As we head into the final days of summer, you may be planning one last outdoor party. Not every home has an ideal layout for such parties, and if you find yourself in that situation, here are a few relatively inexpensive ways to create an inviting area for entertaining, while investing in the value of your home.

Budget

Your first step is to set a budget.  You don't have to spend a lot of money to make a dramatic impact. The budget may change as you explore your options, but it's good to have a ballpark figure so you don't overdo it.

Survey

Next, make a detailed survey of what you have to work with around your home.  Do you already have a functional outdoor entertaining area that you can improve? Or a nicely shaded area where you can develop a feature?  Do you need shade? Chances are good you already have some ideas.

Explore

Now you'll want to explore your options in terms of designs and materials. You can draw on your friends and neighbors experiences and outdoor spaces. Turn on HGTV, or go to HGTV.com, which offers a variety of ideas that are definitely work checking out. Home Depot and Lowes both offer sections on their websites that can provide inspiration and ideas.

Plan

The hard part is narrowing your project down to its essentials!  Create a simple sketch or layout of what you have in mind. If you're accomplished at home-improvement, you'll be able to determine what your material needs will be and how best to proceed. If not, turn to some of the experts at your local home-improvement center for direction. You'll find a wide variety of books for sale or available at the library that can help. Also make sure your project won't violate any city or county ordinances: Better safe than sorry.

Build

Doing the actual hard work might seem like a daunting task, but turn it into something fun! Invite your friends and family to help you create your outdoor living space in exchange for a great summer-time cookout.  That way you can have your party and your brand new outdoor entertaining space at the same time!

Rose Price, CIPS, CRP
Prudential Landmark Real Estate
ChampaignRose.com

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This blog is maintained by Michael of Kim Hughes & Company.
Photo courtesy R_A_L/flickr.com