Plan Your Patio To Fit Your Lifestyle
If you need a pleasant place to sip your morning coffee or relax with a good book, design an area that affords some privacy. Simple furnishings, a hammock or outdoor recliner, and some plants to screen out the rest of the neighborhood are all you need to quickly arrange an outdoor retreat. If you'd like space for both private times and parties, you can use a narrow sideyard for your private patio, then build a large patio in the backyard (ideally off the kitchen or dining room) for entertaining. Unify the spaces with a wraparound design. If you don't have enough room or funds for both, you can make a single patio more flexible with benches or portable seating. Move them to define different areas as needed.Entertaining
If entertaining is a priority, consider your usual number of guests. Small groups may not require more space or furnishings than your family needs. Large gatherings call for seating, dining, and perhaps even cooking areas. Decide where you would put a table for sit-down dinners or a buffet table. And if you enjoy barbecues and cookouts, consider building an outdoor kitchen with a grill, small sink, and counterspace for food preparation.Child's play
Consider building a patio for a children's play area. You can't put the jungle gym there, but you can make sure there's plenty of open area for playing. Locate the patio so you can keep an eye on children playing there and in the yard too.
Design for flexibility so your patio can grow with the kids. A space used for a sandbox easily transforms into a small platform with the addition of a few joists and decking, for instance. Plan your patio so you can phase in improvements as time goes by.Gardening
Plants and patios are perfect partners. Planters, window boxes, and containers beautify the space and also provide the perfect hobby garden for anyone whose green thumb appears only on weekends. Planters can be built into low walls around the patio. An avid horticultural hobbyist can incorporate cold frames -- or even a greenhouse -- into the design. Build your own planters from the same material as your paving or walls, or purchase commercial units that fit your patio design.Bringing back an old patio
If your house came with a patio that makes you feel like staying inside, it doesn't mean you have to tear it down and start from scratch. Try to improve it instead. Unused patios suffer from practical or aesthetic problems. For example, if cooking space is cramped or guests have no place to sit, it's a sure sign you need more room. Often a small platform addition built from the same material as the paving will fix the problem and improve the looks of your landscape. You can finish the new material so it blends with the old.Pro Tip
Checklist for patio planning
Good patio planning calls for taking inventory of several factors. Here are some of the things you should keep in mind.
Traffic flow: If your patio will be built between the house and other backyard destinations, such as a utility shed or play area, connect them with 3-foot-wide walkways.
Views: Orient the patio and the furnishings to make the most of a pleasing view. Don't hide a great view of the yard behind planters and other decorative elements. Do hide unsightly views (and increase privacy) with fences or plants.
Sun, shade, and wind: Nature can turn an otherwise perfect location into an uncomfortable spot. Note the patterns of sun and shade so you can provide needed shade where nature doesn't. You can move lightweight furniture as the light changes or you can make your own shade by building an arbor or overhead structure. Shelter the patio from wind by locating it carefully or by adding fences or hedges.
Storage: Make a list of equipment you need to stow, and plan storage that's easy to get to. A surprising amount fits into a small shed attached to the wall of the house.