Our backyards and patios have extended into a major living space over about the past decade. No longer a place to store tools and “junk,” many back patios are now a fully-functioning kitchen, dining and living room all rolled into one. Residents of south Texas are no different from the rest of the country when it comes to enjoying our backyards.

According to a study by Wakefield Research, 40% of American adults would spend more time outdoors if their space was more comfortable. In that same survey, 70% of adults said they enjoy spending time in their outdoor space more than indoors.

Making your existing patio into the type of oasis for family fun you’ve always wanted doesn’t have to involve a major construction project. Most homes have a covered patio built in and extending the flooring out further to make a larger area can be done in creative ways with pavers instead of pouring more concrete.

Comfortable furniture is paramount for relaxing, so outdoor sofas and other over-sized chairs with ottomans are very popular. When choosing the right size lounge furniture for your space, keep in mind you may want to dine in this area, too. Many furniture sets come with dining tables and chairs that match the sofas, but mixing styles is the hot trend right now. Pair teak with wicker and other wood materials to get this eclectic look. If you’re mounting a TV outside, position the furniture appropriately but don’t neglect the view of the rest of the yard – sometimes this can be even more relaxing than zoning out in front of a screen.

Fire pits are increasingly popular – even for the warm summers we experience here. They add so much to the atmosphere and most will double as a coffee table or even dining table. You can choose from wood-burning or the more popular propane gas types. These don’t require as much cleaning and you don’t have to worry about smoke and ash.

Large umbrellas that hang over the dining table, patio and pool are also a great investment to get more use out of your backyard. If you have a pool, splurge on a large, sturdy floating lounger because after all, it is all about comfort!