Summer will be gone in a blink, so now’s the time to spend evenings and weekends enjoying the outdoors without leaving home.

Summer will be gone in a blink, so now’s the time to spend evenings and weekends enjoying the outdoors without leaving home.

Even if you have a small yard or patio, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy nature, grow something green and entertain outdoors. Michael LaConte is owner of Chicago’s Homey gallery and shared some advice on maximizing patio space.

• Minimize your furniture. LaConte said a loveseat, two chairs and a table are plenty for a small patio. He also said to avoid keeping a grill on the deck so space can be used for living instead of cooking. To make the most of your outdoor area, consider furniture with built-in storage, such as benches with space on the sides, cocktail tables with deeper wells, and planters that can hold tools or toys. When picking furniture, consider how much light your patio gets. If there’s lots of direct light, opt for natural woods such as teak or furniture topped by cushions that will stay cool under the summer sun.

• Use walls and ceilings. Free up the floor by using the walls for decor. Putting candleholders on the walls can make a patio cozier, and LaConte said hanging stalks of bamboo horizontally creates shelving for items such as glasses or hand towels. Also consider adding wind chimes or hanging planters from the ceiling to create a homey ambiance. Those who share their patio with neighbors can create privacy by installing rattan or iron dividers covered with vines.

• Add art. Patios that don’t get much light are ideal for sculptures or fountains. A sculpture can tolerate any type of weather, although LaConte recommends adding a coat of Thompson’s WaterSeal. “It’s like sunblock for your skin,” he said, and it won’t damage or discolor the piece. In addition, LaConte said, companies such as Alpine and Gist Decor make fountains that fit easily into a small area. Cats and dogs can even drink from them, but for homes without pets, LaConte recommends adding a capful of bleach or vinegar to the water once a week to prevent algae.

Another new trend is small fire pots. LaConte said NapaStyle makes small pots that produce flames that add warmth, lighting and mood.

“You could probably even roast marshmallows,” he joked.

• Go green. A patio doesn’t have to be huge to be a growing ground for flowers and herbs. LaConte said the Ecosource Home and Garden company sells small pots made from rice that come with seeds for tomatoes, lettuce and herbs. For those on a budget, plants such as bamboo can be grown on a deck and will add color. Herbs like basil produce blooms and a fresh aroma. Meanwhile, those with space for annuals can grow bright blooms such as tulips and hyacinth. However, LaConte said to avoid growing viney fruits like strawberries in a small area because it attracts bugs. Otherwise, “if you have direct sunlight, you can grow just about anything your heart desires.”