Thomas J. Story

10 ways to enjoy your backyard, even in the chilly months

A patio can be the perfect place to entertain, dine, or relax outdoors ― even in winter, in mild climates. When the air is brisk and a light rain is falling, all you need to do is provide for warmth, shelter, and comfort.

Dress the outdoor space with candles and potted blooms, and toss some fleecy throws on the chaise. Then bring out the mugs of steaming hot chocolate or tomato bisque, sink into the cushions, and enjoy the garden view.

Covered patio

Open to the garden on two sides, the patio in Woodland Hills, California, has all the comforts of an indoor room. Owners Marla and Chuck O'Connell use it all year. "We gather friends and surfing buddies for wine and good conversation," Chuck says. Adds Marla, "We're outdoor people, living our fantasy."

A fireplace is the patio's focal point. The prefab box is framed in wood and capped with stone veneer.

Personal retreat

Tucked under the house eaves, a small patio corner is partially sheltered from rain. A sisal rug covers the floor; the teak Bali chaise and tray ($695), cushion ($170), and side table ($120) are from Tom's Outdoor Furniture in Menlo Park, California.

A portable firepit (Backyard Firepit with spark screen $189; Smith & Hawken, 800/940-1170) warms a patio corner. The firepit is a wide copper bowl with wrought-iron legs.

DESIGN: Nick Williams & Associates, Tarzana, CA (818/996-4010)

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