Whether you’re a first-time homeowner with an empty backyard (aka a blank slate), or you’ve had your outdoor haven for many years and think it’s high time for an upgrade, designing your outdoor oasis is undeniably exciting. That said, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or make a few mistakes along the way.
Experience is the best teacher, and that’s just as true for decorating as it is for anything else. But while life lessons are often valuable, sometimes we don’t have to learn the hard way. Read on to learn about 10 common patio decorating mistakes and the solutions you can preemptively employ to ensure a smooth, snag-free decorating experience.
1. Off-the-cuff Decorating
A decorating plan is always a good idea for extensive or expensive projects. It’s the best way to avoid a variety of patio decorating mistakes down the road. This is the first thing you should do, which is why it’s at the top of our list. Your plan doesn’t need to be stringent, just solid enough that you have a good foundation to build on. To get started, ask yourself the following questions and use the answers to formulate your plan’s basic structure:
- How do I want to use my space?
- What’s my budget?
- What should the focal point be?
- Do I want to hire professional designers or take a DIY approach?
- What items are necessary to complete the project, and what things aren’t (but I’d still love to have them)?
Doing a bit of research and preplanning will save you time, money, and stress in the long run. Save the spontaneity for when the decorating plan is complete—you can always add a few fun, impromptu touches after the fact.
2. Furniture That Won’t Fit
From clothing to couches, we’ve all bought something on impulse, hoping it would fit and coming to the sad realization that it doesn’t. Unfitting furniture is one patio decorating mistake that’s hard to come back from—not to mention expensive—but it’s easily preventable. To avoid this unpleasant experience (and navigating those return policies), measure your outdoor space before you start shopping.
Not sure where to start? Use our detailed guide to measuring your outdoor space, which offers easy, straightforward instructions. The only tools you need are a tape measure, some paper, and a pencil. Once you have the dimensions, keep them on hand while you hunt for the perfect pieces to ensure you select the right size every time.
3. Using Indoor Furniture and Accessories Outside
It’s easy to forget that the materials used to make indoor furnishings aren’t the same as those used to create outdoor decor. However, it’s a factor that should be top of mind when planning a fresh look for your patio or deck.
High-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic, hardwood, tempered glass, and certain metal (think aluminum and steel) are materials best suited for outdoor use because they’re durable, low-maintenance, fade-resistant, and can handle extreme weather conditions. Search for furniture and decor specifically labeled for outdoor use. This will save you money, time, and a few headaches.
4. Clashing Colors
Your home should be an inviting oasis for not just yourself but also friends and family. When creating the patio design, pick pieces in coordinating colors. We suggest choosing a color scheme that fits your style, your home’s architecture, and your space’s intended purpose.
For example, a relaxation area with a Zen-like atmosphere can be brought to life with furniture and decorative items in soothing neutrals and less-is-more decor. Want a chill vibe with some personality? Roll out an outdoor area rug in soft beige and style a set of Classic Folding Adirondacks in Aruba with planters of fluffy ferns or trendy fiddle-leaf figs.
5. Using the Wrong Plants (Or No Plants At All)
Plants can instantly liven up an outdoor living room or soften the look of a dining space—their versatility knows no bounds. In addition to being beautiful, homeowners can gain other benefits from gardens, such as:
- Some are natural pest repellents.
- Large plants like patio trees offer shade.
- They help reduce stress.
- Gardening is a physical activity.
- Plants bring you closer to nature.
- You have a chance to grow your own food.
Depending on the environment, the botanicals you have your eye on might not live their best lives in your backyard. Some plants are simply not well-suited to your space, and the wrong plants will cost you time, energy, and money.
Many flowers love the shade, while others thrive in full sun. Pots and hanging planters are great for annuals, but perennials should be planted in the ground so they can grow back every year. Tropicals should be in pots so you can bring them inside come winter. Step outside and take a good look at your yard, note how much sun each area gets, then search for native plants that grow well in your terrain.
6. Not Checking the Local Laws First
Always check your local and state regulations before taking on large projects or big-ticket installations. It’s no fun when you buy all the materials you need to build your dream outdoor fire pit just to discover that your HOA doesn’t allow them. And for new additions, like a pergola, she shed, or fencing, verify with your local officials that it adheres to zoning codes.
7. Forgetting About Mother Nature
Not all backyard decor is created equal. You may have discovered this already if you live somewhere with extreme outdoor weather conditions. If not, heed our words and use furnishings that can handle your climate. Otherwise, you’ll spend unnecessary time and money fixing and replacing your beloved decor.
Humidity, sun rays, and salty air can take a toll on exterior decor, and some materials fare better in certain environments. For instance, a wrought iron dining set would become too hot to handle if left under the desert sun, but furniture pieces made using durable HDPE lumber won’t overheat. Lightweight wicker lounge chairs may not be a good fit for the heavy winds and humidity at your beach house—teak chairs would fair better thanks to the hardwood’s heft and natural water-repelling properties.
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8. Too Little or Too Much Furniture
You may be tempted to sneak just one more rocking chair onto your front porch, but if it’s going to be a tight squeeze, don’t do it. Overcrowded spaces aren’t comfortable—your family needs room to stretch their legs and walk between furniture.
On the other hand, little or no furniture makes a space seem uninviting. This post from thespruce.com suggests paying attention to scale and slowly adding furnishings that make sense for the area. A bistro set works on a terrace, long benches fit narrow porches, and so on.
9. Creating a Single-Purpose Space
From dining to lounging to socializing, your outdoor space should be able to do it all. If not, it hasn’t realized its full potential. Those with a larger outdoor area can easily designate different spaces for different uses. However, if you have a small space and big ideas, you’ll need to get creative.
Look for furniture and outdoor accessories that are either multi-taskers or mobile—think a console with built-in storage, Murphy tables, folding chairs, chaise lounges with wheels, and collapsible side tables. This way, you can move things around and seamlessly transition from brunch to sunbathing or work-from-home to cocktail hour.
10. Lacking Lights
On warm summer evenings when everyone wants to enjoy the fresh air, outdoor lights are a must, for style and safety reasons. Wall sconces and outdoor chandeliers are great main light sources, while fairy lights, lanterns, flameless candles, and LED strips can add a warm, gentle glow and zhuzh up the ambiance. Always look for fixtures specifically made for outdoor use.
What are home decor mistakes to avoid?
One of the biggest home decor mistakes to avoid is using clashing fabrics that don’t play well together and make spaces look too busy. Be thoughtful when selecting fabric colors and patterns for outdoor pillows, cushions, rugs, curtains, and other decor. We recommend starting with three fabric patterns in coordinating palettes, experimenting with scale, and styling your decor evenly throughout your space.
What are the worst mistakes in landscaping you can avoid?
Neglecting your landscaping is a mistake you can easily sidestep with regular care and maintenance. Not only will this boost your home’s curb appeal, but it will also ensure your plants stay healthy. You should also choose flowers, shrubs, and trees native to your area.
What mistakes should you avoid when choosing garden furniture?
Don’t shop for garden furniture before determining a budget and measuring your space. No one wants to fall head-over-heels for an outdoor furniture set just to find that they can’t afford it or it doesn’t fit.