Patio Design Ideas
Turn Your Backyard Into Your Personal Oasis with These Decorating Ideas
By Interior Designer, Tracy Svendsen | Published April 09, 2021
Updated October 06, 2023
Patio Design Ideas: It’s that time of year again when many of us are looking to refresh our outdoor areas to provide a place for friends and family to get together and relax. If you’re looking for inspiration to transform your outdoor area into a personal oasis, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll explore different patio design ideas that will help you make the most of your space, whether you have a large backyard or a tiny balcony. From creating the illusion of more space to embracing the coziness of a small yard, we’ll show you how to turn your outdoor area into a haven for relaxation and entertainment.
“This year’s outdoor living trends are about making your backyard, porch, or even balcony a regular part of everyday life. Building on last year’s momentum, homeowners can expect to bring indoor conveniences outdoors with smart technology, multipurpose add-ons, and structures that allow us to be outside longer and more often throughout the year. Whether it’s a spot to grow herbs for homemade meals, a private patio with plenty of shade, or a place to do the cooking, outdoor living is synonymous with time spent at home.” – BHG.
Small Backyard? It Can Still Be Gorgeous
If your backyard feels like the size of a postage stamp, don’t despair. Small backyards can present a challenge in outdoor design, but with the right ideas and inspiration, they can be transformed into beautiful and functional spaces. Whether you’re looking to create a cozy oasis or maximize your limited square footage, there are many creative ways to make the most of your small backyard.
Trick the eye into making it look larger.
To make your yard look bigger than it is, follow the same decorating principles you would indoors. Draw the eye upward with vertical features like arbors and trellises. Vertical gardening lets you create the illusion of more space and save on actual square footage when adding greenery or growing your food.
Balance vertical features with low or see-through fencing along one edge to prevent feeling hemmed in. Anything reflective will always create a sense of more spaciousness. Use strategically placed small water features to accomplish this. Likewise, light colors will also make the area look more sizeable.
Use zoning to delineate different uses in the yard. For example, make one space clearly for dining, another for napping in the shade, and a third for enjoying the fire pit. Arrange large elements with plenty of room in between, and use curved pathways for traffic to give a sense of further roominess.
Make sure you add plenty of greenery. Use dwarf species of potted trees and smaller plant containers of different heights to add interest. Your furniture should be scaled down, too, so it doesn’t overwhelm the yard.
A Perfect Example of a Small DIY Backyard
Small Townhouse Backyard Design
Image courtesy of Brittany Goldwin
Blogger Brittany Goldwyn Merth designed this beautiful backyard with her husband, Mike. Small-scale projects significantly transform this young family’s tiny townhouse backyard, providing the at-home lifestyle of their dreams.
They wanted privacy in their 25 x 25-foot space while turning it into a retreat. Various plants and planters and sheer voiles forming a flowing wall were added. A romantic chandelier, twinkling storm lanterns, and table tealights provide ambiance.
“DIY is a great way to go because most outdoor furniture pieces don’t cater to smaller spaces,” Brittany says. With limited floor space for furnishings and her beloved plants, she turned to vertical options. The coffee and side tables were made with 2×2 pine for the bases and 12×12 inch concrete pavers for the top.
DIY Raised Beds
A pair of DIY raised beds (approximately 11 inches deep, 81 inches long, and 35 inches wide) produce cherry tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, and peppers in one sunny corner of the backyard.
Patio Design Ideas: Embrace the coziness
Of course, you can also play up a tiny backyard by making it feel ultra cozy. Pick one focus or motif and go with it, such as a sublime seating area or Zen garden. Boho styling works well with this type of yard, so don’t be afraid to layer pillows, throws, and other fabrics for a rich look. You can unify the space with a similar element throughout. Hanging lanterns or twinkle lights are the perfect way to do this. Using the same plantings, like trailing vines or flowers in the same palette, is another method of tying the space together visually.
A small Outdoor Entertaining Area in Black & White
A lushly planted patio area with an arbor for shade. White candles and florals compliment the white fabric in the upholstery and throw pillows.
Patio Design Ideas | Expand Your Living with a Backyard Patio
A backyard patio can double your living space and provide a welcome warm-weather respite from our long Canadian winters. Make the most of your patio by approaching its design thoughtfully.
Blur the line between indoors and outdoors
Minimizing the division between interior and exterior spaces can make your home and backyard patio look immense. If possible, go for sliding glass doors or accordion doors that let you open up a wall of your inside space onto the patio. The eye will travel easily from one to the next, giving the illusion of one huge space.
To make this continuity work, use similar tones and decor styles between the two spaces. Make your patio into a second living room with rugs, cushioned furniture, and lamps. Use the same layering techniques you employ indoors when decorating outdoors: artwork, throw pillows, and little tables go a long way in creating a welcoming space.
Utilize weather-resistant items designed for outdoor use, and add some sneaky storage where you need it with resin trunks or cabinets made to look like rattan or natural materials.
Rooftop Outdoor Garden
A beautiful rooftop outdoor oasis in hues of yellow, green and pink.
Cozy & Colorful Outdoor Area | Patio Design Ideas
This bright and fresh outdoor retreat incorporates sunny shades of red and orange. Picking up accent colors from your interior and introducing that palette to your outdoor spaces through the use of pillows, throws, area rugs, and decor accessories softens the transition between spaces and creates a harmonious flow.
Small Well-Designed Outdoor Oasis | Patio Design Ideas
Here’s a great example of creativity in a small outdoor space. It’s easy to imagine this would be a comforting oasis from the hustle and bustle of city dwellings. The white-painted fencing keeps the area clean and crisp, while the potted plants add color, warmth, and a connection to nature. The stone tiles, rustic wood furniture, and small stones add texture.
An additional element that would provide further texture and color would be a long padded bench cushion with a few outdoor pillows to provide comfort. The bench could also be designed as a storage area for the cushions for seasonal purposes. A few strands of string lighting secured to the top of the fencing would provide additional ambiance. All-in-all, it’s a fabulous retreat that sets itself apart from what was an unfinished backyard area.
Give the patio a focus
You may also wish to give your backyard patio a focus that makes its purpose clear. Some popular patio uses include:
- Alfresco dining
- Barbecuing or pizza grilling
- Bar and hospitality area
- Sunning and lounging
- Conversation corner
- Herb, vegetable, or flower gardening
- Yoga and meditation zone
- Kids play station
- Outdoor man cave
Go all-out when giving your patio a theme so it feels like you’re in a seaside inn or spa. For instance, tiki torches and a bar made of an old surfboard are more evocative than generic solar lamps and big box furniture. Look at pictures and videos online for inspiration and how-tos.
Romantic Outdoor Dining
Image courtesy of: Pinterest
An incredibly romantic outdoor dining area with overhead plants and sheer voiles that form a flowing wall of privacy. The voiles are knotted at the base to provide weight in the breeze. The chandelier, lanterns and table tealights add a warm ambiance.
Outdoor Area with Purple Accents
Image courtesy of: HomeBNC
This fully furnished room uses color and high style to great effect. Elegant purple glass Moroccan lanterns hang from the beams, reflecting the color of accent cushions on the upholstered seating. Privacy drapes that echo the same color can be pulled as needed, and more creature comfort comes from the rug underfoot. Only the massed green plants make it obvious that this “room” is indeed out of doors.
An Enchanted Evening by Casa Smith Designs | Patio Design Ideas
Image courtesy of Canadian Log Homes Rustic Backyard Ideas
This design allows you to choose just the right “room” for your soiree. Designed for parties large and small, each “room” has a terrific view that leads into the next. Using symmetry and borrowing inspiration from the home’s historical architecture, they created a design that is both time period correct and timeless.
Add a Backyard Fire Pit for Year-Round Warmth
There’s nothing like a fire pit to give your backyard a focus and make it inviting any time of year. Follow these tips for making the most of your backyard fire pit:
- Position the fire pit so you can use it 12 months a year. If you use it in winter, you want it to be close to the house but near enough to shovel a path through the snow quickly. Install landscaping lighting to illuminate the way.
- Make seating around the fire pit comfy enough to work for hours. Add throws or blankets for cold-weather enjoyment.
- Consider using a sunken pit area for more of an exotic or luxury feel.
- Size your fire pit appropriately for the square footage of your yard. That will give you more room for seating if your yard is small.
- If your yard is tiny, buy or make a fire pit with a fitted cover to double as a coffee table when not in use. Another option is to purchase a gas-powered fire pit built inside a dining or coffee table.
- Add amenities to make your fire pit space more fun and convenient, such as a table for snacks and beverages.
- Make safety a priority — always keep a bucket of sand or water handy, and don’t use your fire pit unattended or near flammable fabrics or plants. For extra safety, surround your fire pit with pea gravel, stone, slate, or brick, making four-season use tidier than grass.
Modern Outdoor Seating Area with Fire Pit Designed by JMJ Studio | Patio Design Ideas
Image courtesy of Houzz
Outdoor Area Designed by Jill Sharp Weeks
Image courtesy of House Beautiful
Designer Jill Sharp Weeks used string lights to make her garden feel like an extension of her home. The space even includes an outdoor privy, the only bathroom on the ground floor.
Sophisticated Outdoor Area with Serena & Lily Furniture
Image courtesy of Serena & Lily
Spanish Remodel Mediterranean Patio | Patio Design Ideas
Image courtesy of Houzz
A large Mediterranean courtyard tile patio in Los Angeles with a pergola and fireplace.
Make the Most of a Backyard with a Pool
If you’re lucky enough to own a swimming pool, you may feel that it takes over your backyard. Usually, though, there’s sufficient space to appreciate your pool and enjoy other backyard functions, too.
Design your pool to accommodate all your needs.
If your pool is still in the planning stages, don’t automatically go with the biggest pool you can fit in the yard. In most cases, you only need a little pool space. Even if you like swimming laps, a long, thin lap pool will make room for other backyard activities, such as grilling, dining, or pet exercise, as well as non-swimmers who want to sit outside. If your yard is already on the small side, an endless swimming pool or plunge pool is a better option.
A Softly Curved Pool in Georgia that Appears to Flow into a Lake
Image courtesy of Pool Spa News
The homeowner loved her garden and didn’t want to interrupt it. To accommodate her, Shane LeBlanc, president of Selective Designs in Peachtree City, Ga., created a tranquil garden atmosphere and limited construction on the pool to 6 feet outside its perimeter.
To outline the pool, he drew the drip lines of existing trees and the eventual drip lines of a few he planned on planting. The finished product was a free-flowing shape that appeared to merge with the lake in the background.
The set of meandering, floating stepping pads line the outside of a 9-inch-deep sun shelf. They were placed by having the customer walk in that spot and measuring from one stride to the next.
Don’t get locked into rectilinear decorating.
Forego the idea that all pools have to be rectangles. A free-form pool looks more natural and less severe. If you already have a pool with 90-degree corners, you can soften the edges with potted plants, comfy seating, and strategically placed circular umbrellas or water features.
Avoid having your fencing run right up to the pool’s edge. Leaving some open lawn space will make the entire area look more significant and less harsh.
Wrapping the entire backyard in string lights and making the pool the center will give it a uniform look, whereas zoning the yard for swimming, dining, and fire pit seating will differentiate various uses and break up the yard visually. These days, your only absolute limit is how creative you want to be!
BHG’s Outdoor Living | 7 Patio Design Trends
Images courtesy of BHG
1. Outdoor Kitchens: Cooking has become an increasingly popular outdoor activity. A 2021 design trends report by the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) found that 60% of homeowners want to add outdoor kitchens.” There is an increased interest in additional cooking elements such as grills and pizza ovens.
2. Edible Gardens: Millions of people began gardening during the pandemic. Motivations varied from the desire to be outdoors to wanting a new hobby to fill the time at home. But one of the biggest reasons for an uptick in edible gardening was to supplement pantries with homegrown fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
3. Multipurpose Furniture: As entertainment became less of a focus in 2020, outdoor furniture has developed to accommodate everyday living and anticipated social gatherings.
4. Structures that Provide Privacy and Protection: As outdoor activity increases, so does the need for privacy, shade, and shelter from the elements. Whether it’s a secluded space to practice yoga without distraction or a place to use your laptop without harsh glare, a mix of landscaping and hardscaping, and even furniture, can provide protection.
5. Social Front Yards: Front yards are the newest home “addition,” according to Blythe Yost, CEO and co-founder of online landscape design company Tilly. “Previously, front yards were often just curb appeal, but now why not utilize this space and get more out of your home,” she says. “It’s like having a new room to enjoy!”
6. Outdoor Technology: As people integrate the outdoors into everyday living, they’re “looking to incorporate all the technology they use on the interior, for the exterior,” says Joe Raboine, director of residential hardscapes with Belgard. Activities like streaming movies and working from home have many people adding boosters to amplify the Wi-Fi signal outdoors.
7. Products that Extend the Living Season: Furniture, accessories, and add-ons that help you stay outside longer are a trendy upgrade. The idea is to extend the days and hours you can enjoy outside by including amenities like fire pits, heat lamps, misting systems, and fans.
Outdoor rugs, throw blankets, and lighting can provide added comfort at night or in cooler temperatures. Although these products and ideas aren’t new, their usefulness in turning occasionally-used outdoor spaces into everyday living areas makes them especially popular.
Patio Design Ideas: Conclusion
In conclusion, your backyard or patio can be transformed into a personal oasis with the right design ideas and inspiration. Whether you have a small or large backyard, there are creative ways to make the most of your space.
The possibilities are endless, from adding greenery to incorporating vertical features, using zoning to delineate different uses, and blurring the line between indoors and outdoors. Remember to consider your style and preferences when designing your outdoor area, and use these ideas to create the backyard of your dreams.
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