Horticulture Magazine

12 Garden Patio Ideas for Outdoor Spaces

panoramic view of a garden patio with furniture

Transform your back yard into an extension of your living space the whole year round with these inspiring garden patio ideas.

A garden patio can serve as a tranquil and enticing place to while away lazy summer afternoons and hunker down around a heat lamp or firepit on colder winter nights. While a terrace like this will inevitably be associated more commonly with the warmer months, there’s no reason that you can’t make your garden patio hospitable even in the more hostile seasons.

With a little bit of imagination and ingenuity with regard to your design scheme – alongside a reasonable financial outlay and a modicum of hard work – you can turn a limp and lacklustre space into the most inviting of outdoor areas. The possibilities are virtually endless when it comes to putting your own stamp on your garden patio, but if you’re struggling for inspiration to get the ball rolling, here are a handful of ideas to whet your creative appetite.

Twelve patio designs we’re sure you’ll love

1) Embrace the outdoors with vertical greenery

a comfortable lounge chair amongst various plants in a garden
Create a natural oasis with vertical vegetation

One of the most inviting aspects of an outdoor area is the connection it builds with Mother Nature. Even if your space has more modest dimensions or you live in an urbanised part of the country, there’s no reason why you can’t accentuate the au naturale aspects of your back yard to create an oasis brimming with biodiversity.

A sure-fire way to achieve that outcome is through the planting of flowers, herbs, hedges and trees – and lots of them. Maximise the space available to you by choosing creepers and climbers over spreaders, or else position hanging plants on walls and fences to mask the artificial with the natural. The slats in louvers make excellent individual planting troughs, while potted plants can add intrigue and variation that’s easily rearrangeable when the situation merits.

2) Trick the eye with smoke and mirrors

mirrors on a stone wall
Mimicking your interior décor in an outdoor setting can extend the living space, as can the strategic placement of mirrors

A well-designed garden patio will feel less like a separate entity to the rest of the house and more like a continuation of the same living space. That effect can be best achieved by continuing the same design scheme that’s present in the adjoining room outside, right down to the same floor tiles and wall surfaces. A run-on aesthetic between the indoor and outdoor parts of your property is instrumental in encouraging a seamless flow and a harmonious feng shui in your home.

Again, smaller spaces don’t necessarily have to be an obstacle in recreating the same energy al fresco as that which is enjoyed inside. Mirrors are the oldest trick in the book when it comes to fooling the eye and enlarging the dimensions available to you, so consider where best to position them to reflect the aesthetic indoors and maximise the space outdoors.

3) Commit to a theme

a moroccan courtyard with a bench and planters
Diving head first into a particular theme can pay generous dividends

There’s a lot to be said for coordinating your colour schemes and harmonising your exterior décor when it comes to garden patio. Whether you favour the bold colours, intricate mosaics and shallow pools of a Moroccan riad or the chic chimeneas, plush rugs and flickering candles of an apres-ski resort, embracing any theme whole-heartedly will reflect favourably upon your garden patio’s overall aesthetic and draw admiring glances for all who visit it.

A chalet terrace or exotic courtyard are just two jumping off points when it comes to a themed back yard, but the world is literally your oyster in this respect. Spend an hour or two poring through the suggestions on Pinterest and Instagram to settle upon a design scheme which suits you and accentuates your space’s best features.

4) Combine comfort with convenience

garden sofas and a hanging chair on outdoor decking
All-weather furniture with comfy cushions is a great way to achieve the best of both worlds

Practicality is a key consideration when it comes to designing an outdoor living space. After all, there’s no sense in building a beautiful garden patio that’s so aesthetically pleasing that it cannot be touched for fear of upsetting its attractiveness. At the same time, a design scheme which places too much emphasis on comfort and cosiness can either require undue upheaval to preserve its visual qualities – or else look slovenly and jaded before long.

Try to balance both considerations by using items that are functional, comfortable and beautiful to look at, all at the same time. For example, durable furniture made from wicker or rattan will hold up extremely well under the elements, while removable soft furnishings like pillows, cushions and throws can add a touch of cheer that ensures the space stays liveable.

5) Illuminate for ambience

hanging lights above a garden sofa
Let there be light!

Garden patios are likely to be used more commonly during the daytime and especially in the summer months, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect how they’ll look at night. In fact, enjoying a glass of wine or curling up with a favourite book outdoors is one life’s simpler but sweeter pleasures – but you’ll need appropriate illumination to enjoy either activity.

When it comes to deciding what kind of light fixtures to use in your outdoor area, the options are as extensive as they are exciting. Ornate lamps are a great way to create a ye olde aesthetic, while candles housed in glass bell jars are perfect for a more contemporary feel. Paper lanterns add the charm of the orient, fairy lights create a mystical, almost festive feel and solar-powered gizmos support sustainability while still shining a light on your nocturnal doings.

6) A fiery focal point

a dog and firepit pictured on a garden patio
A firepit brings light, warmth and magnetism to any outdoor space

Speaking of sources of illumination, there are few that catch the eye and capture the mind more powerfully than the dancing flames of a fire. Introducing a custom-built firepit into your back garden will instantly create a centrepiece and a talking point that will wow all comers to your home, while the warmth it gives off can be invaluable during the colder climes of a Great British winter.

For the best results, ensure you match the design of your firepit with that of the existing décor that surrounds it. Red brick installations are a classic favourite that will complement a more traditional feel, while suave and chic modern appliances will accentuate the charms of a contemporary aesthetic. Even if you don’t opt for a firepit in the end, some well-placed heat lamps can ward off the icy fingers of Jack Frost and keep your patio habitable throughout the depths of December.

7) Cover all bases with a canopy

a canopy covering a BBQ and patio furniture
Encourage privacy while warding off precipitation

As well as concerning yourself with the colder temperatures that the UK climate so often brings, it’s important to factor in the wet stuff that habitually falls from our skies, as well. Taking measures to keep your patio dry even when it’s raining cats and dogs outdoors will ensure you can still use it in all weathers – as well as affording you the inimitable pleasure of listening to the pitter patter of rain on your roof.

Glazed percolas and wooden awnings offer more substantial succour from the rain, sleet and snow, but even a canopy made from linen or seagrass will provide some degree of shelter. What’s more, screening your patio in this way will also offer some privacy from the prying eyes of the Joneses next door, giving you a greater sense of freedom even if you live in a cluttered neighbourhood.

8) Lounging luxury

a hammock and a plant on a garden deck
Hakuna matata in your own back garden

What else is a back garden for but indulging in some much-needed rest and relaxation? Optimise the comfort in your patio by choosing furniture that lends itself to dozing drowsily and lounging lazily. That means going for padded sun loungers, oversized armchairs, corner couches and comfortable futons that are specially designed for external use.

Not that your furniture has to confine itself to ground level alone. The feeling of weightlessness that comes from hanging out in a hammock or sprawling in a Swedish-style swing chair is second to none when it comes to unwinding, so take advantage of overhead supports to install a relaxation station in your garden. Even a pair of fence posts or trees will serve you well!

9) Outdoor dining at its finest

various people dining at a garden table
Eat, drink and be merry

Mealtimes are one of the most enjoyable parts of the day. Whether it’s relishing a solitary cup of coffee on a decadently long break, an intimate breakfast on the terrace for two or an al fresco dinner party for you and your friends, having an outdoor space in which you can fill your belly and fuel your joie de vivre is a huge asset for any homeowner.

Again, making the most of the space available to you is key to achieving optimum results here. If your garden allows for a full dining table, great; if there’s room to include a barbecue, pizza oven or other cooking apparatus, even better. But even if you don’t have those kinds of dimensions to play with, a little imagination can go a long way. For example, consider turning a window which overlooks the terrace into the hatch of an impromptu bar – all that’s required is a couple of stools beneath the window, a large enough ledge to perch your beverages on and a little creativity with the decor and you can be enjoying homemade cocktails in style in next to no time.

10) Elevate the area

a patio with a garden building in the background
Raise your terrace and your mood in a single stroke

While most patios adjoin the central building of your home, that’s not a hard-and-fast rule by any means. Indeed, you could take advantage of the natural topography of your back yard to create a raised patio in an area that’s most conducive to it. Building an elevated terrace at the far end of your garden, for example, apportions off the area and creates a stylish living space that’s completely separate from the house itself.

While this kind of approach might take a little more planning and a lot more work, the rewards it can bring could be well worth the effort in the long run. You could populate the raised patio with garden furniture, a children’s play area or even a shed, pavilion or other external building that will provide additional shelter on wetter days and nights.

11) Create levels with layered beds

garden beds at various levels with decking and furniture in the background
Raising up plants can sink the patio

Alternatively, you could take the opposite approach to designing your outdoor area and opt for raised flower beds, rockeries or other plant installations at an elevated height. This will achieve the illusion of a sunken patio, even if it’s on the same gradient as the house itself, and create a more intimate, insular aesthetic in your back yard.

By surrounding the paved area with plentiful plants and blooming blossoms, you can simultaneously add colour and introduce a meadow-like colour scheme into your garden. This type of layered design lends itself perfectly well to smaller spaces and provides the perfect backdrop for a dining table and chairs, forming an ideal environment in which to entertain guests.

12) Expand your design horizons

a garden rug and colourful rattan chairs
Let your imagination run wild

When most people think of a garden patio, they probably imagine grey paving slabs, gravelled edging and antiquated iron furniture. While there’s certainly merit in following tried and tested design methods, there’s no reason you can’t experiment with new surfaces and substances. The addition of bright colours and unusual materials, for example, can breathe new life into a stuffy and tired space, adding vibrancy and vigour where none previously existed.

Afghan rugs are a great way to combine ergonomic comfort with practical grip and design flair, while porcelain tiles are an underappreciated medium for decking out al fresco floors and walls. The exquisite patterns offered by such a stylistic choice can really tie a garden patio together, while the weather-resistance and low-maintenance of porcelain flies under the radar of many homeowners. Just make sure you opt for porcelain that’s suitable for outdoor use and you can’t go wrong.

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