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Patio Layout Ideas


Our yards are blank pallets from which to create the outdoor living environment of our choice. Nonetheless, we often find ourselves stumped about which ideas to fuse into our plans. We worry about choosing a design that will provide expedient access to all the activities we offer without having to give up comfort. This article will offer suggestions about incorporating shade, grills, fireplaces, and seating.




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Consideration #1:

The Sun's Direction:

Do you entertain during the morning or evening? In what position is the sun duriing those hours? Your patio design should integrate shade so that you and your guests can extend the amount of time you can spend enjoying outdoor activities. 

Pockets of Protection

It is estimated that a pocket of shaded protection around your home can reduce interior temperatures nearly 30%, thus reducing cooling costs.


If your property's back yard faces West, motorized shades or trellises can add much-needed shade to your outdoor living environment.

Advantages of a Motorized Shade 

  • Motorized shades can be set to raise and lower automatically during the hottest part of the day.

  • Motorized shades are available in a variety of opacities that won't obstruct the view of the yard.

  • Motorization extends to solar screens that are available in a variety of mesh sizes ranging from full opaque to total blockout. 

Advantages of a Trellis 

  • Trellises do not block airflow onto your patio or deck

  • Trellisses can be "planted" with a huge assortment of climbing plants, vines, hanging plants, or espalier-type trees, (including grape vines and fruit trees).

  • Living plants transpire moisture which keeps air currents cooler.

Consideration #2

Patio Covers:

Arbor Designs:

L-Shaped arbors offer the greatest shading potential; especially when one or more component is positioned to shade the side with the most sun.


This particular design incorporates a "walkway" side-arbor that has openings at both the front and back, facilitating easy access to every portion of the yard and the entry gate.


Many homeowners elect to utilize a full-size arbor along the side of their home; nearly doubling the size of their outdoor living area. 


Arbor Advantages:


  • Arbors permit heat to vent upward. These super-heated air currents actually pull cool air from ground level, creating cooling air currents.

  • When arbors are combined with trellises or motorized screens, continual airflow is ensured. 

  • Arbor posts can easily be incorporated into outdoor kitchens, retaining walls, and even outdoor fireplaces, (as shown in the image below).

Arbor Examples:

Click to view entire slide show depicting full-size images & descriptions

Consideration #3

Patio & Deck Surfacing:

Surface Materials:

Deck surfaces are traditionally made from cedar, in part, because of its longevity. Here are a few more reasons cedar wins out time and again for both deck surfaces and arbors.


Cedar's Advantages:

  • Insect Resistant

  • Moisture Resistant

  • Provides a Sound Barrier


Patio surfaces are routinely surfaced with stone. Although stamped concrete is an affordable alternative, most people's patio surface is larger than a single pattern, and the resultant surface would have seams.


Stone's Advantages

  • Remains Cool during the hottest weather

  • Reflects ambient heat during chilly evenings

  • Textured surfaces prevent slippage

  • Can be easily repaired.

Deck & Patio Surface Examples:

Click to view entire slide show depicting full-size images & descriptions

Consideration #4

Outdoor Living Accessories:

Enclosed Kitchens:

Enclosed grills, outdoor kitchens, and kitchen islands are functional ways to entertain. They permit interactive cooking by allowing guests to be seated closely enough to encourage ongoing conversation. Additionally, retaining wall seating can be added on either end of the grill, making for an even more intimate experience. 


Outdoor Kitchen Advantages:

  • Added Workspace

  • Storage

  • Keeps the cook within access of guests


Outdoor Fireplaces:

Most people respond with anticipation to the idea of a warm fireplace on a chilly evening. Today's fireplaces are not only functional, they add instant beauty to any deck or patio. Seating can be attached in the form of retaining walls that border the emanating warmth, making the occasion a very special one.

Fireplace Placement Information

It is important to note that fireplace chimneys need to be placed outside the patio covering perimeter. This is easily accomplished since fireplaces tend to be quite thick. Seating is attached to the interior portion of the fireplace, and can be aligned with the patio covering perimeter. 

Outdoor Kitchen & Fireplace Images

Click to view entire slide show depicting full-size images & descriptions

How to Create a Patio Layout

Use Graph Paper...

Deciding where to place tables, couches, chairs, outdoor grills, and fireplaces can sometimes be a tricky business.  We find it helpful to create a graph-paper layout that incorporates not only the accessories we want to include, but access points and support post locations for the proposed patio. (See example below). Note: If you are proficient in Powerpoint, you can easily create a blank graph by making equal size cells in an Excel or Google Spreadsheet, and "snippitting" this image into Powerpoint, where you can insert moveable shapes that represent the various patio features you want to include. (Remember to allot each square a certain number of inches and scale each accessory accordingly).


When deciding upon your layout, keep these things in mind:

1.  Both Grills and Fireplace Chimneys must be vented to the outside, and should have

      no obstructions against the flue or the chimney.

* Keep prevailing air currents in mind so that grill or fireplace smoke doesn't collect within the patio.

2.  Clear access points should be large enough for more than one person to exit:

* Remember that during emergencies, access is still possible over a low retaining wall.

* If a trellis has been attached for shade, it is not considered a clear access point.

3.  Retaining Walls can serve more than one purpose:

* They provide extra seating.

* They provide structures for potted plants, lighting, and other outdoor accessories.

4.  Arbor Support Posts can be affixed to retaining walls, fireplaces, enclosed grill frames, or raised bed gardens.

5.  Remember to allow space for opening and closing the door to your home.

6.  Determine which air currents might over-chill guests near the fireplace, and erect trellises where appropriate. 

* Remember to provide alternate access points when using this tactic.

7.  Trellis construction should include support every six feet in order to withstand wind storms. This can be accomplished        by stacking small box-framed trellis materials, or by erecting a trellis that has a built-in support beam.

Patio Design Images created from Sketchup based on a L-Shaped Arbor

Click to view entire slide show depicting full-size images & descriptions

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