Originally Published on December 16, 2020. Last Updated on February 17, 2023.
Perhaps you’ve laid down a brand-new foundation, or your patio has been sitting unused for a while now and 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 a little lifeless. You want your patio to be cozy and inviting.
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:
Outdoor Living Room
Whether you love hosting game nights or simply relaxing with your loved ones, a well-designed outdoor living room with deep seating furniture can elevate your patio.
If you’re an avid cook and love showing off your latest recipe to friends and family, an outdoor kitchen makes a perfect addition to your patio. Do you want a built-in fridge, sink, prep area, and the whole nine yards? If so, make sure all appliances and materials are weather-resistant.
Dining al fresco is one of the many joys in life, 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. Also, if you have children, consider getting a kids’ table. It’ll come in handy during those holiday meals.
If you often host cocktail parties, the bar area is the center of the action. So why not take it outside? To make the most out of your patio, consider an all-season bar cart, built-in refrigerator, and bar-height stools and tables.
Reconnecting with Mother Nature can do wonders for your emotional and mental health. If you need to decompress or stop and smell the roses for a bit, a beautiful garden makes a perfect sanctuary. Think about adding a water feature like a fountain or koi pond for extra ambiance.
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 and a beautiful, unobstructed view. Don’t forget to put on sunscreen!
Outdoor Home Theater
Imagine kicking back in your favorite chair and watching a classic movie alongside your family on your patio. 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 you’re making s’mores with the kids or hanging out with friends on a brisk evening, nothing beats the coziness of an open fire. Consider a fire pit table instead of a traditional built-in fire pit. Fire pit tables are much easier to operate and maintain.
Step 3 — Choose a Style for Your Patio
Sticking with a color palette or decor theme is one of the best ways to make your patio feel comfortable and cohesive. It’ll also help narrow down your choices for furniture and accessories later.
Outdoor spaces such as patios are extensions of the home, so look to your house’s style to inform your patio’s design. For example, cobblestone and rustic outdoor furniture might feel out of place if your home has a modern exterior. Furniture with clean lines and materials like concrete may work better.
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 deal with low-maintenance plants? Asking these questions can help you figure out which plants to buy and how many.
Here are some landscaping ideas you can implement in your backyard:
- Planting beds
- Shrubs and bushes
- Water fountains
- Rocks and pebbles
- Flowering trees
Step 5 — Pick Out Furniture
Once you have an idea of your patio’s style and what to do with your spaces, it’s time to fill them with furniture! Investing in versatile, all-weather outdoor furniture will help you create a dynamic patio that you and your family will love for many years.
Keep these tips in mind when planning your outdoor space:
- Consider the style of the furniture and how it complements your surroundings.
- If possible, test out your furniture before buying it. After all, you want it to be comfortable!
- Refer back to your measurements and ensure your furniture will fit in your space.
- Try not to purchase outdoor furniture in summer if you’re looking for a deal. Early fall is usually the best time to buy furniture.
- Don’t underestimate ottomans, especially if you have a small patio. They’re versatile pieces of furniture that 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 a patio feel more like home. Here are some ways you can personalize and customize your patio:
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 you can implement, so examine your patio to see which ones work best.
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. 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 don’t have the room or budget, something as simple as a patio umbrella can spruce up your space.
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.
The Bottom Line
Designing a patio is both a financial and personal investment, so be flexible when it comes to cost and execution. But it should also be fun! The patio is part of your home, so play around with the design and make it yours.
Ready to design your dream patio? Use our Outdoor Furniture Planner to help you get started.