A deck or patio is used most often as a fair-weather family room. Comfortable seating comes first, arranged for conversation as it would be in an indoor room. Add to this an area for snacking and outdoor recreation. Consider the activities of your household, how and whom you entertain, what your hobbies are, the age of your family members, and other factors that define your needs. Remember that this is an outdoor room: the more components that can remain in place in inclement weather, the easier for you.
Decide up front whether you need shaded areas, as well as those exposed to the sun. Where you position your space in relation to the shade provided by your house, trees, or other buildings will determine how much sun it gets. Awnings, umbrellas, pergolas, and even built-in trellises are good choices for sun protection on decks and patios, which is an increasingly important consideration for many.
When the same space is used for large parties, it is likely that most of the furniture will be pushed to the perimeters and more furniture will be added so that guests can mingle. Re-plot your traffic patterns and do a walk-through before the party to make sure everything is convenient for you and your guests.
Provide storage. Make your own bin with a lift-up top large enough to contain the pillows and other non-waterproof accessories you like to have on hand, or purchase a ready-made unit designed for this purpose. A bin can keep things dry during rainstorms, but don’t count on it to replace permanent storage during winter. It may not be weather resistant enough to protect outdoor furnishings. Keep ease of winter storage in mind when you are deciding on furniture, cushions, umbrellas, extra folding tables, and the like.
Invest in cover-ups. Vinyl slipcovers and protective cloths are available to place over large-sized pieces of cushioned furniture, and you will not have to move the cushions. They are not expensive and are easy to store.