Q: What would you say are the most important things for a nice patio? My husband thinks it’s all about his ginormous grill, a cooler full of beer, and some lawn chairs. I want something nicer -- to entertain and eat dinner with friends -- like our great room, only outdoors. Please help us figure this out.

A: Spring is the perfect time to be planning your backyard so you can enjoy more time outdoors. Actually, let me take that back. Winter is the perfect time, so you can have everything ready by spring. But here we are, in spring, and, it’s better to be late than never. If you’ve been in any home improvement store lately, I’m sure you’ll notice that now is a great time to be selling outdoor furniture. Waiting until the end of summer will save you money, but your choices will be more limited. If you see something you truly love, do yourself a favor and buy it now, so you can enjoy it this summer and every one after.

For any outdoor living space, there are indeed a few essential elements that will help create a more inviting and festive atmosphere. Every space, indoors and out, needs a focal feature. Inside your home, a fireplace, a nice view, or even the TV are good examples of focal points for living and family rooms, and the range is usually the focus of a kitchen. A grill is all about fire and cooking outdoors. So if your husband enjoys cooking, start by making that the focus.

Taking that idea further, a big trend right now includes full-blown outdoor kitchens. Of course you don’t need to go all-out with that idea, but consider including a pizza oven, outdoor fireplace, or even a portable fire pit for roasting marshmallows.

The next essential includes shade. And sun! Ideally, your seating or dining area would have access to both sun and shade, depending on the weather and time of day. A shade tree, trellis, awning, umbrella, or canopy with breezy sheer fabric panels are easy ways to control how much sun your seating area gets year round. Adding outdoor misters or heaters help modulate the temperature, along with having a few throw blankets ready.

A place to sit and surfaces for food and drink are other essentials. Choose an outdoor dining table, from the simplest picnic table, to tables and comfortable chairs that look like they belong indoors. Or, if you’d rather have more of a living room look, include a coffee table and end tables so no matter where someone is sitting, they have a place to set their beverage and a book. Go the next step with a rolling serving tray, bar cart, or cooler for snacks and drinks. Floor cushions make it fun for the kids, too.

Lastly, strings of lights overhead make any place more festive by adding both drama and interest. There are so many beautiful LED options that add a warm glow year-round and don’t use a lot of energy. Provide different focal features at nighttime with accent lighting in the garden under shapely trees, shrubs and rock features. Low-glare lighting at steps and pathways provide beauty as well as help improve safety.

Hope these ideas help, and let me know what you end up with!

Have a design dilemma? Jennifer Adams is an award-winning designer, TV personality and author of the books “Love Coming Home: Transform Your Environment. Transform Your Life" and “How High Can You Soar – 8 Powers to Lift You to Your Full Potential.” Send your questions to AskJennifer@JenniferAdams.com or for more design ideas, visit Jennifer’s blog on her website at www.jenniferadams.com.