For many people, summertime is deck time! They can’t wait to get outdoors to entertain friends or host a family get-together. Having a gorgeous deck makes an outdoor soirée even more enjoyable. So, what do you do to make your deck the best place to be this summer? Here are just a few ideas.

Coat It to Perfection

Start by picking a coating that will work best for your deck—and for you. Decks are a perennial favorite with homeowners—despite the maintenance commitments—because nothing beats the beauty of natural wood. A translucent or semi-transparent stain will allow the natural grain to show through.

On the other hand, an opaque coating will allow you to enjoy the deck with fewer recoats over the years. You just need to decide what you like best—a more natural appearance or less maintenance. In both cases, deck stains come in a variety of colors to meet the preferences of consumers—everything from subtle grays and birches to dark greens and royal blues.

A major trend in the decking world is the use of exotic woods like mahogany, ipe, teak, and pau. Once only used for interior flooring and furniture, they are now commonly used on the exterior decking. These woods are more expensive than traditional woods like pine and cedar, so it’s important to protect them with coatings that will accentuate their beauty. Look for products made especially for these exotic woods to keep the deck looking gorgeous until it’s time to re-stain again.

Create an Eye-Catching Color Scheme

Decks can really come alive if you select an eye-catching color scheme. As an example, you can do your deck floorboards in a brown or cedar and do the railings and balusters in a forest green. White railings and balusters also work nicely in contrast with the darker colors you may choose for your deck’s floor. Another popular choice is to do the railings and floorboards in the same color (i.e., dark brown or cedar) but to use black metal balusters as a standout element.

A major decorating decision that you’ll need to consider is if you should stain your deck to blend in or contrast with the color of your home’s siding. There’s no hard-and-fast rule on that. However, contrasting colors often work best—i.e., light siding against the dark wood of your deck. This allows your deck to stand out as a separate living space. In some cases, you may want the deck’s floorboards to contrast with the siding but have the railings and balusters be close in color to the siding to tie the look together.

Furnish and Accessorize

Once you have the coatings and color scheme chosen, you’re still not done. You need to complete your outdoor look with fashionable deck furnishings and accessories. Furnish your deck with outdoor chairs, chaises, and sofas that provide comfort to friends and families. Today’s outdoor fabrics hold up well to the sun’s rays and wet weather, which gives you more options to decorate your deck as you would your family room or sun porch. Tables accentuated with a colorful patio umbrella is another way to provide fashion—while also providing protection from the intensity of the summer sun.

Among the accessories that work well on a deck are potted plants and flowers. The greenery of summer flora will likely look great in contrast to the earthy tones of your deck. Additionally, there are a variety of flowers that will add color nice color to your deck décor, including pansies, geraniums, petunias, and helichrysum.

Last but not least, don’t forget the lighting. Overhead string lighting and lanterns add a nice finishing touch. Overhead lighting provides a nice ambiance and also allows your deck to be seen in all its glory even after the sun goes down.