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Building a patio (or adding to your existing one) can bring your backyard to life. A simple concrete slab works for your barbecue and picnic table, but take a look at some of these tips to spruce up your outdoor time. You can add simple things, like a mounted mirror to add dimension, or you can go all out with more elaborate constructions, like a shade awning or a fireplace. Either way, these tips will help make your patio a place you and your guests will want to sit the hours away.

Add Fire for Great Gatherings

People have been gathering around fires since we learned how to create it. There's something about sitting around a good fire with loved ones and new friends that is priceless. Consider installing a fireplace or fire pit to your patio to take advantage of this power.

Add Water for Meditation

Water is another element that brings peace to a place. We feel at ease looking out over a pond, watching a fountain bubble, or just listening to the trickling of a creek. Adding this element will boost the ambiance of your patio.

Windows to the World and Mirrors to the Soul

You might consider removing the panes of old window frames and hanging them at the edges of your patio at the usual height of windows. Use thin wire or fishing line to create the illusion that the windows are floating. This produces a sense of being in a cozy room with the outdoors being the walls.

Additionally, large mirrors can be hung on walls to create the illusion of a larger space. Natural light playing off a mirror will also provide a unique ambiance (just make sure they're not at an angle that might blind you with the reflection).

Lighting Up Your Time

If you're going to be spending time on your patio after the sun goes down, consider installing soft lighting around the area. This can really enhance the mood of your space.

Get into the Shade

At some point you are going to want a shade awning for your patio. You can build a roof or set up a framework overhead and encourage climbing vine plants to overtake the frame for a unique feel. Flowering vine plants can also add a touch of color.

Step Down into Your Own Space

If your backyard slopes at some point, you can take advantage of this and build steps down to your patio. Stepping down into a garden spot can feel like escaping into something serene.

Create a Private Place

Consider planting a short hedge or dense garden around a few edges of your patio. You could also build a short stone wall. This creates the feeling of privacy and seclusion while still keeping the space relatively open.

Joan Price is a homemaker who loves design. Follow her on Twitter @JoanniePrice.