Outdoor living spaces like patios have never been as popular as they are now. A patio lets you enjoy the outdoors and relax in the comfort of your own home. Any space can become a retreat with the proper planning and design.

Try these ideas and tips to learn how to design a patio space.

Start by Determining the Primary Function of Your Patio

Are you looking for a dining area, a cooking area, an entertainment or relaxation area, or maybe a combination of these functions?

Do you want to use it year-round or only during specific seasons? Having a clear understanding of this will guide you in the design process.

Determine All Your Options

Evaluate the available space around your home. Decide if you want the patio to be close to your home or situated further out. Take note of existing elements such as fences or walls that can limit or even enhance your patio.

Consider spaces that have natural shade and privacy in the form of trees and shrubs that can be used without the need to add formal structures like a roof.

Alternatively, if you want a certain amount of sun exposure, look for an area with the correct cardinal direction. The position of your house can limit the use of certain areas, for instance, where direct sunlight is blocked for most of the day. Think about the view that you want to enjoy from the patio when you evaluate your options for patio placement.

Decide on a Budget

Your budget will ultimately determine most aspects of your planned patio. Depending on what you want in the space, your budget can increase with every new design detail that you add.

If the area that you have chosen needs any preparation like leveling off the ground or removal of existing trees or pavers, this will add to the overall cost and must be taken into consideration during the budget process.

Patios can be small cozy spaces suited to intimate gatherings, or they can be expansive and luxurious spaces. The cost of a patio is determined by your preferences and the money that you are willing to spend on the project. 

Choose a Style

Take into consideration the architectural style of your home, your personal preferences, and your lifestyle when choosing a design style for the patio. Do research on styles that you like and keep a mood board where you can store images that you want to include in your ultimate wish list for this project. 

Magazines, garden centers, and online platforms all provide a lot of inspiration on how to design a patio.

Even though it is an addition to your house, you need to think about how to make your patio blend in with the surrounding landscape and architecture. It is always more pleasing to the eye when different styles are designed to complement one another and blend seamlessly together. 

Select the Materials to Use

The nature of a patio demands the use of high-quality materials that can withstand the elements and weather patterns in your area. Options like natural stone, concrete, and brick are durable with low maintenance required. 

If you are considering any structural work such as pillars, arches, or a roof, this also needs to be able to weather harsh conditions like rain, wind, and snow. Having a beautiful patio is an investment you want to enjoy for many years. 

Planning the Layout

Sketch the layout of your patio to help you visualize the project.

Include the following:

  • All the dimensions of the floor plan
  • Placement of structural elements
  • Placement of lights and electrical outlets
  • Your planned garden layout in and around the patio area

Take your time and make changes as needed. Mark out the space by using stakes, string, and a tape measure. This will provide you with a clear idea of the size, layout, and functionality of your design. 

Consider Shade and Privacy

Determine the amount of shade that is needed on your patio. There are many options to choose from like umbrellas, shade netting, or retractable awnings. Strategically placed trees and bushes can also provide shade and privacy that will enhance the area.

If you have further privacy concerns, add elements such as trellises, large potted plants or trees, or privacy walls.

Outdoor Lighting Is an Important Design Element

Lighting plays an important role in your overall patio design. Decide what areas of your patio need to be illuminated according to the use or the area.

Lighting options to consider:

  • Fixed overhead lights connected to the power source of your house with options like dimmers
  • String lights are available in solar or battery options for convenience
  • Lanterns or table lamps to move around as needed in the different areas
  • Ground lights like deck or step lights for ambiance and safety
  • Hurricane lamps or paper lanterns add interest and can be swapped out for a different look when needed
  • Candles are available in many forms and contribute to a calming and peaceful atmosphere
  • Fragrant candles are a lovely addition to any space and can be used to keep away insects as well

If your budget and space allow it, consider using something as extravagant as a chandelier, to transform your space into an elegant retreat.

Using layered lighting in the same way you do inside your home is a way to make your space look custom designed. Layered lighting means you make use of different types of lights to create balanced, well-lit areas where needed.

If you have any structures or buildings nearby, consider adding lights to them that will further enhance the overall look of your patio. This can also be done by using lighting on existing trees or shrubs.

Lighting extends the use of your patio into the evening and sets the tone for many enjoyable gatherings to come.

Furniture and Accessories

If you want to create an outdoor living space, you need to use the right furniture. Invest in comfortable outdoor chairs, sofas, or even a hammock. Look for weather-resistant materials and cushions intended for outdoor use. 

The use of the space will be an indication of the type and size of the furniture you need to add to the different areas of the patio. For example, if you want a dining area, it is a good idea to decide on how many people you want to accommodate before you buy a dining set.

Add accessories like cushions, outdoor rugs, and plants to make the space feel tailored. Personal touches such as outdoor artwork or decorations that reflect your style will bring your initial design plan together.

This is where you let your personal aesthetic shine. Add items that you enjoy looking at, as you will hopefully be spending a lot of time in your new patio area.

An Entertainment Area

Consider adding an outdoor fireplace or fire pit. It provides warmth on cooler evenings and creates a focal point.

An outdoor speaker system, a small TV, or a portable projector will allow you to enjoy music, movies, or sports while relaxing outdoors.

Some other great ideas for your patio area include:

  • Add a bar area
  • Install a BBQ
  • Build a pizza oven

Landscaping and Greenery

Incorporate plants and greenery in and around your patio. You can make use of planters and pots to create visual interest by filling them with plants that vary in height and form. If your space allows it, consider planting an herb garden for use and decoration.


Regular maintenance and cleaning ensure that your patio is always ready for use. Consider covers for furniture and accessories that are easy to remove, but also sturdy enough to stay on during the rainy and windy seasons. 

Know How to Design a Patio

Knowing how to design a patio you will love is the hardest part of this project. Whether you know exactly what you want or need help understanding what is feasible for your space and budget, Martin John Company can help. Contact us today. Martin John Company has been providing a wide array of patio and landscaping services throughout the Chicagoland area since 2001.