Patio Design Tips

Bring your indoor room design outdoors, with these tips on creating a functional layout.
Neutral Stone Patio for Outdoor Entertaining

Neutral Stone Patio for Outdoor Entertaining

Photo courtesy of Westover; Photography by Rich Pomerantz

Photo courtesy of Westover; Photography by Rich Pomerantz

By: Peter Walsh

After your patio is installed, you'll want to make it comfortable for you and your guests. Think about the last vacation you took to a sunny locale and how much you enjoyed relaxing outdoors. Now take that feeling home with you and create a similar feeling in your outdoor living space with plenty of cushy seating, separate areas for dining, a place for quiet conversation under the stars, a spot for cooking up sumptuous meals and an area for relaxing in a chaise lounge.

You might want to bring your decorating style from the inside of your home to your outdoor living space by repeating colors and furniture styles. Or go in a completely opposite direction and create a beachy retreat far from the sea or a mountain top terrace in the heart of the city. "Make it a great space to get away," says Greg Stone, landscape architect of Greg Stone Landscape Architect. "Make it something you look forward to enjoying when you pull out the furniture from the basement after the winter."

Design Ideas

There are so many great products available now for your patio. You can now basically emulate how the interior of your home is decorated by using weatherproof fabrics, cushions, rugs and lamps that are designed to be left out in the rain and do not fade in the bright sun. You should just make sure to bring them in for the winter months in snowy climates and they will last for years.


"The whole industry (in outdoor furnishings) has changed," says Robert Welsch, landscape designer of Westover Landscape Design. "The sky's the limit." Robert suggests using an outdoor propane heater in colder climates to extend the season on your patio from March until November. They tilt and roll so you can move them around.

Use widely affordable outdoor rugs in areas like under the dining area and the living area on your patio. "Rugs feel good under our feet indoors and outdoors," Monica says. For lighting, use candles but also go for string lights in trees and turn them on when you are outside especially if you are grilling outdoors. "You wouldn't cook in your kitchen in the dark. Don't just do it for a party," she says.

Use ottomans, whether matching or in an accent color, outdoors so you can put your feet up and relax. And go for bold, fun colors instead boring beige. "Out in the sun, colors fade so be bold and be fun," Monica says. Even a striking black and white color combo would work. It has lots of energy.

For a real decorating twist, literally bring the indoors out. "Don’t be afraid to move indoor furniture outdoors for a party," says Monica. For a special occasion, she brought out a pair of black and white hounds tooth check wing chairs that were a big hit.

9 Patio Design Ideas

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A Grand Entrance

The staircase is not only a fabulous focal point; it divides the space into two rooms. While the upper level is designated for dining, the lower level is ideal for patio furniture that encourages further lounging. Photo courtesy of Joanne Kostecky

Southwestern Flair

From cactus plants to iron elements, a rustic colored awning to stucco, this patio takes an eye-catching approach to comfort and southwestern design. It's a small space, but the strategic landscape adds a punch of flavor to the elevated structure. Photo courtesy of Landscaping Network

A Courtyard With Character

This courtyard patio brings the indoors out with designated areas to relax. Two plush chairs create a conversational corner, the extra seating surounding the tree is ideal for entertaining, and comfortable bench seats provide a delightful dining experience.

Serene Surroundings

Water elements go a long way in a backyard escape. This patio is surrounded by a moat-like feature, which defines the outdoor space.

Modern Design

Clean lines and a variety of different textures forms a trendy retreat for guests. Extra privacy is designed with lush plants, shrubs and trees. Photo courtesy of Landscaping Network

A Pleasing Patio

Pergolas add instant charm and architectural interest to any patio. This shaded sitting area features comfy cushion chairs and shrubbery for a pleasant outdoor experience.

Rooftop Patios

Take advantage of your view with a rooftop patio. Outfitted with concrete materials, an abundance of built-in sitting space and a pizza oven, this outdoor space is packed with luxury. Photo courtesy of Concrete Network

Clean and Contemporary

Sometimes you don't need a lot of details to enjoy your outdoor experience. Simplicity meets serenity in this contemporary escape. Photo courtesy of Royal Botania

Extravagant Entertaining

With stunning stone materials, earthy fabrics and an opulent fireplace, this patio is warm and inviting. The functional patio design features a place to dine, gather with guests and play yard games. Photo courtesy of Westover and Photography by Rich Pomerantz

If you are set on white or cream colored cushions on dark framed metal or wood furniture then add some pizzazz with colorful accessories, suggests Claudia Tejeda, interior designer of Claudia Giselle Design. Add pops of color with pillows and throws and change them for special occasions. "Add red, white and blue pillows for the fourth of July," says Claudia.

Built-In Features

If you think you might want a built-in fountain or fire pit on your patio you might want to try out a purchased version first. Fountains need maintenance and you may not have the time or want to do that and you may end up not using a fire pit as much as you think. "The purchased ones are the most flexible because you can move them around your patio to see where they would work best," says Robert Welsch, landscape designer of Westover Landscape Design.

For maximum use of the patio all year long, consider adding a seating wall along the edge of your patio to the initial plan. It's a less formal approach to seating and takes the place of furniture that’s put away for the winter. "It encourages you to walk out and still sit down and enjoy the space," says Greg. The seating wall should be about 24-inches wide and about 20-inches high and that it face a view, if you have one.

7 Ways to Perk Up Your Patio

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Invite the Indoors Outside

Create additional outdoor space with fabulous folding glass walls. This living room takes advantage of gorgeous outdoor views year-round, while the patio is a pleasant place to lounge as evening breezes flow through the house. 

Consider Durable Patio Furniture

Built-in seating is a great option if you want a patio that stands up to weather and other outdoor elements. This ultimate gathering space is made from concrete materials. Decorative pillows add a touch of color and softness. 

Add Flair With a Fire Pit

This majestic fire pit is ideal for gathering with guests on a cool evening. It's a functional focal point that invites relaxation and conversation amongst a crowd. 

Shade Your Patio With a Pergola

Not only is this beautifully designed structure an architectural focal point, it adds instant comfort on sunny days. Subtle bistro lights, an inviting fireplace, a grill station and cozy wicker furniture complete this outdoor room. 

Pick Interesting Accessories

Don't settle for dull patio furniture that's an uncomfortable eyesore. Upgrade your patio with artistic flair that complements your design style. Local craftsmen and artisans can be great resources for unique metal finds. Photo courtesy of Westover and Photography by Rich Pomerantz. 

Warm Up to a Fireplace

While a fire pit is a great option for larger gatherings, fireplaces create a cozy ambiance for intimate settings. This gas hearth features captivating flames and sleek design that enhances any outdoor experience. 

Design the Ultimate Outdoor Kitchen

Outdoor kitchens are becoming much more fully functional. From refrigerators to side burners, flat-screen televisions to surround sound, a full-service outdoor kitchen will take your patio to the next level. Photo courtesy of Cal Flame. 

It's a permanent structure that typically has a veneer of stone and solid cap of stone for a smooth surface. A seating wall can also provide additional areas for guests to sit, place a drink or a plate of food while you are entertaining a crowd. In a pinch, you could move your dining table over, closer to the wall to provide more room for more guests. Just put out some cushions to soften the surface. A seating wall is also a great place to put pots of plants and lanterns for evening gatherings.

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