How to Design Inviting and Comfortable Outdoor Spaces
When decorating exterior spaces, it’s helpful to think of them as outdoor ‘rooms’ deserving of the same attention you give rooms inside your home. With this approach, you’ll design outdoor retreats that are welcoming, attractive, and comfortable for hours on end—whether you are reading, entertaining, or having a family barbecue. Take full advantage of the warm weather with these outdoor decorating ideas for your porch or patio.
Design Your Outdoor Spaces for Specific Activities
Balancing form and function is essential when designing outdoor spaces. Think about what you and your family will be doing outside most of the time. Do you form a semi-circle around the grill, sipping cold beers while the burgers cook? Do you frequently gather around the fire pit? Is reading in a hammock your favorite yard activity? When you’re clear on how you enjoy spending most of your time outside, you’ll know where to focus most of your design attention.
Turn your grill zone or outdoor kitchen into a gathering place. Everyone loves to watch the chef at work. Set up comfortable outdoor seating near the grill or another outdoor cooking area. This arrangement helps keep conversations going while the hosts are busy. Don’t forget side tables for drinks and snacks.
Create an outdoor dining room. Spend time choosing a patio set that’s as beautiful as it is comfortable. Select seating that includes cushions or woven seats. Swivel rockers elevate the relaxed vibe when friends and family gather around the table.
If the table sits under a canopy, you can skip the table umbrella—otherwise you’ll need the sun protection. For small patios, rustic cafe tables and chairs or modern bar tables with high stools are charming space-saving alternatives. A rugged bar cart nearby makes it easy to serve up warm-weather cocktails and mocktails.
Design a relaxing outdoor living room. Make your outdoor spaces as welcoming and cozy as your living room. Here are furniture and design elements that will help you and your guests enjoy your patio or porch for hours:
- Outdoor sofas with plush cushions
- Teak chaise lounges
- Coffee and side tables
- Patio armchairs
- Outdoor lamps
Design spaces just for ‘you’ time. Watch the world go by from your relaxing front porch or sit and read a book in your favorite backyard spot. A patio swing is a welcome addition to any patio or porch. In the backyard, add a wooden rocker with a comfortable cushion, an all-weather Adirondack chair, or go full vacation-mode with a rope hammock.
Express Your Favorite Décor Style Outside
Whether your style is farmhouse, eclectic, or traditional, you can capture that look outdoors. Here are a few ideas for different design types:
Create a Coastal Outdoor Oasis
Airy, natural, and beachy, this décor style is chic and laid-back at once. Bring the popular interior design style outdoors with weathered and nautical elements on your porch or patio. Galvanized metal planters shaped like boats are beautiful filled with flowers or herbs. Add outdoor throw pillows with anchor prints and signal light wall lanterns to complete the look.
Feel like you’re at your beach house (without the sand!) with a teak wood patio set complemented with thick white cushions. Then add bold coastal accents, such as outdoor lamps featuring designs inspired by the tropics, or even a fire pit with a shell cut-out design.
Elevate the Rustic Beauty of Your Yard
Farmhouse or rustic style is ready-made for outdoor living. Begin by adding wood window boxes to your house or the rails of your deck. A trellis of weathered or color-washed wood offers country charm, especially when it provides a touch of shade to two Adirondack chairs. After dinner, usher your guests into the yard to gather around a rustic fire pit with deer antler cut-outs.
Embrace Simplicity With Craftsman-Style Outdoor Décor
Inspired by natural colors and solid design, Craftsman décor is a lovely choice for outdoor spaces, whether your home is Craftsman-style or not. Choose a simple patio set with clean lines, and add square accent chairs and tables in dark wood. On the front porch, an outdoor ceiling fan in dark walnut adds a breeze, while rectangular hanging-lantern wall lamps deliver refinement. Finally, a simple wood and metal outdoor shelving unit captures Craftsman-style beauty and utility on the front porch or the backyard.
Plan for Warm Summer Days and Cool Fall Evenings
Getting the most from your outdoor living areas means expanding the number of days you can fully enjoy them. Here are a few stylish ways to make exterior spaces more comfortable in the heat and the cold:
Provide airflow with a porch ceiling fan. Welcome visitors onto a porch cooled by a windmill outdoor ceiling fan that enhances your farmhouse style. Or, embrace a tropical aesthetic with a fan showcasing blades shaped like leaves. You can also opt for classic ceiling fans, which are good for traditional and transitional styles, or sleek designs to suit contemporary outdoor décor.
Fend off the chill with propane patio heaters. These functional heaters provide the warmth you need to enjoy outdoor living through more of the year. Choose patio heaters that resemble distressed wine barrels to enhance a rustic ambiance. Or, you might choose one hidden inside a ceramic vase to complement the coastal accents around your pool or outdoor kitchen. For a modern focal point, try a striking seven-foot stainless steel tower with a multi-color LED light at the base.
Bring Your Style Out Into the Yard
Reconnect with nature, whether you’re working in the garden, having lunch in the perfect spot, or lounging in a plush outdoor swing chair. However you enjoy your yard, extend the usable spaces without overwhelming the environment’s natural beauty:
Accent the yard with garden décor. Add elements you enjoy looking at day after day, but don’t add so many that your outdoor spaces appear cluttered. If your preferred outdoor style is rustic, add several garden pillars in a crackle finish topped with textured garden spheres. These are lovely tucked beside rose bushes near the garden fence, or along the patio retaining wall. Use two-tone earthenware pots for farmhouse elegance and animal statues for a whimsical accent. Other yard and garden décor options to consider:
- Decorative birdhouses
- Bright garden stakes
- Glass bird feeders
- Garden swing
Add lighting throughout. Use light fixtures to guide the way from your home to backyard gathering places. Path lighting in a modern titanium finish lines the paved walk to a pergola. Acorn-shaped landscape lights showcasing a whimsical squirrel add fun along the path to a Craftsman-style gazebo. Finally, use landscape spotlights to illuminate plantings and flowers along the perimeter of your yard.
Create a gathering place after dark with a fire pit. A fire pit brings family and friends together when the barbecue is winding down. It may be to enjoy s’mores, to chat, or simply to sit quietly and take in the sounds of a summer evening. If the fire pit is on the patio, surround it with comfortable chairs and loveseats. If it’s on the grass at a greater distance, you’ll need seating that’s easier to move around, such as Adirondack chairs or folding chairs. You can find fire pits in modern silhouettes or with distinctive cut-outs, such as woodland creatures, sea life, and fleur de lis. A vertical fire pit is a striking option reminiscent of modern sculpture.
If you prefer keeping things simple, consider a gas fire pit table you can turn on and off whenever you’re ready.
Inspired to design welcoming outdoor spaces in a style you and your family will enjoy for years?