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Through the summer months, a patio quickly becomes an extension of your living space. So, it makes sense that you give your patio furniture ideas just as much thought as you would your interior choices.
After all, they have the potential to transform not just the space itself, but the way you use it day-to-day, too – outdoor living room anyone? Whether your garden has a sprawling stone-slabbed patio, a gravelled stepped deck or a bijoux balcony, the right patio ideas will turn it into a welcoming outdoor space that you’ll want to spend time in.
When it comes to planning your patio furniture ideas, Lou Peterson, Head of Design at DFS, recommends you start by visualising how you’d love to use your outdoor space. ‘Whether for entertaining friends, family dining or as a space to relax and read a book in solitude, once you’ve established this, your furniture choices will fall into line – they form the centrepiece of your patio area’, she says.
Patio furniture ideas
The best patio furniture ideas combine comfort and style. From compact bistro sets and built-in benches to sprawling outdoor sofas, seating and surfaces are usually the focal point, so start there. Factor in the space you have, as well as the number of people you’d like to accommodate. Then move on to the home comforts.
‘Once you’ve selected your outdoor furniture, you can then complete the look with carefully chosen accessories. Soft throws, rugs, scatter cushions, candles and plants will help transform a patio area into a beautiful oasis, ensuring it’s a space you’ll want to stay in long after the sun goes down,’ says Lou.
Don’t forget practicalities either – investing in all-weather designs, along with great garden lighting, shade and outdoor heaters or fire pits will ensure you can use your patio space all year round.
1. Dine in style – with room for everyone
If you’ve got a large family to cater for, or you’re a fan of entertaining, it’s worth investing in a generously sized table to make full use of your outdoor patio space. If you’re planning to leave your patio furniture out all year round, robust designs are a must.
This sturdy table has a cement fibre top that’s weatherproof and stylish, too. For casual dining, use budge-along benches instead of chairs to ensure there’s a seat for everyone – including little ones.
2. Save space with a neat bistro set
Pretty yet compact, a bistro set is a brilliant small patio idea. Chunky, rectangular dining sets may look inviting, but it’s not much use if you can’t pull the chairs out! Circular tables take up less room and are a great choice for creating an intimate, sociable atmosphere.
‘Bistro sets are often foldable or stackable so you can enjoy a table for two when you need it and more space when you don’t,’ say the experts at Homebase. ‘For the occasions when you know you’ll be inviting more guests, it’s worth investing in some lightweight, foldable chairs that can easily be stored away when you’re not using them.’
Creating defined zones can be tricky when you’re dealing with a small outdoor space, however, here, planters have been used to section off the seating area from the rest of the patio – a neat little trick.
3. Set up a secluded chill-out space
Positioning a chair amongst planting brings a cosy reading nook vibe with all the added benefits that come from spending time in nature. Opt for a statement design that’s as comfortable as it is stylish, such as this flower-inspired rattan-effect chair.
Relaxed shapes and flexible weaves are preferable to hard wood or metal, but you can always add cushions for comfort if you need to. Keep a blanket close by to snuggle under once the sun goes down.
When choosing colours for your patio décor ideas, opt for shades that will complement your garden’s greenery. Bold planters are a step up from terracotta pots and are a great way to introduce some pattern – blush pink, grey and green create an eye-catching scheme.
4. Hang around in an on-trend egg chair
If you’re looking for a touch of luxe, a swaying nest chair deserves a spot on your patio. Stylish, comfortable and totally instagrammable, friends will be scrabbling over who gets to sit in it, that’s for sure.
Opting for an open weave design means you can see right through to the garden beyond. That’s assuming you want to, of course – a closed design has the advantage of hiding anything unsightly – think ugly fencing or a weather-worn shed, for example!
5. Throw shade with a party-worthy parasol
If there’s no natural shade in your patio area, invest in a parasol to provide shelter on hot (or rainy) days. You don’t need to blow the budget on a stylish patio cover idea either – you can transform a plain canvas design into a party-perfect centrepiece by securing ribbons at each point and wrapping the pole with brightly coloured washi tape.
6. Add a pop of colour with eco-friendly plastic
If your outdoor space is lacking bright plants and flowers, plastic patio furniture is a great way to introduce colour. Opt for recycled plastic furniture where you can – as well as being better for the environment, it’s durable and low-maintenance, so great for you, too.
These pretty pastel chairs have been made from recycled bottles. Mix and match shades for a summery scheme.
7. Embrace laid-back lounging
Gather deck chairs around a fire pit to create the ultimate festival vibe on a summer evening. Don’t feel like you have to stick to just one style of chair – opting for different materials and fabrics creates a fun, eclectic feel.
Encourage laid-back lounging with a few floor cushions and cosy blankets dotted around, too. A fire pit provides warmth long into the evening, so having some patio lighting ideas handy will ensure you don’t need to retreat inside when the sun goes down.
Draping festoon lighting around trees, poles or a pergola is a clever way of defining your chill-out zone and lights it up come nightfall, while candles placed in lanterns add magical ambience.
8. Build in seating
Built-in corner seating utilises every inch of space and provides ample room for larger gatherings. This L-shaped design has been built from the same bricks as the wall behind it, making the space feel bigger and creating a lovely sense of flow.
If you’re taking the bespoke route, consider installing benches with lids to store outdoor cushions, toys and accessories.
9. Set aside a shady spot
If you’ve got the space, a corner-style arbour will create a peaceful patio cover so you can enjoy time outdoors come rain or shine. Give it a modern update by painting in bold shades or stick to wood for a more traditional feel.
You can always add colourful outdoor cushions if you want a pop of colour, and they’ll make for a more comfortable seating experience, too – bonus.
10. Create an outdoor living room
Continue your indoor style outside by dressing your patio with ‘inside’ furniture choices and accessories, such as armchairs, candles and cushions. As you would in a living room, group furniture closely and position seating within easy reach of a side table to create a sociable and stylish alfresco lounge.
Work in tandem with your patio paving ideas by ditching dull slabs in favour of an on-trend monochrome patterned tile or lay a colourful outdoor rug underfoot to complete the cosy living room look.
Does patio furniture need to be covered?
It’s sometimes hard to tell what you’re going to get weatherwise, and when you’re going to get it for that matter! Hailstones in summer? It’s been known!
While weatherproof finishes are designed to withstand these sorts of conditions, experts advise you cover your patio furniture when not in use to keep it in peak condition for as long as possible.
‘During the warmer months, furniture should be covered to protect from garden debris and to keep it as clean as possible. Ideally, cushions should be moved somewhere dry, but if that’s not possible, cover your furniture with the cushions on but check weekly to ensure there’s no build-up of condensation,’ says Tim Pennell, head of sales at Bramblecrest.
What patio furniture lasts the longest?
Most patio furniture has been designed with longevity in mind, however, some materials are more likely to retain their good looks for longer. If wooden outdoor furniture is your preference, Tim Pennell recommends opting for hardwoods such as teak.
‘A naturally good-looking material, teak contains high levels of oil, making it water-resistant and able to withstand exposure to the variable British climate,’ Tim says. Acacia has similar benefits but is less expensive than teak, and more sustainable, too.
The most-used metals for outdoor furniture are steel, wrought iron and aluminium. The latter is the best option in terms of longevity, as it’s naturally rust-resistant, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for furniture with an aluminium frame.
Most ‘rattan’ outdoor furniture we see now is actually a plastic polymer – referred to by most manufacturers as an ‘all-weather rattan’. While the natural version isn’t the best when it comes to durability, this synthetic alternative can be left out in all seasons and looks just as stylish – it’s usually cheaper than wood, too.
Like with indoor furniture, you need to brace yourself for wear and tear. However, investing in good-quality materials and looking after your patio furniture – and protecting it from the elements as best you can – are the best ways to ensure it stands the test of time.