Whether you're working with a giant or small backyard, an outdoor space that allows you to lounge and entertain is something to treasure. This is no new concept — outdoor living areas have been revered for centuries. Patios (or courtyards) were prevalent in medieval Spanish architecture and became standard in homes during the country's Renaissance as a place to gather, decorate, dine, and escape the elements.
As luxurious as outdoor structures are, they're also practical for the most basic of human needs: shade. Escaping the heat was, and is, a major reason for public and domestic patios then and now. But today they can be so much more — a place to host dinner parties, cool off in the shade, barbecue on summer nights, and mostly, just relax.
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If you're thinking, I don't have the time, or I don't have the space, or in many cases, I don't have the budget, we have 18 inspiring patio layout ideas to convince you otherwise. So what are you waiting for? Time to start planning.
18 Patio Layout Ideas
1. Prioritize patio seating based on function and style.
What's a patio if you don't have somewhere to sit? Typically, a couple of chairs and a sofa are the outdoor furniture pieces that come to mind first. But if you really want to mix things up, consider a hammock or a few luxe floor cushions. The trick is to maximize your seating options according to the size of your space and how you plan to use it.
Once you decide your outdoor layout and figure out what type of seating would be best, you can narrow things down a bit further. Factors to consider when shopping around include: How many does it sit? Is it weather-resistant? Is it easy to clean? (Think Sunbrella fabric.) What is its estimated lifespan? How comfortable is it? Can you move it around easily?
Get the look: Corrigan Studio Estellar Wicker 2-Person Seating Set, $319.99
2. Complement your patio seating with accent pieces.
You may love every piece of decor currently saved in your online shopping cart, but before you make an impulsive purchase, think about whether or not you really need each item before you buy. It also wouldn't hurt to sketch a rough floor plan of your outdoor layout to determine where each piece will go and whether or not it will fit. Do you have room for an outdoor bar cart and that chiminea you've had your eye on? Be thoughtful with your selections by considering how the accent pieces will complement your furniture, whether in function or style.
Get the look: Mainstays Propane Gas Outdoor Patio Heater, $79.00
3. Keep safety top of mind when it comes to a fire pit.
Bring on the storytelling and cooking around the fire. There is nothing better than enjoying a cool evening under the stars next to the warmth of a crackling flame. However, it is fire after all, so it's important to be cautious and plan on leaving extra space on all sides, just in case sparks fly. And while it's a no-brainer to avoid hanging branches near your fire pit, it can be difficult to judge how far the fire can reach. Do your research and anticipate all risks. Maybe a small tabletop option is more appropriate for your patio.
Get the look: AllModern Latitude Concrete Outdoor Fire Pit Table, $652
4. Get creative with your patio decking.
There are plenty of less expensive, removable options available so homeowners and renters can spruce up their decking, too. Consider wood tiles or discarded pallets or a combo of the two. Lay down an outdoor rug or artificial grass, or layer the area with rocks. And, yeah, each option is affordable and would make an easy DIY project — plus, you can take any of them with you, if and when you move.
Get the look: IKEA Runnen decking, $27.99
Having a fire pit or a tabletop fire bowl with comfy seating is a surefire way (get it?) to invite visitors to gather. For smaller spaces, round tables are a smart choice because they can allow for more seating and intimacy. And, let's face it, reaching across the table for food or drinks will be much easier. No matter your seating configuration though, try to arrange the chairs so that they're easily accessible from both sides — meaning no one has to step over, or around, someone to try and roast a marshmallow.
Get the look: Dovecove Lovettsville 4-Person Seating Group, $709.99
6. Create patio views that you'll love.
While we can't all have a view of the Hollywood Hills, like this architect and designer's LA home, you can still showcase a view that will put a smile on your face. Maybe your view is lush landscaping filled with an assortment of plants, your pool, or a pretty neighboring building. But if those options aren't feasible, you can also fake a stunning view by hanging artwork or graphic curtains.
7. Make your patio private — and welcoming year-round — with fencing and shading solutions.
These Londoners used a combination of wood fencing and strategically placed plants to create their private haven, perfect for getting away from city life. Take a cue from this patio design and opt for tall potted plants or removable privacy screens to shield your setup from nosy neighbors or passersby. And if you're looking for easy and creative patio-cover options to provide some shelter from the sun and neighbors, try hanging a charming awning or sails for a pop of color.
Get the look: Yardistry Cedar Wood Privacy Screen, $351.70
8. Enhance the ambiance with the perfect lighting.
Whether you opt for hanging string lights, Moroccan-inspired lanterns, simple tea lights, or cool torches, all it takes is the right combination of lighting to transform your patio into a magical oasis. Notice how these DIY light poles were created using heavy planters. And once the basic structure is in place, you can string a variety of different options, from lights to paper lanterns to fabric pennants, to create a festive outdoor escape.
Get the look: Brightown Store Outdoor String Lights, $16.95
9. Design your space around a focal point.
Maestri Studio masterfully designed this luxurious space around two important features: the outdoor fireplace and the TV. We know what you're thinking, but don't knock the come-together-ness of a TV. With all of this seating, you could invite friends over for the big game or even host a movie night. And this kind of patio layout would work wonders in a semi-enclosed three-season porch, too.
10. Hang a pair of single-person porch swings.
Single-person porch swings are just as fun as they sound, and more importantly, they add personality to your patio layout. Hanging chairs may lull you into a mid-afternoon nap, or they may energize your cookout; either way, you'll love them, and there's a good chance your guests will, too. Just be sure to hang them in a sturdy, strong place, of course. Living with Lolo, in the picture above, added her porch swings to this generously sized pergola, but you could also shop for an egg chair that comes with its own stand.
11. Lounge and relax comfortably out of the scorching sun.
If the summer sun scorches your backyard, it may be best to set up your patio situation under a covered structure. That way, you can host al fresco lunches and happy hours without worrying that your guests will get a sunburn. (Good hostess 101.) Here, Missy Stewart Designs created an enviable indoor/outdoor space with two separate seating areas — one for lounging and one for more formal occasions. To ease the transition from inside to out, add indoor-inspired (but weatherproof!) accessories: weather-resistant throw pillows, an outdoor rug, and fresh-cut blooms.
Get the look: Article Kotelu Washed Oak Outdoor Sofa Set, $1,899
12. Opt for a simple patio for your poolside oasis.
Create a simple seating arrangement where you can place your towel and dry off while you bask in the sun, but don't make it too comfortable. After all, you're meant to spend your time in the pool as much as out. The graphic pop of the FLOR rug both grounds the space and introduces a cheerful note. (As if you need any cheering up while poolside.) If you're able, leave a few feet between the pool and the chairs. That way, if a mischievous cannon baller makes a splash, your towels will be safe.
Get the look: FLOR Made You Look Rug, $16 per tile
13. Deck out a rustic dining table for patio dinner parties.
Where's our dinner invitation to Stephanie Summers-Mayer's house? We're antsy for one after seeing her outdoor dining setup, including this beautiful farm table dripping with greenery. Aspects to take note of: the mix and match seating complete with chairs and a bench (which allows for more guests to squeeze in), the console table in the background for dessert and backup bottles of wine, and the colorful centerpieces celebrating the season.
Get the look: Joss & Main Bronius 3-Piece Dining Set, $640
14. Embrace a small patio layout.
We can picture it now: Sunday mornings here, with a cup of coffee, a book, and a day full of nothing ahead. Sounds like a dream, huh? Especially if you're not one to entertain often. Whatever your reasons, it's okay to keep your patio layout small. Perhaps get just two matching rattan lounge chairs, a coffee table, a couple of floor poufs, and an outdoor rug to ground the space. Arrange the chairs so that you can indulge in intimate conversation or just sit and enjoy the sounds of nature.
15. Designate various seating zones.
What doesn't this outdoor living space designed by Kim Armstrong Interior Design have? A TV? Nope, got that. A glitzy yet bohemian chandelier? It has that, too. A fire pit to warm your feet and roast marshmallows? Check and check. This backyard patio design embraces an open layout, which accommodates different seating zones (just like an interior space would). You and your guests can dine al fresco by the outdoor kitchen and then relax near the fire. Sounds like the perfect summer night to us.
16. Install a water feature.
Any backyard water feature — from fountains to waterfalls to pools — has an instantly calming effect that's worth investing in if you're intent on a serene patio design idea. Emily June Designs added a spectacular fountain that acts as a dynamic background to a cozy seating area, complete with lounge chairs and a sectional sofa. The perfect combination for optimal relaxation.
Get the look: Pottery Barn Tall Black Pedestal Fountain, $999
17. Don’t be married to one furniture layout.
Sure, you don't want to be dragging a couch around from here to there and back again. But once you get the basic layout of your patio furniture set you can rearrange small ottomans and tables in a snap, depending on the occasion. Invest in modular pieces that offer flexibility and can serve more than one purpose.
18. Transition from daytime to dusk with a few must-haves.
Chances are, if you have a brick patio like this one belonging to Natalie Ebel, co-founder and designer behind Backdrop, guests will have a hard time leaving, even after the sun sets. That's why you need a setup that can work for afternoon soirees and evening fêtes. Some essential must-haves for your makeover are string lights, a fire pit, speakers to show off your playlists, and oversize lanterns with pillar candles (perhaps LED or the bug-repellant variety).
Get the look: Anthropologie Votive Candle Stake Set, $82
Where to Buy Patio Furniture
Now that you're all set with a wealth of patio layout ideas, it's time for the fun part. Check out some of our fave retailers for a wide variety of great options — ranging from affordable to luxurious — to deck out your space.
Just as with your usual home decor, Target tends to be friendly on the pocketbook, while still offering an impressive collection of furnishings and accessories: from patio sets and colorful (and kid-friendly) dinnerware to hammocks and fire pits. Don't forget your s'mores supplies!
To brighten up your evenings, we are loving the lighting selection at Terrain. Here you'll find ethereal lanterns and outdoor-friendly string lights that can take your space from day to night. Not to be missed is the dreamy Washed White Woven Lantern, which you can fill with string lights or candles.
The beauty of Lulu and Georgia's outdoor furniture is that if you're a minimalist, its tables and chairs (primarily in muted tones) are perfect just as they are: chic and functional. If you're not a minimalist, they are ideal canvases to build on and personalize. Just throw your favorite patterned pillow or blanket on top of a chair or love seat, and add a fun rug beneath it.
If you want to go totally luxe with your patio furniture and decor (perhaps a backyard wedding is on your agenda?), Perigold has some incredible pieces that you'll want to keep forever. Warning: Your friends may never leave your backyard again, and you won't be able to blame them.