Most of my mail is made of questions asking about backyard patio ideas, you have a small yard or garden, you maybe have a pool but you can’t get it to shine like the magazine photos. Here’s where this guide comes into play. There is a tendency to subvert expectation in good design and because of the mass production of assets, many real-life designs are boring predictable. Stop reading this if you haven’t seen this picture:
The White Couch
White lounges, a square table that comes just to where the seating area is. IT’s cool, it’s clean, it has that upscale nightclub vibe, it’s a lie. Have you ever touched the couches in a nightclub, they are either sticky or are smell like they took a chemical bath in chlorine. Same goes for the patio furniture that imitates it. It’s not really a style, it’s more like rushing through a catalog and picking what jumps at you first and doesn’t clash with the set-up you already have i.e. white.
Sure, use them on a natural stone backdrop, and some nice water features or carve out the table fill it with ruby red fire glass and set it on fire. It’s utterly stunning a timeless representation of the class created by modern design. But you rarely see that. And for everything white does well, yellow or red could do better.
If you are however set on white upholstery, you need to add more to the scene, more character more personality. A good interpretation I saw was using a wood frame. Use hard grain wood for the bed frame, it keeps just enough class, but the wood comes with loads of character. The white color does work with a lot of finishinges so it blends into the organic feel of the wood. That’s the thing about minimalist features, they are neutral and easy to blend with other feature, but you have to blend so the scene doesn’t become dead and dry.
For more class, again, you need to make an effort, just doing the white lounge theme isn’t enough, when everyone is doing it. Add a privacy panel in front of your view, just hinting at obstructing the view of “others” and a textile roof to raise the space above the rest of the yard in terms of elegance.
Related: Shop Outdoor Privacy Panels here.
Or you can literally platform it and pushes it above the rest of the garden raising it above everything. Add a projector installation in front of it and enjoy your home cinema experience.
Making the patio a functional space, a viewing space for movies during the summer nights which justifies the opulence. Driving an expensive car on the weekends is snobbery, going to the track and using it to it’s potential, that is lifestyle luxury. You buy the thing for the experience, not for the objects itself. For the extra inch, use a canopy bed and bind modern and colonial in an excellent example of timeless class.
Touch of color
But what if you didn’t use the white tones for class but rather as a modern counterpoint to the rest of your garden, well, you are stuck in 2015 then. Go bolder for a modern statement. Bright red chairs or yellow accents, under a red cedar pergola or sectioned off yard make a much better statement than anything white can do if you’re looking for opulence. While some stained red or light lacquered hardwood chairs around make it shine off modernity. Add light an indirect light source and add flavor to a night scene. Surround the scene with some privacy separators and some large potted plants for the illusion of intimacy. Then light them from beneath, making them just reflect light into the area. And this turns into a classy fusion of modern and organic.
In-wall backyard patio ideas
This is a very cool trick for small urban city yards or terraces, but I think it just looks very cool and that’s why I wanted to share this with you. And before you glance over this part consider what my premise is, the patio is a functional space made for people. You never have enough space for it. More space for those inside the patio always translates into a better experience and better feeling design. If you can do this without compromising side space for the people that will sit inside the scene, do it.
On the wall seating is an excellent way to get rid of unused space, from a design perspective and by moving the person back, from their point of view they get a lot more space in the front of them.
The simple version is to make a bench and fix it directly into your wall. Use this is terraces or small yards. Use some darker maple or grainy wood to make it look more distinguished. It works best on hard solid color walls and if it’s a stone wall, putt some back support also onto the wall.
The wasted space
I’ve talked about this >here<, in another post. But space around you is invisible especially under you or in front of you, <here> I compared the space you’re wasting by sitting around a table versus a lounge type seating. The basic gist is that tables are terrible in terms of space economy both visually and experientially. When you see a table in the showroom it’s fake advertising. Not even children can sit in 20 inches of space around the table. People need to expand in their environment and stretch out. And we do that in front of us, exactly where the table is.
Ever banged you hand on the table? Yes, that was bad design, it wasn’t your fault. So whenever in doubt always get a lower coffee table than a dining table. More so, get lower seats, the space under you is literally useless. The Same thing applies to the space behind you, that’s where most small spaces lose usability. You look at the size of the average long and the display size of the average table and chairs and you underestimate how it would look when you actually use it. A combination of couch and coffee table is jus that, it will stay the same whatever you’re doing.
In-wall seating is the same thing but takes the concept to another level. Placing the seats on the wall removes the space between the person and the borders of the space. Because of this, there is literally no waste of space and it significantly expands the space people perceive in front of them unless you have some visual limitations on the side.
If you are redesigning a small space, please consider this and make a seat instead of the wall. Use some columns for support instead of a wall and make it look like the wall space is part of the environment. You saved at least a foot and a lot of usable space. You can also use this stylistically and offer full-size wall segments as chairs protecting your guests completely equipped with their own roof., just keep it open enough to not feel isolating.
Small space Backyard Patio Ideas
Second, best is in-wall features are fire glass and a gas burner will light up space with that warm flickering light. This works extremely well as a background light source or even an indirect light source if the flame is under direct line of sight. The third one, flowerbed, with hanging shrubbery. This isn’t however always the most space-efficient way to add green and life to a scene. Check to see if a larger single pot plant won’t be more space efficient than long drawn out shrubs inside the walls. But for very limited space that just needs some green, definitely, go with the in wall planters, spread them out and use them ass sparse accents.
Circular backyard patio ideas
This is the rule of thumb from a design point of view and you always make it the same way, foundation, path, central element, seating, and surroundings. Keep this order and you can’t go wrong. This should be what people think of when you say patio. The variation is limitless and the circular shape makes it scalable and works with almost any other features.
When building The foundation, take care to make it as wide as it fits comfortably in your garden. Crucial concept here: comfortably: keep it relaxed and allow for breathing room even after you add your background features around your patio.
Grab a string and trace a circle around the central point. If you’re feeling creative, use multiple strings and circles and draw an irregular circular shape, just keep it the curbed concave and be considerate of all your sitting position. Don’t make it too narrow and be confident of any bend and curve, the difference between a bad circle and a design choice is the confidence of the line. If you alternate from a circle, don’t make it a circle at all anymore.
Surround it with short bushes, some lawn or counterpoint it to a play area. Link it to other areas with a path and some gravel and you are done. You have a perfectly elegant touch of a patio that will fit in whatever you have right now in your yard. The only exception is if you already have a square patio, but then you can mix and match, make one a dining area and the other a smoking area. And link them up with bright flagstone paths to make the contrast look purposeful.
But back to the single circle patio. I love this in the back ends of long gardens with a long winding path back to the house and some short shrubs nestling the occupants and framing the view back towards the house. It symbolizes a little green oasis when the lawn immediately near the house is filled with a playground or a dining area. Set space in between gives a figurative distance between real life and the moments you’re sitting there.
Upgraded backyard patio ideas
For larger spaces and larger circles use wood or alternating rows of white and dark tiles or bricks. The seating can be either a simple knee-high concrete wall or a full lounge area with modern seats and a semicircular pergola, for the middle you can use a campfire or a beginning of a longer pond. With large patios, you can use more define mid-ground elements, like a waterfall, some concrete art pieces or some interesting chest-high brush scattered from place to place.
That’s the amazing part of being a circle, the space and area become a feature. Your patio is the centerpiece, the eye will instantly be drawn to it in a good way, but it absorbs the attention instead of just being there which happens whit a patio that acts as a transition space between house and garden.
Related: Backyard Patio Ideas Guide
Privacy walls with wooden spindles, small tabouret seats, long dark wood table. White concrete tiles intertwined with dark grass some pillars and some potted trees for a Carribean urban garden
Or make it the center stage, if you have larger yards, surround a large circular patio at the of your yard with tall trees on three fifths of it, the borders, the fence or the dull cityscape. This will underline the large circular patio and will give it a stage effect. It will become a distinct space within your garden. As host for the main event has a fire pit, a fountain or a large pond of curved but irregular shapes.
Natural stone backyard patio ideas
From a universal patio design idea, we move on to a stylish universality. Natural stone outcrops are the best finishing any wall can have and if you can pull it off use it as a background wall or feature everywhere. Yes, if you get it pronounced, like a natural outcrop, natural stone is interesting enough to work as features just on itself.
A second good alternative for patio backgrounds is the vertical garden. Wall-to-wall planters or greens and hanging greens reaching out from the walls to get you. This is more scalable than the natural stone wall as natural stone looks improvised in small areas if not properly integrated. While if you use separators and fake walls you can get a decent effect with multiple 7+ small potted plants even in very small spaces.
Another think natural rock makes look amazing is terracing. I would encourage you is to always make stairs out of natural rock, even less attractive varieties like stained concrete.
There’s something about ordinary stairs that is too clean, prefabricated. Like with the white patio. You think of them and the standard comes to mind. We don’t think brick, dark flagstone or porous granite. And that standard we use and it never looks right, when associated with the definition in prefabricated like patio furniture, you see the problem and why the scene has such shallowness.
And finally one last scene with natural rock, a very special feature, the ultimate patio, the dining grotto patio. You can put an electric car trough it and it would still have an organic feel to it and look elegant.
The wall coming out at you has such an intense personality you literally can’t ruin it with anything you add to it. This does cost a pretty penny, however, but this should always be your point of reference in terms of elegance and character, not some photoshopped IKEA catalog.
OLD world backyard patio ideas
If you can’t afford stone character forged by heat and tectonic pressure for millions of years, get the old man made character forged by mortals for centuries.
There is certain esteem we hold for the established old designs. We live in an age where 2 years create moral decay in our products and yesterday’s design always seems to fail to grab our interest in a world of 2 launches per year and summer – fall and fall – winter fashion trends.
In such a world, rustically is just as good as an expensive natural rock with mesmerizing details and patterns. I call it that because it comprises a sum of usable modern décor that you can’t really call modern, basically I fit here anything old world and understated product of manufacture and crafts rather than industry and trends.
I hesitate to call it purely old world style as colonialism and Americana is definitely new world. But it’s that mix of old hand crafted manufactory and pale wore out color tones. Now the features are harder to match and you use a traditional complementary color scheme. Which can be used with new modern elements as well but it’s not as eye gouging as using complementary colors or tonal contrasts.d
Think brick walls, brick hardscapes and crushed brick and terra cotta gravel. IN the red corner as you can say. It goes for any terra cotta fittings; thisgets absurd when you think how ubiquitous our use of terracotta is. Any traditional hacienda style roofs also fall under this class. Traditional pergolas are also made out of brick so if you try that you will have a strong signal of authenticity resonating from the large elements which are always a big plus. And worth mentioning it.
Under brick we have a wide variety of old school fire features: fireplaces traditional pizza ovens or brick seating arrangements get to stay and use even outside their arid home climate. Brick terracing and stairs are easier on the eye than anything flat and white concrete. Another interesting thing is building amphitheaters. And seating circles. Try some type of Morrocan hideous theme or native American tabouret seating around a smoldering fire with a faux adobe nearby. Don’t go all out with the finishings, modern furniture just ruins the atmosphere.
As a general rule, we abused brick so much that it’s part of almost any design language and because it has more character and warmth than concrete it’s usually well integrated into those themes. So stick with the theme and use them as a material whenever you want as an upgrade to concrete.
Speaking of concrete, I will talk about old concrete and concrete finishings that aren’t at least Art Deco. There’s a lot of variations and option but very similarly with the white furniture, it needs something more to have stylistic value and it generally was used as a utilitarian material, so you need to think outside the box on this one to make it work.
On the other hand, it’s a very versatile material and you can find a lot of ways to integrate concrete into your backyard patio ideas. Just of the top of my head, I could think of nice half walls Half walls, in-ground fire bowls, hardscapes or tables.
Anything can be concrete, but this doesn’t mean it can also work. You should be using it everywhere if you can stain it, however, if abused in its white-gray form it becomes a lazy man option. Just plastering on some stucco and given it some grain doesn’t make it all that better either.
Probably the best use of straight white concrete is fire pits. Over time it will gather up a nice used aged by fire look. And for terracing, because from the outside, it does look clean and sleek especially from a distance.
In the transparent corner we have french double doors. These amazing, they bring the room outside and the outside into the room. If you can fit them get them, not even fully transparent glass sides can compare. Let’s add some old-timey water features here, like wells and moats. I love wooden moats, but I think all water assets are great period. Try it, it’s a great break in perspective and long surfaces that have more personality than just another path.
In the brown corner, you have the king of materials wood. Use this as paneling, patio furniture, tables in fires and as regular timber features. Just leave the grain visible. It’s like buying a sports car and pushing it.
And lastly the tree patio. I’ve talked about it here <eco glass> if you want to read more, but it’s a perfectly integrated roof, sun shade, and climate control. If you have it use it if you don’t wait for a generation to grow one.
Let’s talk vacation theme and how to bring the best of them into your yard.
Think historic scenery, large river stones coming out of the wall towards you and cobbled stones under your feet. Everything is natural but in man-made form. This oozes character which means you can escape the urban and concrete the second you enter the scene.
Add some more aged elements from low wood chairs, large potted plants, to get a historic patio theme. Something you see in on the back of old beat novels. For a budget option uses some old granny stucco. And go overboard with the grain and texture on it. The furniture and the hardscape should bring it into the theme and make it work.
And lastly the small scale variation to the feeling. Think of it as a European courtyard, historic setting, and modern understated finishings. The quintessentially European roughed unplastered walls. Large windows with wooden aged shutters and dense large potted plants and cobbled surface. Add 2 steps raising the sitting area if you want it to be more prominent.
Technically any seating works with this. But you have to go for the classic French coffee forged steel chairs and table. Use a central in-table fire feature for some drama. Now, you have a secret designer urban back yard that works even in the darkest of cities or American rooftops. Add even more Parisienne and make it waterproof with an industrial steel and glass roof.
European villas with huge French romantic double doors leading into wide terraces. Patios with large tables and ending in a large wooden pizza over. This is probably the best setup if you lack to have casual parties and really use the human element to liven things up. The double doors bring kitchen and terrace together into a communal space of joy and wide.
Slice up the rest of your garden with some old world cobbled paths and you get excellent European chic for pennies. Upgrade it with some columns arches and brick pergolas and you have a hard time getting something more elegant without breaking the bank.
Black and white marble tiles. White table. Clean cut lawns and hedges all around some columns and a textile roof over everything. Turn your highlights into late European opulence.
A later variation of that is the Mediterranean beach cottage. Imagine 60s style lounges, old school Monaco, very low tables and very square seats. Simple contemporary shapes that barely break into deco and Bauhaus chairs and features.
Maybe a rustic wood roof over everything and a backdrop of sea rocks stacked covering the wall. Maybe some lines of lavender hanging around the walls leading the eye to the horizon and decorative wicker elements. This is the birthplace of the white patio. But even here I want you to use yellow instead. The reflexes will make every golden hour feel like a Mediterranean vacation.
Modern patio design ideas
Abuse pools, that’s the counterpoint to the patio. It’s dynamic, it’s complementary. Try some visual trickery. For example, layering false horizons with a glass table a pool and a view. The patio is a functional setting, we chat, we laugh we eat and we relax. So modernity doesn’t just presume using shiny materials and bold tonal contrasts. It should be geared toward that, but it’s also a place built around the new modern concept of leisure.
The first line of defense against falling on the white futon cliché is the blue stone patio. Simple rectangular pale blue tiles. Add drama with fire features filled up with azure blue fire glass. Ground it all with some lava rock beds for some darker pale counterpoints.
Go monochrome, use one color and all adjoining colors up to 2 turns on the color wheel. Keep the accents dark and the surfaces pale and you get a very strong theme setting, although a bit tiresome. Use non-color walls to keep the intensity down a bit.
This is the basics of the blue stone patio. And this is usable for smaller spaces up to a point. And with very light colors. The same thing you can apply almost anywhere you want to get a theme color. Use old school color matching complementary color coordination instead of new ones.
Scandinavian Minimalist Backyard Patio Ideas
From this understated European design evolved Scandinavian minimalism. You can take the main feature like a pool and plump it up with Scandinavian furnitures. For example a minimalist lawn chair and a maximum of 3 to 4 large plants spread sparingly.
Use simple contemporary elements and clean understated design. If you must use one vibrant color element, only one and make it stand out so much you can see it from orbit. This works so well and its less, try-hard than oriental minimalism. Expand on the pool or go without and extent the simple Scandinavian restrained among your garden with clean lines and elements, even plastic and stones. This can somewhat work in small spaces. Limit the number of elements and how crowded you make it. In large spaces, it is very elegant and fresh, unlike other minimalist styles.
Think of the summer garden with a large pergola at the entrance into the garden. Imagine sloping fabric roofs leading your eyes to trough a visual maze of privacy panels featuring gray rocks, dark woods, and bright short lawns. Maybe some cast iron gates and some red leaf maple sprouts. Or with something closer to home go all out and get a fully stocked outside kitchen.
Contemporary luxury full kitchen, play area, large table and surrounding garden. This is the ideal space to socialize and entertain guests and a large pergola towering above them. A direct evolution of the southern rustic Italian garden where the whole family gathers and shares stories and food.