How to Design Outdoor Patios


Outdoor patio design takes into consideration how the patio will be used, the size of the yard and its landscaping. For instance, a small, rustic patio made from natural stone and set with a simple table and chairs suits a naturalized yard with lots of plantings. Large concrete patios outfitted with an outdoor kitchen and bar are good for entertaining, especially when surrounded by a lawn. Sketch out your patio before you begin and then set your lawn furniture out to get an idea of what the finished project will look like.

Things You'll Need

  • Concrete, flagstones, brick
  • Water feature
  • Plants
  • Patio cover
  • Fence
  • Furniture
  • Lighting
  • Decide what shape the patio should be. Square patios are appropriate for highly structured yards. Free-form patios create a more natural look. Terraced patios work well in sloped yards.

  • Choose materials for the patio. Concrete is the least expensive to install. Bricks, flagstone and natural stone pavers are a little more costly. Concrete patios are utilitarian, but they can be stained or painted to mimic a different material. Natural stone or flagstone laid without mortar so that grass or moss grows between the stones creates a softer, greener look. Traditional brick can be laid in interesting patterns.

  • Add a water feature like a small fountain or pool. A simple stone vessel set on the patio with aquatic plants growing in it is eye catching and easy to maintain. More elaborate fountains that are attached to walls with a half-basin to catch the water or freestanding ones add an auditory element to the patio.

  • Surround the patio with insect-repelling plants like basil, pennyroyal and lavender or use commercial bug zappers and citronella candles. Install planter boxes, terra cotta or decorative ceramic pots. Plant patio vegetables, flowers and several tall plants like bamboo to give the patio vertical interest.

  • Consider substituting an outdoor kitchen for a simple barbecue. Outdoor kitchens can be purchased as one-piece units with cooker, sink and refrigerator, or you can design your own.

  • Frame a privacy fence out of 2 by 4 lumber and lattice if neighbors' homes are close by. Train flowering vines to climb the lattice. They'll attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

  • Choose outdoor furniture that fits the patio's use. Plan for several seating areas if the patio is used for parties. Chaise longues work well on a patio next to a swimming pool. Wicker furniture with colorful cushions create a homey feel.

  • Plan for lighting. Candles, torches, gas and electric lights and strings of small lights extend the patio's use into the evening hours.

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