Summer’s almost here, which means it’s time to gear up for that much-anticipated seasonal activity: outdoor entertaining. From casual BBQs to candle-lit dinner parties, homeowners this summer are investing in quality outdoor spaces that seamlessly transition between indoors and out. According to the latest Zillow Digs Home Design Trend Report, open-air living rooms featuring wood arbors, fully upholstered seating and muted colors will be popular this season.

Zillow Digs Board of Designers member and design expert Melissa Klebanoff of Melissa Klebanoff Interior Design in Seattle offers her top tricks for designing an open-air living room that won’t break the bank.

Tip No. 1: Define your space

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Photo credit: DetailsADesignFirm

Clearly defining your outdoor space is a great way to make your open-air living room feel like a cohesive part of your home – and it costs almost nothing! Klebenoff recommends “grouping outdoor furniture just like you would inside, in conversation areas” so the space feels like it has a defined purpose. For those considering larger remodels, “an arbor is a brilliant way to create a separate area,” says Klebanoff. Rugs and curtains are also popular accessories for defining your open-air living room.

Tip No. 2: Focus on landscaping

“The softness of the garden and landscaping are integral parts of the transition between indoors and outdoors,” says Klebanoff. If you don’t have the budget to invest in professional landscaping, “just pick one or two quality pots” and fill them with lush plants in colors and textures that coordinate with your outdoor décor, advises Klebanoff. The goal is to create a space that draws you outside.

Tip No. 3: Splurge on furniture

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Photo credit: Houlihan Lawrence

Just like inside your home, you want to allocate more of your budget for the things you want to use for seasons – or even years – to come. “Buy an outdoor couch with good fabric that can wear through the seasons … then you can get creative with the other things,” says Klebanoff. “Choose fewer, but nicer, pieces so you don’t feel compelled to bring things in during the winter months.”

Tip No. 4: Lighting on a budget

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Photo credit: DK Design

Open-air living rooms are very conducive to inexpensive lighting options. While many high-end homes are incorporating custom electrical work to accommodate dramatic indoor-style lighting, you can get the same look for a fraction of the cost with thoughtfully selected candles or lanterns. “There are so many more affordable outdoor lighting options than just tiki torches,” says Klebanoff. “Large hurricanes or chandeliers filed with candles” are both great options.

Date:June 13, 2014 | Alexa Fiander, Author