Originally Published on March 5, 2021. Last Updated on November 20, 2023.
Patios are synonymous with warm-weather entertaining, especially the months between April and October. But you can enjoy your backyard all year with four-season furniture and clever design elements. Here are 11 winter patio ideas to help you maximize your outdoor space on those chilly days.
1. All-Weather Patio Furniture
High-quality outdoor furniture that withstands rain, snow, ice, sleet, and wind year after year is a sound investment, saving you money in the long-run as it negates the need for repairs and replacements. It’s also a good idea to purchase pieces that are easy to clean and care for. Less work for you leads to more time relaxing with family.
We recommend deciding your patio’s primary purpose before picking out your furniture set. For example, a high-quality dining set will suit your needs if you love to cook and regularly host guests for Sunday brunch. Or, if you’re using your patio for lounging, a deep seating set will boost comfort and relaxation.
2. Outdoor Heating Elements
Brisk days and long nights are easy to enjoy when you’re toasty warm.
An outdoor fireplace is worth considering if you have a large patio and entertain often. It’s a significant investment, but once done, you and your loved ones will share countless good times and delicious meals near the open flames. Outdoor fireplaces can be constructed from brick, stone, concrete, and other heat- and fire-resistant materials. Consult with a contractor to see which design works best with your patio layout and your home’s overall aesthetic.
If you want the look and feel of an outdoor fireplace but don’t have the space for one, a chiminea is a great alternative. Similar to fireplaces, chimineas are front-loading outdoor wood stoves. They resemble the Florence flasks from your high school chemistry lab—potbelly-shaped with cylindrical chimneys. They’re built from various durable materials, from terra-cotta to cast iron, so you can easily find one that complements your outdoor space.
Heat lamps bring coziness to your patio on the chilliest of days. There are many styles to choose from that fit various outdoor layouts, such as freestanding floor lamps, wall-mounted heaters, tabletop models, and ceiling fans, so you don’t have to worry about stoking the fire or scooping away ashes.
Fire Pit Tables
A fire pit table is a smart, weather-resistant solution for bringing a cozy factor to your backyard. For a cleaner burn, look for ones fueled by propane or natural gas. They’re safer, easier to maintain, and produce less soot than wood-burning fire pits, making them an excellent choice for families with young kids. When shopping for fire pit tables, look for weather-resistant models that come with durable covers to protect them when they’re not in use.
3. Hot Tub
Speaking of heat, a hot tub is a great patio addition for year-round relaxation. Ideal for weekend get-togethers, romantic evenings for two, or solo soaks to ease workday stress, hot tubs are popular winter patio ideas.
Additionally, hot tubs are perfect options for smaller backyards that can’t accommodate swimming pools—and cost less to install, heat, and maintain in the cooler months. Food for thought as you browse cozy winter designs for your outdoor space.
4. Roofs & Enclosures
If you have a detached patio, chances are there isn’t a roof overhead. Installing an awning or gazebo can entice your family to stay outside when the raindrops or snowflakes start falling. If you include outdoor curtains or patio screens, you’ll have a cozy oasis that will provide privacy and extra protection from the elements.
For ultimate shelter, you may want to consider a permanent enclosure, such as an insulated sunroom. While this option is a considerable investment, it can maximize your family’s time in the sunshine.
5. Patio Lighting
While fire pit tables and heat lamps provide some illumination, they’re usually too dim to light up a larger patio. Adding outdoor lighting instantly boosts your patio’s brightness and adds ambiance, encouraging folks to linger longer and enjoy a wonderful night together.
String lights are tried-and-true classics that are inexpensive and easy to hang. If you’re tight on space, recessed lights offer a sleek, clean look without the clutter. If you want your lights to be the center of attention, an outdoor chandelier adds an air of elegance and luxury to your patio. At the end of the day, the right lights depend on your budget, personal style, and backyard layout.
6. Comfy-Cozy Accents & Accessories
Heat and light help get your family outside, but it’s the accessories that will make them stay. You want to treat your outdoor space like you would an indoor room, so include snuggly blankets and all-weather cushions and pillows to keep things homey. Accent tables offer space for mugs of hot cider, while a plush outdoor rug ties the room together and adds warmth underfoot.
7. Hardy Landscaping
Outdoor plants offer several benefits, like improving air quality, controlling ground moisture, and brightening up the landscape. Tall shrubs or trees can even help block wind. Depending on your local climate, some foliage may thrive in your area better than others when temperatures drop. Check the USDA Hardiness Zone Map to see what you can grow in your winter garden, or ask an associate at your local gardening center what they recommend.
8. Alfresco Kitchen
Who says summer is the only time to cook outside? Thanksgiving, the Super Bowl, and other major holidays and events take place in the winter and can be celebrated with ease in your outdoor space with the right preparations. So invite your friends over and fire up the grill.
If you really want to elevate your outdoor dining experience, consider building an outdoor kitchen complete with heating elements, appliances, a wet bar, and a roof to protect everything from rain or snow. It’s a significant investment, but a perfect addition to your patio if you love cooking and entertaining. Of course, you’re going to need an all-weather bar set to complement your new food scene.
9. Backyard Activities
Take the party outside with crowd-pleasing outdoor games and activities. A giant Jenga tower or cornhole set are fun ideas that both kiddos and grown-ups can get behind. Winter is the best season for stargazing, so grab a telescope and impress guests with your command of the constellations. If you have a fireplace or fire pit table, set up a s’mores spread and enjoy roasting marshmallows over the glowing embers.
10. Outdoor Movie Theater
Family movie night is always a great way to spend quality time together. But you don’t have to keep your home theater experience indoors. With the right equipment and setup, you can snuggle up and watch your favorite flicks right on your patio or porch.
If you’re interested in an outdoor home theater, decide if your space is better suited for an outdoor-rated TV or a projector screen. There’s a TV for any size patio, but you’ll need space to spare if you want a projector screen. (Both are available in freestanding and wall-mounted options.) Shop for equipment designed for outdoor use, and always keep it in a semi-sheltered area.
11. Fun, Fresh Decor
While decorations aren’t as essential to a winter patio design as heat, lighting, and cozy accessories, they make the space feel more like home. Garden sculptures, planters, and tabletop decor are all great ways to highlight your personal style and bring color to dreary days.
Winter Patio FAQs
What is the cheapest way to enclose a patio for winter?
Here is a list of the cheapest ways to enclose your patio during the winter:
- Install retractable screens
- Hang insulated outdoor curtains
- Plant tall, thick shrubbery
- Hang clear vinyl sheets
- Set up a collapsible canopy
How can I make my yard cozy?
Try these ideas to make your yard extra cozy and inviting:
- Cast a warm glow over the setting with yellow or orange outdoor lighting.
- Use cheerful decor that inspires a homey aesthetic.
- Clear away fallen leaves and clutter to create a clean, inviting space.
- Soften the look with fluffy ferns, pampas grass, and other downy plants.
- Keep blankets and cushions on hand for extra comfort and warmth.
What do you put on a patio in the winter?
Only keep furniture and accessories on your patio that can withstand winter weather. Your furnishings should be able to handle strong winds, rain, snow, ice, and other outdoor elements with little work on your part. Items that don’t fit this description should be stowed away when not in use or until spring.