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Right at Home: Bold balconies and peppy patios are a sign of spring

This photo provided by Pier 1 Imports shows a Neely Bistro Set in a pretty blue that adds an unexpected, fun color to a patio or small balcony. (AP Photo/Pier 1 Imports)

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This photo provided by Pier 1 Imports shows a Neely Bistro Set in a pretty blue that adds an unexpected, fun color to a patio or small balcony. (AP Photo/Pier 1 Imports)

Earthy hues that blend into the landscape tend to dominate the outdoor furniture market. Understated woods, metals and cushions are easy-to-incorporate neutral elements.

But outdoor spaces also offer the chance to be more adventurous than we are inclined to be indoors.

Maybe bolder balconies and peppier patios on your redecorating radar?

"Vibrant colour has dominated the home furnishings arena since last fall, and after an unusually cold winter, the time's ripe for bright colour to become a focus for our outdoor spaces. Color is a great energizer," says Jackie Hirchhault, marketing vice-president for the American Home Furnishings Alliance, based in High Point, N.C.

Aimee Beatty, in-house stylist at Pier 1, says lively outdoor pieces give people a way to make a statement: "Incorporating pops of colour with furniture and accessories adds personality and flare."

She suggests adding a colorful bench to the patio to co-ordinate with a more traditional or neutral dining set. "One new piece is a simple, budget-friendly way to make a big impact," she says.

"Brightly colored furniture is also a quick way to punch up a small space," she adds. A bistro table and chairs in playful hues sets the stage, and you don't need much more than a few additional pieces to create an inviting space, even if it's a tiny terrace.

Pier 1's Paris-inspired Neely Bistro Set comes in red or peacock blue rust-resistant cast aluminum. Frontgate's powder-coated aluminum side and bar chairs in fresh colours like aqua and melon come in whimsical designs like curlicues and floral motifs.

The Rock Point acacia wood bench can be had in red, marine blue or dandelion yellow, and has the added benefit of being foldable for off-season storage. Synthetic rattan chairs are weather resistant and come in an array of clean, crisp brights like ocean, purple, orange and yellow. (www.pier1.com )

Z Gallerie's Madison garden stool comes in gold for a touch of metallic flair. You'll also find the Mimosa lantern, featuring a filigreed Moroccan motif in mandarin, white, lemon and aquamarine. (www.zgallerie.com )

A patio umbrella is a quick and inexpensive style changer. Start the party by setting up Hayneedle's shaggy acrylic Palapa umbrella, a 6-foot-wide hula skirt on a pole with thatched strips of acrylic in lime, whiskey, raspberry pink or lemon yellow. (www.hayneedle.com )

Walmart's got a well-priced basic market umbrella that can be had in a fresh sunny orange, deep green or canary yellow. (www.walmart.com )

Grandin Road's op-arty Lulu planter in a loopy black-and-white graphic would be an exclamation point to colorful outdoor furniture. Their Sea Life collection of outdoor pillows includes stylized starfish and sand dollars in brilliant hues. (www.grandinroad.com )

Usable as either planters or beverage receptacles, LED-embedded resin GardenGlo containers provide glowing illumination in a range of colours. (www.gardenica.com )

Consider adding a few glowing orbs to the garden, pool, pathway or anywhere you'd fancy ambient light. A remote control lets you run through a variety of soft colours or switch to just white. They'll last eight hours on one battery charge. (www.frontgate.com )

Seattle-based designer Nicole Ketchum creates lightweight acrylic chandeliers in 11 colours that can be hung from trees, deck roofs or anywhere you'd like. Choose a faux ornate pattern or an octopus. (www.chandelierbynk.com )

Outdoor polypropylene rugs add colour and give outdoor spaces a more finished, room-like look. Horchow's Geometric Twist collection puts a crisp white graphic on a tangerine, lime or navy background for preppy punch, while Dash & Albert's indoor/outdoor rugs feature East Asian graphic motifs, chevrons and sailing stripes. (www.horchow.com )

Dash and Albert's new outdoor pillow collection includes exuberant retro-Hawaiian prints, sea horses, crewel florals and bubble patterns, all in a riot of fun-loving colours. (www.dashandalbert.com )

Designer Elaine Smith has come up with a collection of outdoor pillows that reflects a childhood surrounded by global art, and a love of both fashion and nature. "I like using and reimagining traditional motifs, and creating designs with a timeless feel."

She's done an Asian toile pattern in a pretty aqua/white combination, a zebra print in chocolate or blue, and a hula skirt motif in a kaleidoscope of tropical hues. (www.authenteak.com )

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