Set the stage with the right door. 

The entry to your outdoor patio space creates the impression of what's to follow on the other side. And because summertime barbecues, pool parties and picnics funnel traffic through your home's patio door, make it a pleasant experience—avoid irritating traffic jams, frayed screens and cloudy glass by installing doors that can stand up to the high traffic and look good over time.

For example, patio doors made with fiberglass offer an ideal blend of beauty and durability—they won't ding, dent or rust like steel doors, and won't swell, rot, crack or warp like wood doors. And they come in a variety of styles, with either an exterior wood-grain or smooth look, and an interior that is ready to stain or paint.

Fiberglass patio doors are designed as a complete system with components that work together to form the tightest seal possible, creating an energy-efficient envelope for your home. As an added value, homeowners who purchase and install qualifying entry doors through December 31, 2010, may be eligible for energy efficiency tax credits of up to $1,500 per household through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Make a green space even greener. 

While shrubs and trees can add important texture to your green space, you don't need to completely re-landscape the yard. Colorful flowering plants around your patio's perimeter can create a dramatic effect and serve as a visual boundary from the rest of the yard, creating an intimate space that evokes an actual room.

Let there be light. 

Another inexpensive way to add atmosphere to your outdoor patio space is to install accent lighting. String lights in festive colors and shapes; add drama by lighting a pathway to the garden, pool or pond; accent trees with lights at ground level or in the branches. There is nothing more beautiful than candlelight outdoors—just be sure to use sturdy candle holders that won't tip over. Plus, a well-thought-out exterior lighting design also delivers 360-degree home security for your exterior.

Allow for family fun. 

Many families use the patio as a playground equipped with toys, swings, basketball hoops and wading pools. Add a clean storage area to protect bikes and toys when not in use, as well as indoor/outdoor floor coverings to protect children from scrapes and bruises.

By following these patio planning basics in creating the perfect outdoor patio space, you can choose the best design, decor and furniture you'll need to enjoy your beautiful patio space all summer and for many years to come.

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