Whether you plan to spend the rest of the summer working from your outdoor home office or just want to have a few moments of peace with your morning coffee before beginning your commute, here are some of the best outdoor patio ideas.
You may want to use your deck or patio as an outdoor summer kitchen. If so, think about things like being set back from the house when planning where to put the grill and how much space to assign to your patio’s food prep area. Don’t forget, everyone wants to hang out in the kitchen at parties. Being able to observe and talk to the chef is a bonus.
If you don’t barbeque much and prefer drinks and nibbles or potlucks for your outdoor entertaining, think about building a small bar with its back against the exterior wall, facing out. This works well on a small patio or deck where you don’t want your guests milling about.
If you’d rather focus on eating outdoors while continuing to do your meal prep in your indoor kitchen, create a casual dining area where people feel comfortable lounging both before and after meals. You can serve them more formally after doing all the food prep indoors. Think bench seating and well-cushioned rattan or metal outdoor chairs, rather than traditional wrought iron, which can be very unforgiving. Those wrought iron sets are best saved for tiny bistro tables where you have a quick coffee but don’t plan to linger.
Add a Calming Element
When you retreat to your patio, you’re looking for a change of scenery and perhaps even a new perspective. Creating an outdoor patio that nourishes you is just as important as using your outdoor space as an entertainment extension to your home. If you want your patio or deck to be a retreat, consider adding a calming element like a Zen or herb garden or a simple but elegant waterfall.
Zen gardens come in all sizes and shapes, from smaller than a placemat to large outdoor constructions. All you need is a rectangular wooden box or tray, a small wooden rake, some sand, some shells, rocks, or twigs, and, if you want to get fancy, a succulent or two. Bonus points if you can use some of that sand you brought home from your last Caribbean vacation. As you trace patterns in the sand you can pretend that you’re back there, even though you haven’t left the patio.
Waterfalls can be as simple as two bowls cunningly arranged so one overflows into the other. The sound of trickling water is one of the most soothing there is, right up there with a soothing breeze that rustles the tree leaves. Don’t invest in anything too complicated or anything that’s likely to require a lot of maintenance. Keep it simple and clean, and make sure your water feature has an off switch for guests who may not appreciate it.
Fragrant lavender, rosemary, and mint are three of the best herbs to grow on a patio or deck in containers. Lavender and rosemary provide a tall, spikey visual element, while mint just cascades lushly as it spreads. Make sure you’ve got the right exposure for the herbs you choose—not all, like mint, want full sun.
Create Some Shade
Put up a billowing canopy or a pergola you plant with vines to provide shade. Invest in a fresh new patio umbrella that’s fully adjustable to follow the sun’s angle as it moves throughout the day and evening.
Enhance Your Color Scheme
Paint your Adirondack chairs in shades to match your flower color scheme—bright pinks, reds, yellows, or even purple. Choose an equally shocking shade and repaint your deck flooring. Accessorize with white and light neutrals. After all, there can be too much of a good thing when it comes to color.
For this approach, particularly appropriate for urban patios and decks, tone down the color scheme and focus on form. Look for angular planters and buy several in different heights. Fill them with plants in the same color family as your upholstered patio furniture and keep it neutral. White-flowering green plants, blonde wood finishes, and weathered taupe and gray decking works well. Invest in a solid but elegant, Scandinavian deck chair that forces people to talk about its design and invite everyone who visits to try it out. Keep the lines boxy and let the lush greenery of the plants add the asymmetrical elements.
Most important of all, get out there and enjoy your patio while you can. Life is short, and summer’s even shorter.