11 Tips for Furnishing Your Patio to Make It Fresh, Fun, and Inviting

Amy Pawlukiewicz
Written by Amy Pawlukiewicz
Updated April 26, 2022
A family sets up lights on a patio
Photo: Olesia Bilkei / Adobe Stock

Bring the party to your patio with these furnishing tips

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Your patio space is the perfect place to relax, entertain, and enjoy the outdoors. Picking the best furniture for your needs will set the tone for your entire space, so it’s essential to consider a few factors. Here are 11 tips for furnishing your patio.

1. Decide What Kind of Space You Want

If you’re going to DIY your patio decor, you should think about how you’ll use the space. Are you going to gather outside with your family and play games, share dinners, and chill? You’ll need a table and chairs. Or will the space be used more for relaxing, lounging, and reading? Couches are the way to go. Do you plan to host friends in your patio space? Maybe consider a bar and barstools. Answering these questions will inform what types of furniture you need.

2. Consider the Size

When looking at outdoor living space ideas, you need to know exactly how much space you’re working with. Overcrowding your space can make it feel chaotic and uninviting; at the same time, too little furniture will feel sparse and lonely. Measure carefully and decide exactly where you want to place your furniture before heading out to shop.

3. Be Honest About Maintenance Expectations

Think about how much effort you want to put into maintaining outdoor furniture, especially if you live in an area that gets a lot of wind. Wind means dirt and dust, which means more vacuuming, hosing down, and scrubbing. If you’re not a huge fan of cleaning frequently, maybe consider furniture covers to protect your items when not in use. And during the off-season, will you be able to store cushions, or do they need to remain outdoors all year round?

4. Know What Items You Want—and Need

Planning is crucial when it comes to patio and backyard design ideas. Do some planning before you hop online or go to the store and fall in love with a huge outdoor sectional that won’t fit in your small patio. Make a list of everything you’d like to get for your space and a list of things you know won’t work. If you can’t buy all the items at once, you can save the list and slowly purchase furniture to fit your plan.

5. Try Before You Buy

A woman goes furniture shopping
Photo: AS Photo Project / Adobe Stock

We live in the internet shopping age, which is super convenient when you want everything delivered. However, with furniture, especially furniture that you’re going to be sitting on, it’s essential to try it out before buying it. Otherwise, you could end up with an uncomfortable sofa or chair that you now have to foot the bill to return. If possible, go down to your local furniture store and actually test out the items you want to buy. You may find that something that looked awesome online is too scratchy, too firm, or just doesn’t look like it does in the photo.

6. Match Decor to Surroundings

When looking at furniture for your outdoor space, consider the colors in your plant life and the outside of your home. Choose furniture, pillows, and rugs that complement the color palette in your yard. If you can’t find the color you want in the store and are handy or crafty, consider painting furniture frames or making pillows in the colors and patterns you like.

7. Set Your Budget

While you may be able to cut corners with indoor furniture, because outdoor furniture is exposed to the elements, it can break down more quickly. Wicker, plastic, and resin look good at first but break down quickly in the sun and lose their coloring. If you can, spend more on items you’ll get the most use of, like chairs and tables, and find ways to save on decorative items like pillows. 

You may be able to find deals on sets, so do your research to ensure you get the most bang for your buck. Yard sales or finding quality furniture pieces secondhand online can save you money, and then you can direct more of your budget to decor.

8. Add an Outdoor Rug

An outdoor rug can cozy up your space and tie all your design choices together. You can add a pop of color in a neutral furniture palette or opt for a neutral if your furniture is brighter. There are many color and pattern choices out there; just be sure to pick a rug that’s rated for the outdoors or labeled as indoor/outdoor.

9. Make Your Furniture Work for You

Like indoor furniture, outdoor furniture can pull double duty as seating and storage. Look for ottomans with storage, pull up a bench for mealtimes, or bring over your garden stool for extra seating when you have friends over. Finding furniture that can serve multiple purposes can save you money and help you economize on space.

10. Think About Structure and Shade

Closeup of a pergola
Photo: Andriy Blokhin / Adobe Stock

Do you need shade over your outdoor living area? Or would you like to be able to entertain even when it’s raining or cold outside? There are many structures out there, from pergolas to umbrellas to gazebos, so think hard about your climate and how you want to use your space. If you live in an area with a lot of bugs, something with netting that you can pull down will serve you best. If you’re looking for shade, a large umbrella will probably suffice.

11. Let There Be Light

Lighting in your patio is just as important as your other furniture elements. You don’t want to host family and friends in the dark (or maybe you do! Hello, candles!). Some structures come with built-in lighting and speakers, so think carefully about your needs and plan accordingly. Solar lights are a good option if you live in a bright area; they will charge up during the day so that you can use them at night. Decking out your patio with new features and furniture is a prime opportunity to let your creative juices flow.

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