Originally Published on December 16, 2020. Last Updated on December 18, 2023.
On the prowl for outdoor patio ideas? Perhaps you’ve just laid down a brand-new foundation, or your space has been sitting unused and you’re ready to make the most of it. Maybe your backyard already has good bones but needs a refresh. Whatever the case may be, designing a patio takes a lot of time and planning. It can be tough to know where to start.
In this guide, we break down how you can create a beautiful outdoor oasis—one step at a time.
Step 1: Measure Your Outdoor Space
Before you start furnishing and decorating your patio, it’s important to make a rough sketch of your property and measure your area. Here’s why:
- It’ll determine how much square footage you have and what you can do with it.
- You’ll get a realistic view of how much furniture you can fit into your space. This is especially helpful if you have an asymmetrical patio.
- Measuring your outdoor space helps you strike an ideal balance between barren and cluttered. Buying too much furniture may overwhelm your patio. On the other hand, leaving your patio too sparse can make it feel uninviting.
For a more in-depth look, read our comprehensive guide on how to measure your outdoor space.
Step 2: Determine the Purpose of Your Patio
Once you figure out how much space you have, it’s time to decide how you want to use your patio. Are you a social butterfly who loves to throw parties and entertain? Do you prefer to have a private place to relax? Do you want your patio to have a mix of both social and personal uses? These are the questions you need to ask yourself to narrow down your ideal outdoor space.
If you have a large patio, there’s enough room to make your space a multi-use outdoor area. For smaller patios, try to dedicate your space to one activity. Consider some of these uses when deciding what to do with your patio space:
Outdoor Living Room
Whether you love hosting game nights or simply relaxing with your loved ones, a well-designed lounge area with deep seating furniture elevates every day.
If you’re an avid cook and love showing off your latest recipe, an outdoor kitchen makes a perfect addition to your patio. Do you want the whole nine yards with a built-in fridge, sink, and prep space? If so, make sure all appliances and materials are weather-resistant.
Dining in the sunshine is one of life’s greatest joys, and you can do it right in your backyard. When looking for an outdoor dining set, consider how you’ll serve meals. If you prefer going the buffet route, you’ll need counter space. If you have a big family, a large patio table is a must—and a coordinating kids’ table will come in handy during the holidays.
If you host cocktail parties often, the bar is likely the main attraction. But depending on where it’s located in your home, it may cause traffic jams. An open-air bar is the perfect place to keep both the party and drinks flowing. To make the most out of your patio bar, consider an all-season bar cart, built-in refrigerator, and bar-height stools and tables.
Reconnecting with Mother Nature can do wonders for your physical and mental health. If you’re ready to stop and smell the roses, a beautiful garden makes a perfect sanctuary. Adding a water feature like a fountain or koi pond is a great way to add ambiance; a hot tub or sauna will offer next-level bliss.
Create a comfy, inviting space where you can stretch out and soak up the sun. All you need is a couple of chaise lounge chairs, a beautiful view, and plenty of SPF.
Outdoor Home Theater
Imagine kicking back in your favorite chair—popcorn in hand—and watching a favorite flick under the stars. Sounds like a perfect evening, right? With a little bit of planning, you can transform your patio into an outdoor home theater.
Fire Pit Area
Whether making s’mores with little ones or hanging out with friends on a brisk evening, nothing beats the coziness of an open fire as the night’s focal point. Consider a fire pit table instead of an in-ground fire pit or traditional built-in fireplace—they’re much easier to operate and maintain.
Step 3: Choose a Style for Your Patio
Home design is a form of self-expression, an opportunity to tell a story. Whether it’s objects collected on (or inspired by) your travels, cozy textiles and soft lines, or a rainbow of eclectic finds, our spaces feel most like home when they’re reflective of the people who live in them. Your patio should be no different.
Look inside to help inform your patio’s style. While you may want to mix things up and try a new style or color palette outside, your interior and exterior design should still feel intentional and flow together.
Your patio’s style should complement your home’s architecture as well. For example, a concrete patio, clean-lined furniture, and abstract sculptures might feel at odds with a Victorian-style house. Furniture with softer curves, whimsical wrought iron accents, and climbing plants would feel more seamless here.
Pull together a physical or digital mood board for patio ideas and inspiration, then define exactly what patio style you’re after. You may even find it helpful to put a unique name to this, keeping that in mind when creating a layout and purchasing pieces. Japandi secret garden, French farmhouse, coastal shabby chic—you get the idea.
Step 4: Plan Your Landscaping
Landscaping benefits your patio in many ways. It not only helps boost aesthetics and your property’s value, but it can also provide shade and privacy. If you have a large patio, you can use landscaping to build borders and create individual sections within your outdoor space.
When it comes to plants, be honest with yourself. Are you a serious green thumb, or would you rather plant with fuss-free flora? Determining this can help you figure out which plants to buy and how many. Here are some landscaping ideas to implement in your backyard space and enhance its natural beauty:
- Planting beds
- Shrubs and bushes
- Water fountains
- Rocks and pebbles
- Flowering trees
Optional: Hire a Landscape Designer
Does landscape planning and yard work sound like a snoozefest? Leave it to the professionals. Outsourcing this aspect of your patio design is going to cost you—but may be worth it if you’d rather not spend your weekends running to the garden center.
Step 5: Pick Out Furniture
Unlike throw pillows, plants, and other decor you can swap out seasonally, patio furniture should be something you’ll love living with for many years to come. Again, make note of your measurements, how the space will be used, and what style you’re going for. Before ordering anything, ensure it ticks all those boxes. Here are some additional things to keep in mind:
Set a budget you’re comfortable with and remember you don’t have to buy everything at once.
- Patio furnishings are exposed to all kinds of weather conditions, so prioritize durable products, all-weather materials, and quality craftsmanship.
- Never underestimate the power of multifunctional pieces, especially if you have a small space. For example, ottomans can be used as footrests, coffee tables, storage, and extra seating.
Step 6: Accessorize
Often, it’s the extra amenities and accessories that can make or break a beautiful patio. Here are some ways you can customize yours and bring personal style into it:
When the sun goes down and the stars come out, outdoor lighting offers both style and function to keep your get-together going all night long. There are tons of outdoor lighting ideas out there, so examine your patio to see which ones work best, whether it’s dreamy string lights, statement chandeliers, or solar-powered luminaries.
Whether they’re simple or extravagant, water features can offer a tranquil ambiance to your patio. Consider installing a small pond to host fish, or add a fountain to provide a serene soundtrack to your outdoor gatherings.
You don’t need to grow a full-blown garden to have some greenery in your backyard patio. Flower pots, hanging baskets, and elevated beds are all great plant container ideas to boost your patio’s color and seasonality.
Shade and Coverings
Shade structures such as canopies and pergolas provide stylish protection from the sun and a way to visually designate a section of your patio. Even if you have limited space or a tighter budget, something as simple as a patio umbrella can spruce up the overall look.
A rug can tie a room together, and a patio is no exception. Add an outdoor rug to your conversation space or dining area to boost style and comfort underfoot.
Step 7: Cleaning & Maintenance
Once your patio design has been done and dusted, you’ll want to keep it in shape with regular cleaning and maintenance. This schedule will depend on how often your patio is getting used, the weather, and what materials you opted for. There’s no right or wrong here, but we’d recommend an annual deep cleaning in the spring and weekly or bi-monthly surface cleans.
Ready to build out your dream patio redesign? Use our Outdoor Furniture Planner to help you get started.