Make the most of your outdoor space with clever patio cover ideas that will extend its use all season long.
With more heatwaves on the way, we all want to enjoy these warmer months, whilst being mindful of the sun's strong rays. This is where patio cover ideas come into play as they can enhance the season and allow us to enjoy being outside more – and don't forget – they can protect you from the drizzle as well.
Whether you have a small patio, a compact deck or a large, spacious terrace, these garden ideas for extra shelter can make your outdoor space fully usable come rain or shine.
Patio covers can range from simple to more elaborate. An extra-large parasol or pop-up canopy will provide shade in a small space, and can be tucked away in a shed when not being used. Or consider a fixed structure, such as a pergola or awning, if you want more permanent protection from the elements – they also work brilliantly with outdoor kitchens.
Patio cover ideas that will enhance your garden
The last couple of summers has seen us spend more time in our outdoor spaces than ever before, improving and investing in our patio ideas and gardens, so that they’ve become an extension of our homes. We've curated a list of our favourite ideas to help keep you cool this summer.
1. Invest in a roof terrace canopy
If you and your family love being outdoors as much as possible then a roof canopy could well be the answer. It is permanent, and will protect the house from wind, rain and snow! If you have partial glazing it will allow you to sit outside 'under' the sun without the damaging rays.
Dress it up with pots and planters full of seasonal flowers and if you have it installed along the width of your house you can fit in bench seating as well as dining sets and a small sofa.
2. Get creative with a fabric drape
Think 'outside the box' when it comes to patio cover ideas – fabric is a great option as it can be hung from poles, posts or trees to offer shade on a day when the sun is actually shining!
Choose designs that have a decorative element like one with pretty tassels, it can be used on the lawn as well to create a perfectly shaded picnic area.
3. Use what nature offers
Sometimes we have right what we need in our gardens – trees offer natural protection and are ideal for doubling up as patio covers during the summer months.
Hang a swinging seat from the thickest branches or create a wooden frame underneath for extra strength. Or, use this natural nook for placing a table and chairs.
4. Invest in an all year round cover
Love being out all year round? A custom built awning will provide you with all the perks as Lisa Cooper, head of product, Thomas Sanderson, explains:
'An awning is a great addition to your outdoor space, one of their biggest benefits is that they can be used all year round to withstand the rigours of garden life whilst still looking stunning. They are the perfect addition to your garden in warmer months to provide shade from the sun's rays but also in the winter to shelter from wind and rain and this is not only for you, but for your furniture and soft furnishings.
'The great thing about many awnings is that you can upgrade and tailor them to your exact requirements. Sun sensors can be installed so that when the sun comes out, your awning automatically extends, meaning your outdoor space is shaded ready for you to enjoy almost immediately. You can also customise an awning with integrated heating and lighting features, so even when the sun decides to disappear, you can continue enjoying your outdoor environment without it being too dark or too cold.'
5. Natural materials for a cottage
Choose a patio cover that suits your outdoor style. A cottage garden outdoor dining space will benefit from a structure that's made of natural materials, like wood. It will stay up all year round and the best bit is you can hang lanterns from it and fairy lights.
Strong structures will last if fitted properly and will offer great protection from the sun so you can dine in the cool.
6. Opt for a uniformed look
Large outdoor living areas still need patio cover ideas. If you want to feel the breeze and have some sun coming through then opt for a pergola with a slatted wood roof.
Offering some protection, it provides cover whilst also zoning an outdoor living space. Use the slats to hang plants from and a lantern or two.
7. Be inspired by a holiday
Look for inspiration when you take trips abroad as those who live in hotter climates are better equipped than us to stay out of the sun.
Lightweight materials and curvy designs ensure the patio cover fits the style of the house and consider running rails along the top so you can hang cotton drapes for added shade.
8. Light up your parasol
Parasols are one of our favourite patio cover ideas, they can be placed as the sun moves and allow for the odd drizzle too.
Choose a design that's versatile – some models have LED lights underneath so you can chill as the sun goes down and have subtle lighting, combine that with festoon lights along the fence.
9. Go large with an American style porch
We love US style porches and how they wraparound houses, be inspired by their designs and use a similar idea for your patio. Not only do they protect your decking but you could add a balcony above too.
Make it wide enough so you can fit a table and chairs underneath and paint it shade that suits your style – if you live near the sea then consider a nautical theme – what's not to love?!
10. Invest in a permanent patio cover
'Whether you love to dine and entertain or relax for a spot of outdoor cinema, creating a covered patio space is a beautiful way to give your garden a tad more privacy and protection from the elements,' says Francesca Hadland, interiors expert, Bridgman.
'By placing an awning over your patio, you'll link the inside and outside of your home with a physical extension that allows you to enjoy the best of both worlds - the comfort and security of your home alongside the fresh air and beauty of your garden.
11. Create a compact covered seating area
Make your outdoor space more usable by installing a wooden pergola to provide coverage for a patio seating area. A timber structure will provide shade from the sun and shelter from wind and with climbing plants trained to grow over it, the extra greenery will provide additional coverage as time goes on.
Add wow by painting a timber pergola dark grey or black. Dark colours will stand out against greenery and foliage and will make a seating area more of a focal point. Treating wood will also help to protect it against the elements for a longer-lasting finish.
12. Supersize a pergola to cover a large patio
To provide garden shade and shelter over a larger area, consider extending the size of a pergola so that it gives coverage over the entire patio area. A simple wooden pergola combined with lush greenery helps to enclose the space and create extra privacy if a garden is overlooked.
Using an overhead structure can also be a clever device that helps to break down a large outdoor space into smaller, more intimate zones - say for cooking, dining and relaxing. Suspending outdoor lighting and hanging greenery from the overhead timbers creates a natural divide that breaks the space up visually.
13. Keep it compact with a simple outdoor parasol
For a simple, fuss-free way of providing patio shade ideas, opt for an easy-up garden parasol. Choose a design that will complement the size and shape of your garden table - square or circular - making sure that it is large enough to provide shade for everyone seated.
Pole height should be tall enough so that people won’t have to stoop to sit under it, while a cantilevered design with a side pole won’t obstruct the view across the table and can be used independently of the table, although it will require a heavier base to keep it steady.
14. Train greenery to provide extra coverage
Give a patio pergola extra coverage by training climbing plants to grow over it. Opt for fast-growing climbers that will establish themselves quickly and provide coverage in as little as two years.
A rambling rose, is the ideal choice for growing over a pergola. It will usually flowers once a year to provide a blanket of coverage, bursting with colour and sweet fragrance. Alternatively for a no-fuss plant which does not require pruning, Virginia Creeper is ideal. This flowering vine grows quickly, and provides a brilliant splash of colour. Wisteria is another winning choice for a pergola.
15. Be clever with your planting choices
If you're planting up a patio area from scratch, it’s always worth factoring in a few shady areas with taller plants and trees strategically dotted around the space to provide shade from the sun at different times of the day.
Adding shade to an existing patio is easy to do using large potted plants or small patio trees that can be positioned to provide shade in areas where it’s lacking. Wheeled planters are a great option on paved patios, allowing plants to be moved around when they are in and out of flower, or shifted to provide extra shade in sunny spots.
16. Extend outdoor shelter with an awning
Provide shelter where you need it most, with a retractable awning that can be installed on the side of a property to give cover for a patio or courtyard. A brilliant option for spaces where a permanent covering isn’t required, at the press of a button it can be zapped in or out, providing instant shade when the sun is at its hottest, or tucked away out of sight when shelter isn’t needed.
A retractable awning like this one is controlled via a handy remote, with added extras that include integrated electric heaters and neat lighting strips that will illuminate the patio area after dark. Clever built-in vibration sensors will automatically retract the awning in windy weather.
17. Keep it chic with a co-ordinated design
For larger patios and terraces, an outdoor awning offers more substantial coverage than a standard-sized garden parasol. Choosing a design that suits the style of the property and the look of the garden is a must as it will be in use and on view for many years.
‘Awnings come in a variety of fabrics which allow you to find the colour, pattern and texture that’s right for you,' says Lisa Slack, Head of Product at Thomas Sanderson. ‘So it’s worth thinking about what you like. Do you want a colour that matches your interior décor so your patio feels like an extension of your home? Or would you prefer something different to give your outdoor space its own identity?’
‘Awning fabrics come in a variety of plains, stripes and patterns. And you can also choose from a selection of bracket colours to ensure your awning suits your window and door frames for a cohesive look,’ adds Lisa.
18. Enjoy a clear view outside
A covered pergola at the back of a property is the perfect spot to enjoy the outdoors while still staying undercover. Opting for clear roof panels will allow maximum light in while still providing protection from direct sunlight or heavy rainfall.
Look for panels that have built-in UV protection which will help filter out the sun’s harmful rays and prevent patio furniture from fading in harsh sunlight.
19. Create shelter in different parts of the garden
Take advantage of a large garden to create different outdoor rooms where you can enjoy the sun, or escape from it if you’d prefer. A freestanding pergola can be installed in a spot that suits, whether that’s directly outside the house on a patio or on a paved area further along the garden.
A rotating louvred roof pergola like this one will provide shelter from the sun or rain, plus the option to open the slats fully should you want to soak up some rays. Slats are motorised for easy operation and the aluminium design means that maintenance is kept to a minimum.
20. Opt for an easy-up sail shade at the end of a garden
For a semi-permanent option that can be installed on a patio or deck at the end of a garden, consider a simple sail shade. Made from showerproof fabric, a sail shade will provide protection from the sun, shelter from wind and give an extra level of privacy if an outdoor space is overlooked.
Quick and easy to set up (and take down) sail shades are fixed in place using anchor points that are tensioned to keep it taut. They can be anchored to the side of a property, garden shed or a handily-positioned tree, or alternatively a freestanding frame or fixing poles can be used to allow a shade to be positioned away from the house if preferred.
21. Try a pop-up canopy for parties
For a non-permanent outdoor shade that’s perfect for parties and gatherings, try an easy-up sun canopy that makes a roomier and more elegant alternative to the average garden parasol.
Easily erected on grass or soft ground, its central pole goes up much like a standard umbrella or parasol, but the fabric side panels in each corner create extra coverage so it feels more like a mini gazebo. Striped fabric and natty fringing add a jaunty, nautical touch.
22. Install a mini outdoor dining booth
If outdoor space is tight and a patio shade just outside the house isn’t an option, then go further into the garden and create a shady, secluded spot where space allows.
This ready-made compact booth seats four people (or six at a squeeze) and makes the ideal spot to sit and have a quick cuppa or a bite to eat with friends. A timber frame helps any garden structure blend in with trees and greenery. While a stainless steel roof reflects heat so it won’t get hot and stuffy inside. This booth comes complete with built-in table, benches and cushions.
23. Take advantage of a shady spot
Set up table and chairs in a shady area so you can escape the heat of the sun when it’s at its hottest. Encouraging trailing plants such as wisteria, honeysuckle and clematis to spread up and over a pergola will provide extra coverage. All while creating a heady fragrance that can be enjoyed both indoors and out.
Climbing plant ideas near the base of each wooden pillar, angled towards the support using small canes to help bridge the gap. To cover the canopy quickly, train the shoots straight up the posts, using vertical wires or wire mesh as supports if necessary. Tie in new shoots to the cross beams and laterals as the plant grows.
24. Add sparkle to a patio after dark
Extend time outdoors on summer evenings by lighting up the patio with festoons and fairy lights. A timber pergola or outdoor shade makes the perfect place to drape strings of lights, creating an illuminated canopy that will make the space look magical after dark.
Use hooks to secure lights at each corner of a pergola, suspending strings diagonally in a criss-cross formation. Or alternatively, use single strings on each vertical to provide extra illumination for summer dining or evening parties outdoors.
25. Create a shady spot built for two
If a full-sized shelter isn’t an option, downsize and create a shaded garden seat with space for just one or two. A garden arbour makes a charming addition to a patio area or can be positioned further down the garden to create a feature focal point or nestled in amongst greenery as a garden hideaway.
What is the best material for an outdoor patio cover?
This will depend on your budget and whether you're after a temporary or fixed patio cover. Tiled roof canopies are great options but will be an investment, as are louvered pergolas. A wooden patio cover would be more cost effective whilst still being permanent, it would need to be sealed from the elements.
What is the best patio cover for high winds?
Sail shades are excellent for high winds as they're naturally designed to survive wind and rain. Fixed structures would be able to cope too. Awnings are worth considering from a practical point of view, in that they can be closed during high winds and won't get damaged.
What are the different types of patio covers?
There are many different types of patio covers to protect the area from the elements, ensuring it's useable come rain or shine. Patio cover ideas can range from simple to more robust. An extra-large parasol or pop-up canopy will provide coverage in a small space - and can be stored away when not in use. While a fixed structure, such as a pergola or awning, provides more permanent protection from the elements.
How can I cover my patio cheaply?
A cheap, yet effective way to cover a patio is with a parasol or simple awning – both of which are functional yet moveable. Sail cloths are another wonderful idea, you can hang them from across your patio to give a little extra shade.
Another option is to move your sitting area to under a tree – if you have them in your garden, they'll provide a natural covering.
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Lisa is Deputy Editor of Style at Home magazine and regularly contributes to sister title Ideal Home. She has written about interiors for more than 25 years and about pretty much every area of the home, from shopping and decorating, crafts and DIY to real home transformations and kitchen and bathroom makeovers. Homes and interiors have always been a passion and she never tires of nosying around gorgeous homes, whether on TV, online, in print or in person.
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