"Holly will be green all year round," he says, and can help transform an unappealing view.
None of these plants are hard to take care of, Lambton says. "If you're having coffee in the morning, just go out and dump a little bit of water in."
Flynn agrees, and also suggests using potted grasses, which are "low maintenance and, as they grow, they create a full wall of privacy."
If you love plants but have minimal space, add a wall-mounted garden filled with succulent plants to one wall, says Schuneman: "It's a great way to add life and texture without actually taking any real estate up on your small balcony or patio."
He also suggests using narrow planters to create "long, narrow, raised flowerbeds that go the length of the space." They provide room for plants to grow, while also creating a ledge that's "great for coffee cups or a casual lunch," he says.
Flynn suggests playing up the height of your space by adding long outdoor curtains or hanging pendant lights.
Drench with color
"I usually paint concrete slabs [on the floor] a bold color or an accent color carried out from an adjacent room," Flynn says. "This helps the patio feel like an extension when you look out to it through a door. On the flipside, when seated out in the patio looking inward, the consistent use of color flowing inside and outside makes the patio itself feel much more open."
Flynn also suggests using outdoor curtains for a burst of color, and to block an unattractive view or hide items like electrical boxes and storage bins. "Outdoor draperies are, hands-down, the easiest way to soften an otherwise all-concrete and stucco space, while also being able to control how much or how little neighbors can see."
Or, he says, order a basic trellis from an online retailer like hayneedle.com, then "paint it a bold color and use it to instantly make an outdoor space feel more roomlike."
And for a burst of natural color, Lambton suggests adding a small, tabletop fire pit for a golden glow at night. "Some are small enough, and they don't put off a lot of heat," he says.
Create your own art
"Most people don't think of using art outside, but it can be done, especially in a DIY manner," Flynn says. "My favorite trick is to use tent canvas and stretch it across a DIY frame made from pressure-treated lumber, and add some gesso to the surface for texture."
Once you've created your canvas, he says, "pick up some exterior latex paint, then get as abstract as you want to play with color shape and texture. Once the art is dry, add a sealer to protect it from moisture, then hang it up to create a focal point, and/or add another layer of privacy."
You can make any outdoor space more beautiful, Lambton says, with just a few hours of effort and a small investment.
"If you get two or three pots and a couple of bags of planting mix," he says, "it's easy to do for a couple hours on a Saturday. ... Just a little bit of color and life will really dress up your outdoor space."