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Simple, easy ways to improve outdoor style

>Problem: You're eager to entertain friends outdoors, but your deck, patio or porch looks dreary and outdated. And you're on a budget.

Solution: Refresh with new cushions, accessories, paint.

The idea of creating "outdoor rooms" as comfortable as those indoors has really taken off in recent years. But not everyone can afford -- or wants -- to start from scratch.

Not that you necessarily have to. You could begin by re-covering -- or entirely replacing -- dated or faded cushions on your lawn and deck furniture.

"We have a lot of customers who, over the years, have purchased high-quality furniture from Homecrest, Telescope, Mallin or Lloyd/Flanders. They can buy replacement cushions or slings; there's a big selection of fabric swatches," said Walter Beaudet, owner of Recreational Warehouse, 555 River Road, North Tonawanda (recwny.com).

"Whether it's a sofa, love seat or group of dining chairs, the frames are fine -- maybe they need a little touch up -- but the fabric is 10 or 15 years old," he said.

A new fabric in an updated color or pattern makes a world of difference.

Homeowners also can shop for updated accessories around town. Bistro sets in a fresh new color. Weather-resistant rugs and lamps. Outdoor decorative pillows -- they come in all sorts of patterns and colors -- and different price ranges.

Other ideas:

*Add ambience: Beaudet sees an increase in the popularity of gas burning fire pits, which are more convenient and less messy than wood-burning ones, he said.

"Plus your clothes don't smell like smoke," he added.

*If your deck is sunny, consider a retractable awning.

"A deck can get so hot in the summertime that you don't want to use it. You need shade," said Beaudet, who sells the awnings beginning at about $1,200.

Pergolas, gazebos and large umbrellas are other options, and have become so popular there is a real choice of styles.

*Refresh old furniture by painting it. Tips for prepping, sanding, priming and painting can be found on websites including benjaminmoore.com and krylon.com.

Bernice Smith of West Seneca, whose house was featured in The Buffalo News in February as "Home of the Month," even salvaged her old white stacking plastic chairs with paint.

"These are the type of stacking chairs you see everywhere. People can't get stains out of them so they just throw them out. I'm too cheap for that," Smith said.

"So I took craft-grade acrylic paint and a sea sponge and sponge-painted them. What looks nice is using two colors. I did two chairs in dark green and a little raspberry and two others in primary blue and yellow," she said.

You can even leave some of the white showing, she added. And, yes, she leaves them out all summer long.