterns and colors. Many of these accents are relatively inexpensive and easy to swap out whenever the mood strikes.

12 of 17

Include a Deck Planting Area

drawer seeds planting
Peter Krumhardt

Since a deck is typically located close to the yard, it is a great place to set up your container plantings or prep veggies or flowers for the garden. Set up a planting area by adding an outdoor-resilient potting bench that includes a shelf system and a drawer or two to store gardening supplies (such as plant tags, seed packets, and string). If you're not a gardener, convert a potting bench into an entertainment zone to stash your outdoor dinnerware close to your patio table.

13 of 17

Make Your Deck's Design Work Harder

privacy trells
Nathan Kirkman

Decks are so much more than simple floorboards and railings. Benches, planters, screens, and overhead shade structures all add to a deck's appeal and functionality. For example, a tricky corner by a hot tub was enhanced with a built-in planter and a slatted screen that's built into the roof's support beams. Alternating the boards' stain color creates extra interest.

14 of 17

Supply Outdoor Lighting for Safety

lights outdoor stairs
Courtesy of Trex

Make it easy to navigate your deck at night. Here, contrasting paint colors and mini lights built into the stair's steps, posts, and post caps work in tandem to boost nighttime visibility. If your deck sits in a sunny spot, consider installing solar-powered lights for an energy-savings option.

15 of 17

Enhance a Deck Railing

Railing deck dog furniture
Alec Hemer

Safety is key to a usable deck, but beauty doesn't have to take a backseat. Instead of an ordinary deck railing, consider integrating materials that match the style of your home's exterior. Here, glass panels supply protection, shield the homeowners, and lend a bit of contemporary style to this deck.

16 of 17

Combine Deck Lighting with Screening

two light-blue cushioned chairs in front of upper railing wood design on deck

Extend the time you spend out on your deck by installing lights. Here, outdoor lights are wired into the decorative screens to illuminate the seating area and add ambience after dark. Nighttime illumination does not need to be at the same brightness as interior illumination. The goal should be to mimic the light levels typically provided by a full moon.

17 of 17

Put Outdoor Fabrics to Work

Kitchen Area outdoor white
Greg Scheidemann

A deck's work space can look stunning with the right decorative treatment. Here, a skirt made from outdoor fabrics hides the outdoor sink's plumbing. Outdoor fabric panels made from a complementary stripe fabric help shade the deck and prep space when the sun is beaming in.

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