91 Outstanding Outdoor Decor Ideas
But you can’t spend the entire summer indoors.
If you create a space outside that’s perfect for relaxing, soaking up a few rays, or enjoying a nice breeze in the shade, you won’t miss the hum of the AC at all.
We asked 26 top interior designers, decorators, and landscaping specialists to give their best outdoor decor ideas, tips, and tricks. Create the ultimate space on your balcony, patio, deck, or backyard for some sensational summer fun.
Don’t forget the sunscreen!
Sarah Barnard, Sarah Barnard Design
1. Focus on the pretty
Contemplate what your important focal points should be. A beautiful tree? A softly trickling fountain? An impressive outdoor kitchen?
The elements that you choose to dominate the space physically and visually influence its overall feeling/mood.
2. Throw some shade
The best outdoor spaces have a combination of sun and shade. Consider retractable Roman shades or awnings in combination with shade provided by natural plantings to provide some versatility. This also allows you to enjoy the space in any weather.
3. Keep it functional
I recently completed a home remodeling project for a beach-loving bachelor. His tri-level townhouse is fabulously located; alas, the outdoor space is limited to a few balconies and a roof deck.
We focused on beautifying the small spaces and maximizing their function. Using natural wood tiles over the existing concrete deck helped to create a natural look that will patina over time.
A combination of powder coated metal lounge furniture, natural rustic wood tables, and lightweight concrete pottery created a richly toned, masculine, minimalist space.
Jarret Yoshida, Jarret Yoshida, Inc.
4. Maintain consistency throughout the home
My basic philosophy for outdoor decorating is to make your yard a continuation of your indoor space. Whether you are in New York City, a smaller city area, or a spacious suburban or country location, your yard can become an extension of your home.
5. Choose fashion and function
Choosing furniture that is both beautiful and durable is a must. Depending on the climate you live in (and considering spatial factors), stackable or foldable pieces can make for ease of storage during the harsher weather months. This would also ring true for any BBQ equipment you may have.
Composting is a great way of lessening our burden on landfills while making great soil as well. Whether you use a compost pile or a bin, it is easy, economical, does not attract annoying insects or smell, and makes for very happy worms and a happy Mother Earth.
It also makes for a wonderfully rich soil to feed the plants. Our backyard grapevine went from just a few feet long after years of neglect to spreading along the entire fence line. It makes for a wonderful, color filled fence — all because of composting.
7. Use eco-friendly decking material
Make the correct choices for your decking and patio material. By using recycled plastic decking material, you can not only find a wide variety of colors and finishes but also help the environment by using recycled material. These materials also last longer and need next to no maintenance.
8. A Brooklyn backyard update
My favorite outdoor project that I have worked on is my very own backyard in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. After purchasing our 100 plus-year-old brownstone, we had a lot of work ahead of us, both inside and out.
The backyard was, for lack of a better term, an overgrown mess. The ground was riddled with broken glass, metal, and any and everything that years of neglect can add.
We built a sifter from 2x4s and chicken wire and sifted the soil 10” down, removing bags upon bags of waste. We reclaimed much of the original slate that was there and made for borders and walkways.
A raised bed in the back, ground level beds on the sides made for side planting areas. We got rid of the concrete slab patio and found original slate underneath. We had the slate taken up, a new area raised and graded, and the slate put back in.
We enriched the existing soil with a peat moss and manure mix and then seeded for a center lawn. There were some existing plants that we saved and mixed in our own perennials and annuals.
Next: the compost pile. We maintain one in the back corner and use this to feed the soil each and every year.
We have created the “outdoor rooms” by placing reclaimed architectural pieces (two old wooden fence posts that now offer climbing space for morning glory) in the back corners. They separate the back patio and raised bed from the lawn and front patio.
Our backyard is now a greenspace and refuge for us in the middle of busy Brooklyn.
Brianne Bishop, Brianne Bishop Design
9. Spend money where it counts
Be aware of the elements and take this into consideration with your investment. I always encourage clients to invest in more long-term pieces, such as fiberglass planters, built-in kitchens, and metal furniture. Save on the pieces that could be more disposable, such as cushions, rugs, and candles, as they take the most abuse.
10. Savor every season
Every project here in Chicago has a fire table; it extends our summer season that much longer!
11. Diversify the space
We recently completed a large rooftop for a luxury rental building in West Town, Chicago (called Luxe on Chicago), and it was a fun challenge because of not only the size, but also the amount of function we wanted to achieve.
We created little vignettes for enjoying a coffee and newspaper, and a large sectional seating arrangement outfitted with a TV, to hang out and barbecue with friends. It was a tight budget, yet we were able to achieve style and comfort while remaining edgy, just like the neighborhood.
12. Change it up with color
Like my interiors, I like to keep outdoor furniture and fixtures neutral and allow the accent pillows and plants to be the pop of color. This also allows you to change your scheme every season if you wish. I have done everything from black and white flowers to hot pink and lime green!
Also, understand that furniture pieces in the elements will not have the longevity of your interior furnishings, so embrace the patina that will inevitably happen.
Just like the philosophy of wabi-sabi — wear and tear can be just as beautiful!
Jennifer Horn, Jennifer Horn Landscape Architecture
13. Find flexible furniture
When it comes to furnishing, focus on flexibility. The oversized woven sectionals that are prevalent today are wonderful (and comfy!), but they can be cumbersome and difficult to shift out of focus if you need to accommodate a bigger crowd.
14. Make it easy to expand your circle
Imagine how your outdoor space will function for a quiet night at home and then what adjustments will help you entertain a bigger crowd. Occasional tables that can double as ottomans allow you to seat more people for a party but keep your space feeling intimate for smaller groups.
15. Accommodate your guests
Another outdoor furnishing tip: If regular visitors are older, be sure to have a chair or two that has arms and isn’t too low — sectionals and oversized lounges can be difficult for older guests to sit in.
16. Easy to clean
Spaces that are exposed to the elements collect pollen, dust, leaves, and snow. Thus, they require more cleaning. Keep decorative objects to a minimum so you can quickly sweep or wipe down surfaces for an impromptu gathering.
17. Adios mosquitoes
If you are in mosquito country, a fan is imperative. A ceiling fan can be mounted to a pergola or other overhead structure. Or you can use weatherproof oscillating fans, which should be easy to set up.
Moving air, in my experience, is one of the only foolproof ways to keep mosquitoes at bay.
18. Set the mood with … mood lighting
For parties, rely less on electrical light fixtures and create an intimate space with hurricane lamps and candles. Twinkle lights are always a crowd pleaser — look for commercial grade products that can be set on a dimmer.
19. Divide and decorate
We recently completed a city garden in Kalorama, DC. The garden space was very shallow, and the detached garage was omnipresent from the breakfast room.
We lessened its impact by adding a raised fountain between these structures. The fountain provides a foreground object to focus on, making the garage feel more distant.
June Shea, Shea Studio Interiors
20. Give any space a purpose
I always start by asking what do I want to do in the space? Dine, lounge, read? That helps determine what needs to be in the space to make it functional for those needs.
It doesn’t have to be a huge space, either. For example, you can make a small balcony an inviting space by adding a couple of small chairs, a carpet, and a few plants to it.
Marie Burgos, Marie Burgos Interior Design
21. Your environment affects your emotions
I am from the beautiful island of Martinique, where I experienced the color and elements of nature in the Caribbean. The energy of what surrounds you delights all your senses. I truly believe that your environment has a huge influence on your emotions and ultimately, on achievements and happiness.
22. Feng Shui your space
My approach to creating spaces integrates the Feng Shui philosophy. I focus on balance, harmony, the use of natural elements, and the Yin and Yang forces.
These elements are all present in the spaces I design in the form of a color, texture, or shape. It’s all about creating a space that looks beautiful andfeels right.
23. Winding walkways
Create a gently curving pathway for energy to flow in smoothly.
24. Let the decor entice you
Choose relaxing, flowing shapes when it comes to furniture and decor. The garden should be nice to look at through the windows when the weather is compromised and should be inviting when it is sunny.
25. Apply the elements
Integrating the five Feng Shui elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water) in your garden is important — especially water because of its powerful and soothing presence.
26. Make it a clutter-free zone
Don’t use your outdoor space as a storage place! Your home should harmoniously blend with its surroundings. A cluttered outdoor area will drain the energy from you.
27. Pick plants for every season
Don’t forget to use plants that look great during winter. Mediterranean plants, like lavender and rosemary, are very scented, pretty, and often evergreen.
28. Let mother nature make music
A must-have outdoor decor element is wind chimes because they’re a great way to increase the flow of good Chí (positive energy). Place them in the corners of the yard to add balance and establish comfort.
29. Feed the birds
Bird feeders are amazing energy attractors, and the birds themselves carry many qualities we want in and around our homes.
Ghislaine Viñas, Ghislaine Viñas Interior Design
30. Keep inside in mind
When you’re selecting colors and furniture for your outdoor patio, keep in mind that they need to work with your interiors. See it as an extension of the indoor space, especially if there are glass doors allowing you to see both at the same time.
31. Remix your style
It’s easy to fall into getting a set of furniture that’s all the same style, but it’s fine to do a sofa in one style and two chairs in a different style — especially because there are so many amazing furniture collections now.
32. Root the room with a rug
As is true with interior spaces, rugs really help to ground a furniture setting and there are many rugs now available in tons of fun colors and patterns that are specially-made for outdoors.
33. Beware of the glare
Be aware that in very sunny spots, white tables can be ultra reflective and actually make it hard to sit and enjoy. Consider opting for matte finishes.
34. Spray it all down
Keep a power washer handy (especially in the city) to wash down outdoor furniture from time to time.
Laura Hildebrandt, Interiors by LH
35. A room outside
Creating an outdoor space is just like creating a room indoors, except with different walls! The sky or tree canopies are your ceiling, and beautiful views are your walls.
36. Show off your exterior style
Gone are the days of wicker and wrought iron sets. You can get entire sofas that look like they belong indoors for outdoor settings, truly making it a comfortable room outside.
Arranging the furniture outside is the same as arranging it inside: You want people to feel welcome and at ease with plenty of weatherproof seating, pillows, and throws for all, plus tables to put snacks and drinks on.
37. Light it up
If you are lucky enough to have trees or overhead structures, twinkle lights and a chandelier are great ways to set the mood. Of course, candles are always a welcome addition. The newest candles can be bug repellent and smell beautiful without the noxious fumes.
38. Don’t forget the flora
Who could forget adding in natural elements? Lots of potted flowers, plants, and herbs not only look beautiful, but can also add to the aroma of the evening. Adding a fountain or small water feature also helps to make the space feel special.
Erica Smith, Erica Gail Inc.
39. Use this infallible design formula
Whether your taste is ultra-contemporary or more traditional, a foolproof outdoor approach is to stick with one neutral (or white) main color and one bold accent color for your seating.
If your seat cushions are white, accent with throw pillows in a bold hue that resonates with you. This simple color scheme reads as upscale and deliberate rather than piecemeal.
40. Seated in style
A matching painted wood bench in a bold color can lend a dash of sculptural interest.
41. Add some pizzazz with pattern
To punch things up, mix in pattern with a striped umbrella that echoes your accent color, a patterned pillow, or even your pool towels. Everything in your space offers a chance to tie into your design vision.
42. Step outside your color comfort zone
Outdoor furnishings are the perfect opportunity to experiment with color that might be intimidating indoors. A super-bright orange or yellow won’t stand out as strongly in the great outdoors where it’s surrounded by bushes, trees, and a bright blue sky.
So, go big and bold outside even if it scares you inside. Completely neutral furnishings can’t compete with nature and can sometimes seem boring or washed out in the bright sunlight.
Renae Cohen, Renae Cohen Interiors
43. Determine the space’s identity
Consider how the space will be used. Is it used for dining, relaxation, or will it be used for entertaining? Your furniture choices should facilitate the intended use of your outdoor room.
44. Plan ahead
Start by creating a floorplan. Approach designing your outdoor room just as you would any other room. Plan the arrangement of your space so that you know how the furnishings will fit.
45. Don’t skimp on the accessories
Accessories give the finishing touches to the space. Include throw pillows, lanterns, blankets, or anything that is appropriate for the use of your outdoor room. If you have a fireplace, a stylish set of fireplace tools is essential.
Anne Carr, Anne Carr Design
46. Design around your needs
I really try to find out what my clients will truly use the space for by asking the following questions:
- Will you entertain there?
- Do you want to be able to have a sitdown dinner outside?
- Will it be for lounging by the pool?
- Do you need play space for kids and dogs?
47. Ensure everything is top notch
Good landscaping is key in creating the desired space. Make sure your furnishings enhance it, not detract from it.
Invest in a good quality seating area and lounge chairs so you don’t have to replace them often.
Also, pay the extra money for seat covers. Even in areas that are warm year round, smog and pollution build up on cushions and need a gentle rinse.
Paola McDonald, Olamar Interiors
48. Get comfy
Add soft elements like colorful and cushy outdoor pillows, cushions, even throws. And don’t ignore what’s underfoot: an indoor/outdoor rug can add color and texture, and it feels great over a hard surface like a patio or deck.
49. Show off your artsy side
Many manufacturers are now offering outdoor-safe art that looks like it could be the centerpiece in your living room.
Add color, texture, style, pattern, and a conversation piece by adding outdoor art to your exterior walls.
Weather-safe metal sculptures can also help create an indoor feeling outdoors.
50. Paint on outdoor protection
Don’t be afraid to pick up inexpensive furniture pieces that could be converted into outdoor pieces with some heavy duty weather-resistant paint.
Buffets, credenzas, accent tables, and mirrors could help create unique, indoor-esque settings. It is suggested that you store them inside in the off-season, and expect that they may not last more than a couple of seasons before needing to be replaced.
Marisa Moore, Interior Style by Marisa Moore
51. Pop some color on a pouf
Generally, I keep upholstery to a neutral white or light gray and then add in accent colors around it. I love to use poufs to add seating and color that can just be thrown anywhere.
Usually, we pick two or three colors that the client likes and then use varying shades of those colors throughout the space.
52. Mix and match
To add texture, use a combo of wood, metal, and upholstery for tables or chairs. Most of the wood I use is a weathered teak with a lot of gray undertones or anything more gray than brown.
The neutral colors for the patio tend to be white and gray with color added in. Shades of blue seem to be the most popular accent color these days.
Amber Freda, Amber Freda Landscape Design