With warmer weather on the horizon, why not make the most of a free afternoon and get a head start on sprucing up the garden and patio now. Whether you’ve got a spare couple of hours or a whole weekend to put to good use, these patio ideas on a budget are guaranteed to quickly brighten up any outdoor space without costing a fortune.
Whether your patio is large or small, there are lots of easy ways that you can make a big impact with minimal effort. Flowers and plants are the simplest way of brightening up an outdoor space and by savvy shopping-around you can often pick up cheaper blooms at flower markets and street stalls or when they’ve been marked down in price at garden centres, DIY sheds and supermarkets. Or try growing your own plants and flowers from cuttings or seed, which can be a super-thrifty way of working more greenery into your space.
Patio ideas on a budget
Upcycling items that you already own and re-homing them outdoors is another way of sprucing up patio ideas without having to fork out for new garden furniture or outdoor decorations. A fresh coat of paint in a perky shade will breathe new life into shabby furniture or weather-worn pieces and re-arranging the space to put re-furbed pieces centre stage can make a world of difference.
‘Weekends and Bank Holidays are the perfect time to update outdoor spaces,’ says Becky Rackstraw, Director at Protek. ‘Painting garden furniture only takes a matter of hours and is easy, cost effective and very satisfying, especially if you can later sit on the piece of furniture with a cold drink to admire the stunning result.’
1. Put together an easy hanging basket
Creating your own hanging basket can work out far cheaper than buying pricey ready-made arrangements from garden centres. Late spring is the perfect time to plant up, after all risk of frost has passed. Buy summer bedding plants when they’re small and cheap, which will give them a chance to establish first, before coming into glorious full bloom in early summer.
Use a combination of upright and trailing plants in complementary colours. Trailing varieties like Petunias, Begonias, Fuchsias and Lobelia always work well. For longer-lasting blooms, frequent watering and regular feeding is key. Deadheading fading flowers will also encourage continuous booms throughout the summer.
2. Paint the patio with a pop of colour
Instead of sticking to ‘safe’ neutrals when it comes to painting outdoor masonry, brickwork or fence panels, adding a splash of bolder colour can have a big impact and make a great foil for colourful flowers and lush foliage.
Less is more when it comes to super-bright colours for patio decor ideas. Instead of painting the patio wall-to-wall, keep to key areas to make greater visual impact. Try painting a feature wall in bold sunshine yellow, hot pink or mediterranean blue and using the area as a contrast backdrop for patio tubs and planters. Raised beds are another opportunity for adding colour, painting the masonry or wood in a standout shade. Or paint a feature wall at the end of the garden to create a focal point that invites further investigation.
3. Create your own garden hideaway
A summer-house escape at the end of the garden is the dream. But if you need to adapt it for patio ideas on a budget, there are more affordable alternatives that can create the same hideaway vibe.
A corner-style arbor with slatted roof will create a quiet patio cover idea positioned in a sheltered area of the garden. By opting for a DIY design like this one, it can be assembled easily over a weekend (with the help of a friend) to cut down costs.
Brighten up timber with a colourful paint treatment that will make your retreat blend in with the surroundings. Paint the interior in a pale colour to lighten the mood inside and provide contrast. Add a comfy seat pad and bright scatter cushions.
4. Make your own mobile outdoor kitchen
Upcycle an old trolley or potting bench and turn it into an outdoor serving station. A great accompaniment alongside a barbecue or pizza oven, it will provide plenty of extra prep and storage space when you’re cooking outdoors. Plus it can be wheeled away into a shed or garage for storage when it’s not in use.
Spruce up the timber using weatherproof exterior paint in a bright, cheery shade, with natural wood on top for a hardwearing work surface. Add hooks and rails on the wall for storing barbecue tools and utensils, plus boxes underneath for tableware, then add a few potted herbs on easy-to-access shelves.
5. Jazz up a plain garden parasol
A shady area is a must outdoors during the hottest part of the day. Try an easy upcycle that will transform a plain canvas parasol. It'll make the perfect patio centrepiece when you’re entertaining outdoors over the summer months.
Use ribbon remnants, selecting a few bright complementary colours and cutting lengths approximately 30cm long. Tie three or four strips of ribbon together in a knot and secure to the underside of the parasol at each point, using small safety pins and tucking them out of sight. Brighten up the parasol pole by wrapping it with coloured washi tape in a co-ordinating shade.
6. Spruce up shabby seating
Try a nifty upcycling idea by repurposing a mismatched collection of kitchen and dining chairs with garden paint ideas. Most types of wooden chairs and even dining tables will work outdoors, with the right outdoor paint to protect them from the elements. Mismatched chairs painted in toning pastel shades or colour-pop brights creates a fun, quirky look that is fab for brightening up a plain patio.
‘To get started, bare wood is best, but old coatings can be painted over if they are water-based and correctly prepared,’ says Becky Rackstraw, Director at Protek. ‘Simply clean the wood with a damp cloth, strip off any loose paint then sand down and wipe clean.’
‘Save time by using our Royal Exterior Wood Finish, which also acts as a base coat so can be applied without a primer. However, if painting a very pale colour you may need to use a primer knotting agent. Two to Three applications are recommended to build depth of colour and sheen. And ensure each coat is thoroughly dry before applying the next.’
7. Get clever with upcycled planters
Repurpose indoor items to create quirky outdoor planters and baskets. They'll add bags of personality to your outdoor space, not to mention costing nothing to put together. An old shower caddy that’s no longer needed in the bathroom, makes the perfect tiered storage for holding a selection of flower-filled pots and adding colour to wall space. Using the wall is a great trick for small patio ideas to add colour and character when floor area is limited.
If it's a metal shower caddy and it’s looking a little rusty, just brush off any flaking areas and use spray paint to refresh the finish. There’s bound to be a leftover can lurking in the shed or garage. Look to other household items that can also be upcycled for outdoor planters. Old colanders make fab hanging baskets, vintage teapots and watering cans make fun planters or use an old wheelbarrow filled with compost and planted up with bright blooms.
8. Make a tiled table protector
Entertaining outdoors is one of the highlights of summer. Keep your patio table looking shipshape by making your own tiled table protectors so that the surface won’t get scorched if you place hot dishes or barbecue platters on it.
Use patterned ceramic tiles leftover from indoor tiling projects for great patio ideas on a budget. Arrange tiles to cover a square of cork board, until you’re happy with the layout. Then one at a time, spread tile adhesive onto the back of each tile and stick back down onto the cork. Use waterproof grout to finish, pressing it into the gaps and wiping off the excess with a damp cloth.
9. Knock up an easy outdoor mirror
Upcycle an old wooden window frame and make a garden mirror idea to brighten up a patio seating area. Adding a mirror can be an instant space-brightener in a small patio area or gloomy spot, helping to bounce incoming light around and making the area feel brighter and more spacious. Position lights where they will be reflected in the mirror to add extra sparkle after dark.
Use an old window frame with broken glass panes safely removed and disposed of first. Use a single sheet of mirror as backing behind the wooden frame with outdoor grab adhesive on the reverse side of the frame to secure the two together.
10. Fake a tiled table top with paint
Breathe new life into an old wooden table by giving it a chic faux-tile effect top created using a simple stencil technique. With a pale base colour and a darker, contrast colour stencilled on top, it will give the look of a Mediterranean-style tiled table for a fraction of the cost.
Using chalk paint makes the job even easier as it requires no major prep work before painting, just a quick wipe-clean and removing any peeling or flaking paint first. Apply the paler-coloured chalk paint to start and then once dry, use a stencil and darker colour to create the tiled effect. Work a small area at a time until the entire surface is covered. Once dry, apply two coats of chalk paint lacquer to protect the finish against the elements.
11. Make a mini hanging garden
Create instant colour on an empty area of patio by setting up a living wall idea. An easy way of brightening up plain trellis or bare brickwork, an inexpensive pocket planter can be attached to the wall with hooks. Fill it with flowering plants, succulents or herbs to add instant colour.
Spring is the perfect time to plant up a living wall outdoors. Young plants or plugs are inexpensive to buy and will establish quickly once planted. Choose a mix of flowers and plants in different colours, shapes, form and texture to provide year-round interest.
12. Use old crockery to make pretty bird feeders
Try another easy upcycling idea that will give somewhere for the local wildlife to hangout as well as brighten up trees and foliage. Use an old tea cup and saucer to create the bird feeder - mismatched items you no longer use or cheap charity shop finds are perfect.
Start by turning the cup on its side with the handle pointing up and placing it in the middle of the saucer. Secure it in position using grab adhesive and fix with tape to hold it in place overnight until set. Once stuck, remove the tape and loop a length of twine through the cup handle, suspend from a sturdy branch and then fill with bird seed.
How can I make my patio look better?
Giving the patio a good spruce-up is the easiest way of making it look instantly better and more appealing. Start by tidying away or getting rid of any stray garden toys, tools, equipment or broken pots that might be lurking. Then give patio paving ideas, tiles or decking a thorough clean, using a jet washer if you can.
Re-arranging outdoor seating or table and chairs is a good way of giving a patio new focus. Try arranging seating in a more sociable set-up, with chairs facing each other for a more sociable feel or pointing outwards towards a lovely view or garden focal point. Adding a large outdoor rug is a clever way of giving a patio seating area an anchor point, with seating arranged informally around it.
How can I improve my patio on a budget?
It needn’t cost a fortune to improve a patio or outdoor area. Pots and planters filled with colourful flowers and foliage can have an amazing impact on a drab space and the beauty of container gardening is that you can move tubs around as different plants come into bloom so that the scenery is ever-changing.
Patio lighting is another way of brightening up a patio that will make it look more magical after dark. Floor-standing lanterns dotted around the patio will create subtle pockets of light, with string lights and festoons overhead that will give added sparkle and ambience. And make sure that paths, walkways and steps are illuminated too so that the area is safe to walk around after dark.
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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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