Must-Have Patio Features

Ahhh...summer. The days are long; the nights are starry; and the patio is calling. To make your outdoor space outstanding, here are our top 10 backyard must-haves.

By: Susan Kleinman

Photo By: Debbie Gliksman

Photo By: Jeffrey Erb

Photo By: Ryann Ford

Photo By: Amber Freda

Photo By: Isabelle LaRue

Photo By: Anthony Tahlier,

©Photo courtesy of Frontgate

Photo By: Bill Kund,

On Fire

Warm up a chilly afternoon or add drama to an evening with a fire pit, like the one landscape designer Deborah Gliksman installed on this California property. “Think about the flow of the patio when you decide where to place your fire pit,” says Deborah. “You want to have ample seating around it to get maximum enjoyment.”

On the Water

Water features add life, movement and the illusion of coolness to an outdoor space. On this summer house patio, landscape designer Jeffrey Erb custom designed a fountain that flows into a fish pond. If you’re working on a more limited budget, consider one of the free-standing fountains available at outdoor furnishings stores.

Light Bright

Forget those overhead interrogation lamps sometimes used in outdoor spaces. Guests are happiest (and look best) when lit from several sources. For a festive evening look, string up some LED rope lights, as garden designer B. Jane did on this patio. The fire pit and lanterns add additional illumination and can be removed for daytime events.

Sun Block

Only mad dogs and Englishmen, they say, stay out in the noonday sun. If you want to be outdoors when the rays are strongest, a shade umbrella will allow you to enjoy the fresh air without frying your skin. No room for an umbrella on a stand? Designer Amber Freda attached this “parasol” to the guardrail of a New York City terrace. You could place it on the rail of your deck or patio as well.

Music to My Ears

It isn’t really a party until the music starts playing. Dock your iPod outside, or splurge on outdoor speakers like these from World Wide Stereo in Philadelphia. The unobtrusive installation (see the speaker between the windows?) eliminates the risk of guests tripping over loose wires.

Private Sanctuary

No matter how much you love your neighbors, there are times you’d rather not give them a front-row ticket to your life. Isabelle LaRue, host/producer of DIY Network’s Engineer Your Space, used reed fencing to screen off her tiny city terrace without blocking too much light. Then, she turned the reeds into a design element by wrapping them around a banquette. On a private home patio, shrubs or cabana curtains can offer you the same privacy.

Pizza Please

You know that a grill for franks and burgers is a patio must-have. But why stop there? The Artisan Fire Pizza Oven from Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet turns your outdoor space into a gourmet pizza parlor and your backyard into a destination. If you need something smaller, most outdoor living retailers offer portable pizza ovens these days, too.

Champagne Wishes

A foam cooler of beer is fine for laid-back barbecues, but when you’re serving a champagne supper, you’ll want to serve drinks a little more elegantly. We love this cooler from Frontgate, made of pretty copper and waist-high, so that guests don’t have to do deep knee bends to access their beverages.

Sleep Well

When the guests have all left (or on a day you don’t feel like entertaining at all), you’ll want to stretch out and catch some z’s. A hammock can make any backyard feel like a tropical island. And this one from Frontgate has a pillow top for extra comfort.