While the weather outside might be getting a bit frightful, that doesn't mean you have to stay inside all winter long. Homeowners tend to forget all about their outdoor spaces when the temperature drops, leaving things covered up and unused until spring. But the benefits of enjoying the great outdoors far outweigh the time and effort required for a winter patio makeover.
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Why waste what could be the perfect spot to enjoy a cup of hot cocoa next to a crackling fire with some close friends? A patio done right can be a great place to entertain and enjoy some much-needed fresh air no matter what month it is. Sure, in order to make your outdoor space works better, even when there's a bite in the air, you'll need to make some minor adjustments. But we've got you covered — literally.
From the perfect space heaters to warm things up to the best decor to create that cozy vibe, here are 15 winter patio ideas that will make your outdoor area a delightful place that you actually want to spend time in, even when it's cold outside.
15 Winter Patio Ideas
1. Winterize your patio plants.
Nothing adds more atmosphere to a patio than greenery. And while most perennials don't thrive during the fall and winter, there are plenty of plants that are excellent picks for chilly weather. Fill up your planters with colorful pansies or violas. Or you can add even more dimension, as shown in this garden by The Joy of Plants, with coral bells in multiple shades.
2. Add extra ambiance with lots of lights.
Cooler months also mean earlier sunsets. Don't let the lack of light dim your patio time. Illuminate your outdoor space so you can enjoy the fresh air until the wee hours. While some fixtures are pricey, hanging string lights under a pergola or in your trees is a super affordable solution. Plus, the results are endlessly magical.
3. Create an outdoor cooking area with a pizza oven or grill.
While most of us think summer is for cooking outdoors, don't miss out on making something truly delicious while under a starry sky. Sure, an outdoor kitchen with a grill is great, but a pizza oven can cook up just about anything your heart desires. And its compact size is easy to cover up when not in use. Bonus points for being an excellent and stylish source of heat, too.
4. Take the time to weatherproof all your surfaces.
From your furniture to your fire pit, it's important to weatherproof every surface of your patio right away before all of the elements wreak havoc. Coat any wood furniture with a protective waterproof sealant. Paint wrought iron surfaces with rust-resistant primer and a layer of exterior enamel paint. Add clear marine varnish to all wicker pieces. Use Scotchgard on fabrics to repel water and stains. Invest in sturdy covers to protect your most prized pieces like these options from The Cover Store.
5. Make an outdoor room feel intimate with an outdoor fireplace.
Make your patio feel more like an outdoor living room with a built-in or freestanding fireplace. Not only is it an excellent source of heat year-round, but it's also an opportunity to add some architectural flair to your home. This setup includes extra seating for the perfect place to gather no matter the temp.
6. Create a cozy circle around a fire pit.
Keep things simple and toasty with a fire pit. Just imagine, you and your family can roast some marshmallows for s'mores or catch up on the day's events next to the warm glow of flickering flames. You can pick up wood-burning pits on Amazon or get a gas-powered version from West Elm for a few dollars more. Either way, pull up some comfy outdoor chairs and you've got the perfect place to warm up while you enjoy scintillating conversation.
7. Invest in some sturdy patio heaters.
If fire pits and fireplaces aren't quite your thing, or you just want to add even more heat sources to your winter patio, outdoor heaters are an excellent addition. Propane versions are the top choice and always create a nice amount of heat. Plus, they can be easily moved wherever you need more warmth.
8. Build a roof that keeps rain out but sunshine in.
Winter patios are even more ideal when they include shelter from the elements. And while a pergola is a beautiful way to provide cover, if they are enclosed, you often lose some much-needed natural light. For example, this rustic setup includes opaque plastic panels, resulting in a durable and stylish option for any outdoor area. The flexible design means you can enjoy the best of both worlds: a little sunshine on a brisk day and overhead protection when it starts to rain. You can also build a version with fabric shades, instead of plastic panels, that you can open and close depending on the forecast.
9. Get a pre-fab shelter to escape the cold.
If the climate you live in makes it a little tricky to spend time on your patio during the winter months, invest in a pre-fab greenhouse or enclosed patio, like the one we spotted in this charming backyard design. You can still sit under the stars while protecting yourself and your loved ones from any extreme temps. Whether you're an avid gardener or not, this outdoor room will be instantly charming. Plus, you'll be the envy of everyone on your block with a hang-out spot that works year-round.
10. Add an outdoor rug underfoot to warm things up.
One way to winterize your outside space is to add layers. And the best place to start is with a weather-resistant rug to cover up a cold surface like concrete. We like the pop of black and white shown here, but when it comes to options that are weatherproof, the possibilities are seemingly endless. Plus, rugs are an excellent way to tie your winter patio scheme together.
11. Make sure you have blankets and throws on hand.
Increase the wow factor of your winter patio by making sure you and your guests are literally covered in case anyone gets cold. This means having blankets and throws on hand that not only warm you up, but will also add extra charm to your al fresco space. Rumpl has some cheery quilts made from 100% recycled water-resistant polyester that come in multiple prints and sizes for a fun addition to your outdoor decor.
12. Block out the wind with bamboo fencing and a shade sail.
Live in an apartment with a small patio or deck that gets too chilly? Create a cozy nook with some bamboo fencing and a shade sail to keep the cold out. The materials are affordable and easy to pick up at places like The Home Depot. Or challenge yourself to a DIY project, and in just a few hours you can transform a stark outdoor area into the perfect spot to hang out and sip on a hot toddy.
13. Welcome friendly competition with a few outdoor games.
Sure, hanging out around a fire pit is fun, but what's better than a little friendly competition while outside? Yard games like cornhole, badminton, soccer, or even a low-key bocce ball tournament are better served with some fresh air. And there are lots of grown-up options available, like this two-in-one game from Crate and Barrel, that are durable enough to withstand the elements.
14. Warm things way up with a hot tub.
While it can be a bigger budget item, adding a hot tub to your patio is an excellent way to enjoy the cold winter months. And we guarantee the money you invest will give you years of relaxation and time well spent soothing your mind, body, and soul. Prefab jacuzzis come in all shapes and sizes and are easier to install. But if you want to go all-in on the idea, a redwood tub is a must.
15. Add a few seasonal touches.
The best (and easiest) way to get your patio winter-ready is to add a few holiday-themed accents. Pick up some potted evergreens and poinsettias or opt for an outdoor Christmas tree. Add some throw pillows in festive shades and hang a few more string lights for a little extra sparkle. There's no doubt these touches will make your outside area the place to be all season long.
5 Tips on How to Winter-Proof Your Patio
1. Extra Space Heaters
You may have a fire pit that works really well, but the heat only goes so far. This is why when winter hits hard, it would be a good idea to have a few heaters on hand. Space heaters work great in a pinch and can be easily stored whenever they are not in use. This doesn't mean that you have to forfeit style for function, though. For example, this handsome electric tabletop heater from West Elm looks oh-so-chic and also works as a lamp.
2. Weather-Resistant Materials
We shared how to weatherproof different kinds of surfaces from harsh weather conditions already. But before you invest in patio furniture, you may want to consider what materials can withstand winter the best, and how to secure the pieces when a snowstorm hits. While wood, wicker, wrought iron, and even plastic need to be maintained regularly with various paints and sealants in order to stay in good condition, cast aluminum outdoor furniture is one of the most durable and weather-resistant.
In fact, according to Build Direct, the material won't rust. Ever. And if you want to keep your furniture from blowing away in a blizzard, stack lighter chairs together and then cover them. Use products like weight bags, sandbags, or a handy adhesive like clear museum gel to keep them in place.
3. Rearrange Furniture for Optimal Warmth
The rule of thumb for arranging your furniture in your outdoor living space starts with keeping the seating area close to your house. The shorter the distance you have to travel, the more you'll wind up using the area. Next, keep the seating close to the main source of outside heat — face the sofa and lounge chairs toward a heater, fireplace, or fire pit. Better yet, create a semi or whole circle around the heat source so everyone can feel the warmth. Select a low-smoke fire pit for even more comfort, and if there is a wall on one or two sides of your patio, position your sofa against it for a more sheltered feel.
4. Build a Patio Roof
While some climates don't call for any sort of structure or shelter in order to hang out on the patio, we really can't stress enough how much better your outdoor experience will be with an area that has a roof of some kind. If you have the budget, you can add an addition off the side of your home and create a well-sheltered area for about $6,000 on the low end. Even during warm months, something overhead can provide a welcome respite from the harsh rays of the sun. The design doesn't have to be complicated either — even the simplest of designs can make a world of difference no matter what time of year it is.
5. Heated Furniture
Sometimes, when the temperatures really start to drop, you need a little extra heat. Enter heated furniture. We found an oh-so-cool outdoor furniture collection from Galenter and Jones that includes chairs, sofas, and tables. It might be a bigger investment than you originally planned, but the colder your climate, the more you'll want to cozy up your winter patio.
Just a Few Things to Keep in Mind
The most important thing to remember about winter patio ideas is to make sure that your design choices will withstand whatever climate you live in. Cold weather means keeping things on hand to keep you warm. Blankets, heaters, and fire pits are always welcome additions to any outdoor space. However, if you really want to be able to enjoy your setup after the temperature drops, you'll need to make sure that your patio is well sheltered from the elements.
Make sure your patio is located in an area that has some protection versus just out in the open. Think next to the side of your home or against the back wall. Consider adding a roof overhead to shield you and your space from rain or snow. And if the wind is a factor, fill in any open sides with a material that can handle sudden gusts. Be sure to secure all your outdoor essentials to keep them from blowing away.
With some careful planning, unique design touches, and consistent maintenance, you'll end up with a winter patio that looks and feels ultra-cozy come rain or come shine.