How to Socialize Safely at Home
Kiplinger's Personal Finance|January 2021
BEING WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS DURING COVID was easier last spring and summer, when you were able to feel reasonably safe gathering outdoors at sidewalk cafés and restaurants, picnic areas, and porches and patios. Now, with the pandemic still raging and winter weather arriving, options for lingering outdoors in most parts of the U.S. have diminished. // But with the right furniture, equipment and gear, you can transform your backyard into an inviting space to socialize and still stay warm.
RIVAN STINSON

CREATE A WELCOMING AND SAFE SPACE

To turn your patio or backyard into a space that’s perfect for entertaining, start with seating. Keeping social distancing top of mind, you’ll want to create multiple seating groups using bistro-style tables that seat up to four guests, says Kesha Franklin, CEO and principal interior designer for Halden Interiors, a design firm based in Green Brook, N.J. Because this furniture will be used outdoors, invest in pieces made from quality materials that are weather-resistant (think aluminum, teak or wrought iron).

If you’ve got some cash to spend, Franklin recommends shopping for bistro dining sets from outdoor furniture manufacturer Babmar (www.babmar.com). Its AMBER ARMLESS DINING SET ($1,185) seats two and is constructed from powder-coated aluminum, teak and tempered glass. If your budget is more modest, BETTER HOMES AND GARDENS’ CLAYTON COURT 5-PIECE PATIO DINING SET ($450 from Walmart.com) is a top pick among reviewers at The New York Times’ product-review site Wirecutter. The set, which comes with a table and four chairs, is made from steel and has cushioned seats. It garnered praise for comfort and being low-maintenance.

A protective cover will help keep your furniture in pristine condition. Amazon has a variety of options starting at $20 (search products using the phrase “waterproof bistro set cover”). If you decide on furniture with removable cushions, consider buying an outdoor storage unit that seals shut. These types of containers help keep mildew at bay by preventing moisture from accumulating. You can find a wide selection at Home Depot and Lowe’s, starting at as little as $39. ANDREA BROWNE TAYLOR

Home Tech to Keep COVID at Bay

You can take preventive measures to make your home more COVID-resistant. In its advice on cleaning and disinfecting homes during the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states: “When used properly, air purifiers can help reduce airborne contaminants, including viruses, in a home or confined space.”

A HEPA filter will likely capture the droplets released by someone with COVID. HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air, and a HEPA filter can efficiently filter particles in the air as small as 0.01 microns, according to a NASA study on HEPA filtration. The ALEN BREATHESMART CLASSIC AIR PURIFIER ($649) is the most highly rated HEPA model by Consumer Reports. Wirecutter’s top pick is the COWAY MIGHTY ($188 from Amazon and Walmart), which it calls “effective, efficient and inexpensive.”

If someone in your pod tests positive for COVID (or has been exposed to someone who tests positive) and has to quarantine, technology provides a safe way to communicate. The new APPLE HOMEPOD, a voice-controlled speaker starting at $99, lets you set up an intercom system between speakers and Apple devices in your home. You can even assign each HomePod to a room or zone, then send intercom messages to just those rooms or zones in your home. EMMA PATCH

STAY WARM

A whole industry is devoted to heating your outdoor space. Among the most-affordable options are fire pits and chimineas.

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