“To patio” should really be a verb.
“I’m going to spend the afternoon patioing with my book”, or “I patioed all morning, which is why there’s no lemonade left” makes perfect sense to me.
Unfortunately, most people patio hardest during the summer months and perhaps not at all during winter. If this were true of any other room in your house, you’d find it absurd. Yet this extension of your home, which can serve as either a second living room, dining area, or kitchen, is often left to the moths for half the year or more.
This is really a shame, especially once you realize just how many options you have when it comes to making your patio comfortable year-round. Putting in a little effort will give you a space that’s outdoors but sheltered, allowing you to watch and smell a thunderstorm while staying dry, or even to enjoy a snowy landscape in total comfort.
Approved by Goldilocks
“Al fresco”, meaning “in the cool”, is the term used to describe a meal served outdoors, preferably without getting rained on, blown halfway to Canada, or toasted to a crisp by the sun. You don’t have to head indoors if such ideal conditions aren’t prevailing, though.
Apart from the structural additions described below, there’s plenty you can do to keep your family and guests from sweating or shivering.
In summer, you can benefit from a ceiling fan or even a misting fan that uses the power of evaporation to keep the air at a comfortable temperature. If you’re willing to spend a little more now to save on electricity bills later, you can also look around for quotes on double roofs. These essentially use the sun’s own power to suck warm air out of a space and create a gentle breeze, like so:
In winter, your best options for heating are a wood stove or radiating patio heater. The latter, instead of heating the air, heats the surfaces around it directly, making it more efficient if your patio isn’t enclosed. There are even heated furniture covers available for those who want to get extra toasty.
A Sheltered Place
A roof or free-standing pergola is usually a straightforward addition to any deck or patio, and one you’ll be happy to have whenever it’s raining or cold out. If you enjoy exploring your inner lizard by lounging in the sun, you can also opt for a retractable awning or even an adjustable umbrella, though these won’t benefit you much when winter comes around.
As for the sides of your patio, there are a number of ways to keep the elements out while still letting fresh air and natural sunlight in when you want to. Arguably the best for cold climates, but also the most expensive, is to enclose the whole thing in some combination of glass, brick, and aluminum, effectively turning it into a normal room with large windows.
Mesh screens, on the other hand, allow a measure of privacy while still providing light and ventilation and keeping a surprising amount of heated or cooled air inside. Curtains that can stand up to the elements generate a cozier, more intimate feel but won’t offer much protection against insects attracted by your porch light at dusk.
When it comes to windbreaks, trees are another option that shouldn’t be overlooked. They simultaneously block high winds, provide shade, and even help to control the humidity. They’re also a lot more pleasing to the eye than an ugly fence. Conifers and other evergreens are preferable in a lot of ways, especially when it comes to raking up leaves. You’ll have to take the prevailing wind direction and the layout of your yard into account when planning such a hedge.
Why Sit When You can Sprawl?
Obviously, your patio table, chairs, and sofas should be weatherproof and long-lasting if you want to use them year-round, but you’ll also want something that’s as comfortable as possible. You’ll be glad to know that you can combine these characteristics with style at a low (well, relatively low) price.
Wicker and rattan, though popular, are difficult to clean, while metal, including fasteners like screws, tends to rust and stain other parts with oxidation. Your best bet in most cases is to go with plastic, which is often molded into a wicker-like texture for a more pastoral aesthetic and can be expected to last for years.
Also don’t forget to look into hammocks. If you’ve never owned one, you just don’t know what comfort is.
Things can get unbelievably grimy just by sitting outdoors, so it’s a definite plus if your chosen type of furniture can withstand power-washing, which is really the only way to clean uneven patio surfaces like brick or concrete anyway. You can save a ton of time by taking care of your furniture at the same time as the floor, though you might still want to get some furniture covers to prevent you from having to do this before every weekend.
Whatever kind of furniture you choose, you can add a touch of luxury by providing plenty of throw pillows, perhaps with covers in different shades. This allows you to switch up your color scheme depending on your mood and the season.
Speaking of seasons, having blankets close at hand allows people to build their own little nests they won’t want to leave in a hurry. You can keep these in a weatherproof blanket box right where they’re needed.
Make It Fun!
Ideally, you will end up with a continuous flow from your living room to your patio: indoor and outdoor spaces that complement one another in both style and function. This means thinking in terms of not only how your patio will look, but how it will be used throughout the year.
Installing a sound system you can control from your phone or Alexa is less difficult than you may think, while (depending on how concerned you are about theft) hanging a TV on your patio wall will make it that much more popular a location to hang out in, especially during sporting events.
Putting up a shelf on which to keep a few board games will also work wonders, as will purchasing a small fridge or coffee station to make kitchen runs unnecessary. Installing a small sink will also boost the convenience factor considerably, especially if you’re planning to use your patio as a dining area, but this will probably be beyond the average person’s DIY capabilities.
Patio Decoration: Happy Eyes, Happy Heart
The easiest way to draw people away from their phones and into a conversation is to put something everyone will want to look at in the center of the patio. A freestanding fire pit is perfect for this, as are kinetic sculptures.
The best policy here, which both saves money and reduces clutter, is to go with accessories that can do double duty. The fire pit, for example, provides heat as well as livens up a space, while a nice rug can add a splash of color and also encourage people to ditch their shoes and get comfortable. Try to find one made out of synthetic materials and treated to resist sunlight and mildew so you won’t need to store it inside.
Good lighting is also a great way to set the mood and even make a chilly room seem warmer. Unobtrusive strip- or string lighting is the perfect way to banish the shadows without dazzling your guests, while solar-powered stake lights in the surrounding garden will help to maintain that outdoorsy feel after sundown.
There’s also no reason to forget about container plants, which can liven up a space in the dead of winter and perhaps even infuse the air with their scent. Some varieties to keep in mind are Japanese yew, winter boxwoods, and creeping jenny, all of which keep their leaves year-round.
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Turning your patio into a refuge you can use throughout the year can be a pretty substantial project if the climate where you live is less than ideal, but it’s also possible to start small. This approach, as long as you plan ahead, allows you to work towards your goal whenever you have time and money available. You could, for instance, go out right now and get a hammock and a couple of blankets for the porch, adding a heater and screens at some point in the future. Every step you take will increase your enjoyment for years to come and make your friends that much more eager to visit.