With the right patio ideas, you can completely transform not only the way your garden looks, but also how you use it.
Whatever you have in mind for your garden landscaping ideas, creating somewhere to place furniture in order to sit out and enjoy the scheme you have designed, to socialise, dine outdoors, lie back with a good book or get out the barbecue will really ensure you get maximum use out of your exterior space.
Our collection of ideas and helpful tips and tricks will help you decide exactly what you want your patio to look like and how you want it to work — no matter what style of garden and budget you are working with.
British weather is highly unpredictable so planning a place that can adapt as needed is essential. From small updates on a budget to a new, modern design, we've collected some incredible projects of all shapes and sizes and detailed how to apply those ideas to any outdoor area.
Getting your patio ideas right
A well-planned patio should be a key element of any garden design scheme Even those with smaller gardens can enjoy a patio and in some cases, this is also a feature that can help to make a space feel bigger.
"To make the most of a small patio, think about how you can use every bit of space," begins Chris Bonnett of Gardening Express. "Think about multi-use pieces of garden furniture and make sure it doesn't overpower the space. Look for slim furniture, too. Remember to leave a clear walkway for guests — this may mean pushing furniture so it rests by the wall.
"When planning a small patio, it’s incredibly important to make sure it is flush with the ground rather than raised as chair legs tend to topple off them," continues Chris. "Potted plants are also great to use in small corners. Think vertical by adding hanging plants and lights."
1. Make sure your patio is private
In order to enjoy spending time on your patio it needs to feel private and protected from the outside world — so be sure to take the time to plan in some privacy fence ideas into your patio design.
This type of fence or screen should be of dense enough construction that prying eyes can't find a way through, whether that means they are made of a solid material, such as timber or a composite, or are thickly planted with foliage.
This beautiful modern patio has been sunk down a little from the rest of the garden and features contemporary fence panels stained a dark shade that sit in lovely contrast to the lighter tones of the raised beds that surround the space.
2. Provide some shelter from the elements
For your patio to be an area you can enjoy all year round you will need to incorporate some patio cover ideas into your design.
Patio covers can take many forms, from stunning contemporary modular structures to sturdy bespoke shelters, as well as those made up of natural materials.
Retractable awnings are ideal for anyone after a flexible way of shading their patio and are particularly useful for small patios as they are available in so many styles, shapes and designs.
Here, a smart grey contemporary pergola has been used over the sleek patio space, which has been paved using Canyon Grey Outdoor Tiles from Porcelain Superstore.
3. Consider introducing some curves
Using curves within your garden design is a good idea for many reasons. Curved patios work well for those after small patio ideas, where they distract the eye from the proportions of a space at the same time as navigating any tricky or awkward areas.
However, they also suit larger gardens where they help to break up large or monotonous spaces, adding a nice organic, natural feel that it can be difficult to achieve with straight lines.
They also foster a sociable feel, as can been seen here in the design of this sunken patio, by Clare Merriman Design. The space has been surrounded by paved areas using Kimmeridge Limestone from Artisans of Devizes.
4. Raise your patio from the rest of the garden
Setting your patio at a higher level to the rest of the garden will not only help to break up a larger outdoor space into zones, but it also defines it as a separate area.
Just as with raised decking ideas, patios that are elevated a little can also help overcome a number of issues, such as how to deal with sloping sites.
Here, setting the patio at a height above the rest of the space really draws the eye to the al fresco dining spot, while surrounding it with very natural planting and a classic-style fence ensures the space looks bedded in.
The Hardblue outdoor slab range from Tile Mountain has been used to pave the whole thing.
5. Surround your patio with greenery
While including areas of paving in the garden makes sense from a practical perspective, allowing you to place furniture where it will remain steady and free of too much ground moisture, you need to take care that the overall look doesn't become too harsh.
Surrounding your patio area with plenty of greenery in the form of shrubs, raised beds, pots and flower beds is the perfect way to ensure it blends in and will soften any larger expanses of paving materials — you could even use your patio edging ideas to introduce some lush greenery.
6. Bring the herringbone trend outside
Recent times have seen wooden flooring and tiled floors laid in a herringbone pattern enjoying massive popularity — and the trend most certainly hasn't skipped outdoor spaces.
Laying outdoor tiles in this kind of pattern really can trick the eye into believing a space is bigger than it actually is so this is a perfect choice for those with a smaller patio or anyone after small garden design ideas.
This beautiful yet compact patio has been paved with Marrakesh Terracotta Brick in dark matt from Baked Tile Co. which can be used both indoors and out — ideal if you want to create a seamless look.
7. Mix and match patio materials
There is absolutely nothing to say that your patio materials have to be matching — in fact using several different materials to finish off your patio has a number of benefits. Varying materials will help to break a patio into different zones, avoid a larger area looking too monotonous and one-dimensional and mean you can use it in many different ways too.
This design combines a grassy area, complete with smart built-in bench seating, along with paved section using Granito Grey Outdoor Tiles from Tile Mountain. By using the same style of raised planters around the entire space, the whole thing looks united.
8. Light up your patio after dark
For your patio to be a space you can use no matter what time of day it is, good garden lighting ideas are essential.
Aim to take a layered approach when it comes to your lighting scheme, just as you would indoors. While some form of good background lighting will be useful, also incorporate lights that can highlight your planting scheme or any architectural garden features.
Here, Kew spotlights and Hampton floodlights from John Cullen Lighting illuminate this stylish patio garden.
9. Turn your patio into an outdoor kitchen
Outdoor kitchen ideas should be formulated alongside your patio ideas. If you plan on using your patio to cook and dine on regularly, you need to give extra thought to your paving. There are also other, additional, services you will need to put into place.
"The space will require water, drainage, power, lighting and, most likely, internet connectivity, so creating an outdoor kitchen that is connected to the main house may prove easier and more cost-effective than creating a ‘satellite’ that isn’t in such close proximity," advises Duncan Aird, Founder of Outdoor Kitchen Expert.
You should choose a paving that is resistant to stains and spills too — porcelain is a great option. If you decide to opt for natural stone, such as limestone, you will need to ensure it is properly sealed to protect it.
This patio, featuring an outdoor kitchen from Grillo, has been designed to include a sunken seating space and has been lit beautifully.
10. Define the space with garden screening
The best patios feel cosseted and protected and finding ways to do this should be a priority when designing your space.
If your patio leads directly off from your house, or another garden building, you will already have one protecting wall to work with, but if the patio is being constructed elsewhere in the garden you will need to be a little more creative when building some form of screening around the area.
Here, Modular Seating from Forest has been used to form the patio area. It includes eight upright trellis panels, five benches, two square seats/tables, and two square planters and can be configured to suit your purpose and space.
11. Opt for low maintenance paving
Porcelain paving tiles are a great investment for those after garden paving ideas. Easy to care for, frost-proof, non-porous (so they won't crack) and wide ranging in colours and sizes — they tick every box as far as we're concerned.
Most tile options will be suitable for outdoor use, but always check before spending and installing.
Here, stunning concrete-effect and patterned tiles have been laid on the floor and up the walls to create an outdoor living room. This isn't just a great idea in terms of styling, but could also hide unsightly exterior bricks or boundary walls.
If making the most of small garden design ideas is top of your list, choosing a bold look such as this could get the most bang for your buck.
12. Cover your seating area for year-round enjoyment
As unpredictable as the British summertime is, you can always rely on the fact it will rain at some point. However, by creating an outdoor dining with a roof or even a temporary cover the space can be enjoyed even in colder months.
Verandas and covered outdoor spaces were definitely a trend when we were required to stay at home in 2020 and 2021, and the principles have inspired many to retain them as permanent features.
13. Go all natural with a good quality deck
Choosing a patio or decking will be very much dependant on how much maintenance you're prepared to keep up, and the initial budget outlay you're prepared to spend.
Limestone slabs and garden decking ideas offer a more natural style that looks great in all styles of homes, but patios which feature concrete or porcelain styles tend to suit more contemporary homes.
Here, slim format boards of decking crate a Mediterranean patio vibe when paired with the white garden furniture and garden wall ideas.
14. Use wall lights to create a soft glow
Garden lighting ideas are essential to include in your patio plans. Try to accommodate different types of lights at different levels — building up layers will make the scheme feel more natural and allow better control.
Wall washer lights, which create a soft glow to a patio, look great, while low level solar lanterns or stake lights can also lend ambience.
"Adding lighting to the patio area is a key element of creating an inviting space. Using lights in a warm tone will help to create an inviting atmosphere in a typically cooler environment, while also allowing you to add further decorative touches in the form of lamps and lanterns," says Rikke Blaeside, design and range manager at JYSK.
15. Create a seamless transition from inside to out
A simple place to start, but one that will make all the difference when the time comes to carry food and drinks from the kitchen to an outdoor area. Ensure the path from indoors to outdoors isn't an obstacle course by installing quality patio doors and a level threshold to a decked or paved area.
This Japanese-inspired garden flawlessly blends the indoor living spaces with the small patio using bifold doors and decking which strategically draws the eye towards the garden beyond.
16. Be prepared for cooler nights with a patio fire pit
"A dedicated place for a firepit or outdoor stove is ideal for keeping warm and creating a cosy ambience when entertaining," comments Rikke Blaeside. "A firepit also offers further entertainment with the possibility of cooking on an open fire, such as toasting marshmallows or warming bread."
If space is limited or if an open fire isn't possible on the patio, the best patio heaters will be able to provide warmth and lighting without taking up too much space.
17. Paint exterior walls for a patio update on a budget
Quick and simple to achieve, painting a house's exterior walls will produce a new, contemporary finish that can make any outdoor space feel refreshed.
While the house above rendered the lower half of the walls surrounding the patio, a great finish can be achieved using the best masonry paint straight onto bricks— although be sure to prep the walls first.
"With regards to colour scheme, we expect to see soft tones that evoke comfort, nature, and warmth such as terracotta, creams, greys, and stone," says Rikke Blaeside of JYSK. "Personality and individuality will be added with muted tones of reds, blues, and yellows for a timeless aesthetic."
Painting patio slabs will also achieve a similar effect, and won't need to be repainted for three to five years, depending on the paint used.
18. Work with your garden to inform the layout
Big or small, patios and gardens all have their individual quirks that stop us from achieving the flawless finish we see in magazines and on TV. The best way to deal with a slightly imperfect garden is to use 'issues' to your advantage. For instance:
- Sloping sites can lend themselves well to terraced sections using retaining wall ideas, as shown in the garden above — with an outdoor cooking space and dining table placed at a lower level.
- Narrow patios look great with long, comfy seating and coordinated materials
- If your patio gets no sun, create the ultimate nighttime area with carefully considered lighting and a patio heater — and even an outdoor bar
19. Create a large indoor-outdoor living room
For extra wow-factor, match flooring inside and outside the house with flagstones, treated timber and tiles to create a living area which extending out into the garden.
"Corner lounge sets and hanging chairs have proved popular as customers prepare their outdoor spaces for entertaining and socialising," comments Rikke Blaeside. "This summer, we expect to see natural materials and wood continue to grow in popularity, overtaking previous desire for muted rattan-inspired furniture items."
20. Install a pergola for an elegant finish
Patios with pergolas look endlessly stylish. While they can also be used to string up solar string lights or for climbing plants to scale, building a timber structure cleverly shields patios from too much direct sun without putting users in shade.
Pergolas are helpful for giving a patio a little personality and shape — making it easier to position tables, chairs and outdoor sofas. They can also act as a garden screening idea, helping to provide privacy in gardens that may be overlooked.
This gorgeous example lines the patio with a pergola attached to the house itself. Delicate vines will produce a delicious scent in the summertime while a smart parasol is on hand when the weather gets too hot.
21. Use architectural features to inform a patio design
For small patio design ideas, be sure to take a look at hidden storage benches (as in this house extension) and crucially, blending indoor and outdoor spaces.
This home included a picture window that can be used as an extra seat from inside and large sliding patio doors so people indoors feel connected to events and conversation outside without being crammed in.
Although small, the monochromatic design results in a practical and interesting patio area.
How Can I Make my Patio Look Nice?
Before heading out to completely redesign an existing space, clean up and restyle your current patio with some essential jobs that homeowners often forget (or ignore) that make a huge difference to the appearance of an outdoor space.
First things first, research the best pressure washers to give a tired slab or paver patio a good spring clean. A decent weed in and around the joint lines will also work wonders.
Unless you're willing to spend on the best quality garden furniture, it won't last forever so be sure to cover it when the weather turns in autumn or move it to the garage/shed.
Introducing fragrant and colour potted plants around a patio will also instantly boost its appeal.
"To create the ultimate outside space consider incorporating furniture and accessories that are not traditionally associated with outdoors, such as soft furnishings," advises Rikke Blaeside. "Bringing interior décor items such as these along with accessories like mirrors, clocks, and rugs outside is a great way help to blur the lines of inside and out."
What is the Cheapest Way to Make a Patio?
The cheapest way to create a patio is by building a concrete slab area on a DIY basis, and topping with concrete slabs.
"Reclaimed stone can be wonderful if you are fortunate to find a cheap source however often is more expensive as it requires cleaning and cement removing from it," advises Chris Bonnett from Gardening Express. "For natural stone, lots of people use Indian sandstone as it is relatively cheap however it needs to be ethically sourced."
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Assistant Editor Amy began working for Homebuilding & Renovating in 2018. She has an interest in sustainable building methods and always has her eye on the latest design ideas. Amy has interviewed countless self builders, renovators and extenders about their experiences for Homebuilding & Renovating magazine. She is currently renovating a mid-century home, together with her partner, on a DIY basis, and has recently fitted her own kitchen.