If you live somewhere that has an outdoor space, it’s worth investing time and money into designing it and maximizing its usability. After all, a nice deck, porch, or patio can serve as a beautiful extension of your home—one that you can use year-round in warmer climates!
But if you’re starting from scratch, the process of designing a patio can feel overwhelming. And to make your patio really sing, you’re going to need a lot more than just patio chairs and a table. In fact, great patio designs should be thought of as something between a living and dining space, with thoughtful details beyond the basic furniture to make it feel really special.
The great news is, you don’t have to embark on a patio overhaul on your own. With Modsy’s Renovation Design service, you can work with a renovation design expert to plan and visualize your patio designs before bringing it to life!
But if you just want to start wrapping your head around what a patio design involves, read on. We’ve put together a guide on everything you need to create truly beautiful and functional patio designs.
The Essentials: How to Decide the Best Layout and Use for Your Patio
When preparing to design a patio or other outdoor space, it’s important to first decide on the function you’d like it to have. Would you like to primarily use your patio as an outdoor dining area? Or perhaps you want it to be more conversation-focused, with a firepit or coffee table in the middle of a seating area? Deciding how you want to use your patio will help you land on the furniture and decor that you need to make your space work for your needs.
Essential Furniture for Dining-Focused Layouts
A patio with a dining-focused layout is best for those who love to entertain and dine outdoors. To make this work, you’ll need a large table paired with sturdy chairs that can hold up to lots of use. You’ll also want to think about how durable and easy to clean your furniture is. Spills and inclement weather are inevitable; so, opt for synthetic wicker or treated wood, both of which are popular choices for outdoor dining furniture.
Essential Furniture for Conversation-Focused Layouts
A patio geared toward conversation is perfect for those who like to host small gatherings and game nights. These layouts have the same idea as a conversational living room layout—but are simply designed outdoors rather than indoors! To make this happen, you’ll want to focus on conversational seating with comfy outdoor chairs and a sofa. Opt for styles that have cushions so you and your guests stay comfortable for hours on end. Make sure the cushions are washable and made in a fade-resistant and water-resistant material. It’s also helpful to have a coffee table for setting down drinks, laying out snacks, and playing cards. An outdoor pouf or ottoman is a great addition to your set-up as well, perfect as an extra seat or a footrest.
Essential Furniture for Mixed-Use Layouts
Don’t want to choose between dining and conversation? Create a mixed-use layout, with two zones—one for lounging and conversation and another for dining. To bring this layout to life, be sure to include a table and chairs for meal-time. For extra variety, opt for lounge chairs rather than a chair and sofa set for your conversation area. Lounge chairs are great for laying out in the sun, but they can also offer a nice place to kick back, relax, and chat with friends. Just be sure to include some small side tables next to the chairs! This is a perfect layout for those who have larger outdoor spaces and can fit two separate zones on their patio.
Patio Nice-to-Haves: Water Features and Fire Features
Want to take your patio design to the next level? Include a water feature or fire feature. These can compliment the purpose and layout of your patio while also enhancing the visual design of the space. Scroll down to explore your options.
Want your patio to be a truly zen environment? A fountain might be the perfect add-on to your space. Bubbling and flowing water has a relaxing auditory sensibility, and they also promote feng shui in your outdoor space. Fountains are also relatively low maintenance and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. If you have a small patio, you could even get a tabletop fountain!
Ponds are a great choice for those who want to create a meditative outdoor space. They have a relaxing sensibility and can vary quite a bit in size and shape to suit the space that you have available. But they do require more upkeep than a fountain, especially if you choose to include fish in your pond.
Pools are great for active households and for those who entertain. After all, is there anything quite as fun as a pool party in the summer? In-ground pools are a great choice for warm climates where you can maximize your use of this amazing water feature. They can add a lot of fun to outdoor gatherings, especially when kids are involved. But just know that they do require a great deal of maintenance, especially if you need to drain and cover them in the winter!
Fire pits are great for conversational seating areas on a patio, or off your patio in the backyard. There’s something really meditative about staring into a fire, and they somehow manage to help facilitate better conversation! But they’re also fun for family activities like making s’mores! Fire pits can be used year-round in warmer climates, and they’re a great way to extend patio season in colder environments. Just pair your fire pit with some blankets in cooler weather and you can still enjoy time outside! Fire pits can be large or small, built-in or freestanding, wood-burning or gas-powered. Essentially, anything you need!
If you want something more low-maintenance than a fire pit but like the idea of adding heat on cold evenings, you could instead opt for a simple outdoor heater.
The Patio Finishing Touches: Textiles, Accent Lighting, Foliage, and Garden Features
Once you have the big pieces in place, you can add extra style, personality, and ambiance to your patio with the finishing touches. Accent lighting like string lights and lanterns offer both ambiance and practicality for late-night dining and conversation. And potted plants and other foliage are a great way to add color and life to your patio!
Rugs and Pillows
If you want to add a little extra hominess (and personality) to your patio, don’t skimp on the textiles. Indoor-outdoor rugs are a great addition to conversational patio layouts. They’re made to withstand the elements, and they keep your feet from having to rest on cold concrete or wood. And, in addition to the cushions that come with your outdoor furniture, consider adding a few outdoor pillows to add additional color, pattern, and comfiness to your seating area. And having a basket of blankets that you can bring outside is always nice for cool evenings!
Lanterns are a classic and versatile lighting choice for patios. They can be electric or candlelit, plus you can find lanterns that sit on tabletops, as well as designs that can be hung or mounted, depending on your style and needs.
String lights are a fun, casual and in-expensive way to add lighting to your patio. We especially love cafe-style bulbs for patio lighting, but any sort of string light or twinkle light will do. They’re easy to hang up, and since they’re lightweight, they can be hung with adhesive or removable hooks, making it a great lighting solution for rentals.
Candles are a simple and affordable way to add light and ambiance to your patio—no electricity required! They offer a soft, flickering glow, perfect for tabletop centerpieces or inside hanging lanterns! Some candles, like citronella-scented candles, can also be used to fend off mosquitos!
Potted Plants and Flowers
Potted plants are a great way to add visual texture and diversity to your patio. You can spread them throughout your patio, with different plants in different places, depending on the amount of light they need to thrive. Sweet-smelling plants and flowers can also add an aromatherapy element to your patio; a live lavender plant near your seating area could be very calming and grounding! You could also include hanging potted plants or even add small potted plants to your outdoor dining table as a beautiful centerpiece.
If you want something a little larger than potted plants, opt for more significant foliage. Potted trees and large tropical plants—like palms, elephant ear plants, or birds of paradise—can offer a large visual design element to your patio design, as well as as offering small amounts of shade. If you want more significant foliage and shade, you could also plant trees around the outside of your patio.
In addition to regular potted plants, it can be really nice to have a small herb garden on your patio—offering the beauty of green vegetation, plus a functional element for home cooks! While they can certainly be planted in a larger backyard gardening bed, it’s actually more functional to have them closer to your kitchen. You’ll be much more likely to run out to your patio for a handful of basil leaves than to trek out to the outer reaches of your backyard for a small handful of herbs. Having them close-at-hand will ensure you use them more often! Plus, having them near a seating area on your patio means you can enjoy the fresh, herbaceous scents they create!
What does your dream patio look like? What layout would you choose and what else would you include to finish off the design? We’d love to hear! And if you’re ready to embark on a patio redesign, our renovation design experts are here to help!