Attached outdoor spaces that provide total or partial shelter should be considered an extension of the home's interior design. In most cases these areas embrace an entrance or serve to join two interior areas-a breezeway, for example. Traffic patterns figure importantly in overall furniture arrangements, as does the selection of furniture, durable fabrics, and other elements.
Document your ideas. Keep a folder full of your inspirations and any ideas you may have. Photograph the area you want to decorate from both inside the house and facing toward it from the outside. Keep clippings of similar spaces and furnishings, shades, and lighting that you like from magazines and product brochures; collect paint color chips and samples of fabric and flooring, too. Do not forget plantings, including window boxes and potted plants, and anything else influencing the design. Consider all the seasons the space is used. Will you want to add curtains to a sunroom for insulation come winter so that you can continue to use it longer into the cold weather? Will blinds or curtains add to a porch's comfort by blocking spring and fall winds?
Make a floor plan. Add special features unique to your space, such as notations indicating good and bad views. You will want to arrange furniture to take advantage of a good view or to face away from an ugly one.
Indicate the sun's exposure throughout the day, and note whether it should influence furniture placement. For example, you may need shades for the southern side of a porch, or you may want to group furniture to face fabulous sunsets in the west.
Make furniture templates. Make templates of the furniture you plan to use, as well as other elements, that require clearance space, such as planters, window boxes, or blinds. Group them on the floor plan; try different configurations to see which is best.
Factor in traffic patterns. Indicate pathways to and from the house. Take into account the swing of each door because you can not place furniture in those spaces. For sliding glass doors, indicate which side is the entrance.
Arrange furniture so that conversation areas are not interrupted by traffic to and from the house. For instance, a common problem is a porch with a central door and a stepped entrance directly opposite the door. Rather than arranging furniture in one big grouping, create smaller areas at each end of: the porch. Suggestions include a table with chairs on one side and a conversational grouping on the other. A table just outside the door can double as a buffet table. Plot any other traffic aisles, and make sure that you have not blocked paths to the cords for adjusting blinds or for watering plants.