How to make your outdoor seating area look expensive in 5 easy steps

An expensive-looking outdoor seating area doesn’t have to cost a fortune

A contemporary rattan seating set
(Image credit: Future PLC)

At Ideal Home, we’re all about living that champagne lifestyle on a lemonade budget. That’s why we’ve made it our mission to learn how to make an outdoor seating area look expensive… without spending a fortune in the process. 

The starting point of any luxe-looking outdoor seating area is picking up the best garden furniture you can afford. However, it is the small details that will take your ordinary garden seating ideas to the next level.

By giving your outdoor seating area some TLC, you can instantly make your whole garden look more expensive. And if you want to really knuckle down on creating a luxe, expensive-looking area for your Sunday brunches in the sun, we’ve got some expert tips you’ll love. 

How to make your outdoor seating area look expensive

‘A seating area should be a practical area to enjoy outdoor living and entertaining, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a bland, standard area. With some thoughtful planning, this space can easily be created into an outdoor space that can have different zones and is both practical and pleasing to the eye,’ explains Andy McLaughlin, Landscaping Specialist at RF Paving

1. Buy the right furniture

A contemporary rattan seating set

(Image credit: Habitat)

There is a lot to think about when choosing your garden furniture. You have the choice between the best wooden garden furniture, the best rattan garden furniture, or one of the many other options on offer - but Caron Grant, Brand Manager at Bridgman, urges you to really think carefully about your garden furniture choice and your home as a whole. 

She says, ‘It’s easy to consider your home and garden as separate and unlinked. But by blurring the boundaries and unifying the two spaces, you can create a sense of cohesion that extends the style and character of your indoor rooms out into your outdoors. Outdoor living rooms are a great way to make your outdoor seating area look chic and expensive.’ 

‘Covered or uncovered, outdoor living spaces are a place of relaxation that allows you to make the most of your garden while putting you within arm's reach of nature.' 

To create a seamless flow from indoors to out, pick soft and comfortable furniture that aligns with the style of your home, whether that’s a contemporary rope or a more classic choice, such as rattan. To truly capture that luxurious living room feel, opt for an upholstered modular furniture set, perfect for basking in the sunshine.’

Thankfully, there’s a plethora of affordable expensive-looking garden furniture out there. We love Habitat's designer-look garden furniture range, and this time of year is a good time to snap up some garden furniture deals, just before summer starts.

2. Choose mood lighting

outdoor dining garden party table setting, linen tablecloth, flowers on table, bench, blanket, rug, pergola

(Image credit: Future PLC)

When you sit outside of a fancy restaurant or hotel at night, you can bet your bottom dollar that you’ll be surrounded by different types of lighting, from fairy lights to wall lights and even the light from the glow of one of the best patio heaters

This is something you definitely need to think about when trying to make your own outdoor seating area look expensive, as certain garden lighting ideas can instantly up the luxe factor. But what should you go for?

Steve Chilton, garden expert at LeisureBench, says, ‘Try opting for string lights for a cosy feel, or even lanterns and hanging fixtures for something a little bit different. I recommend opting for warm light instead of cold light, as this will make it feel more welcoming and inviting. Colder lights can feel too harsh and clinical.’

These don’t have to cost a fortune, and you could even opt for solar-powered outdoor lights to keep your energy bills down. 

3. Add some greenery

courtyard garden with wood panelled walls and large garden mirror

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Although it’s important to make your outdoor seating area seem like an extension of your house, you should also be sympathetic to the fact that your outdoor seating area is, well, outside. And adding the right kind of greenery can instantly make your outdoor seating area look more expensive. 

‘I recommend planting lots of greenery, whether this is a lawn, hanging baskets or trees,’ explains Steve. ‘Opting for evergreen plants will ensure your area always stays the same, but you can incorporate others as well. The more alive a location feels, the more inviting and pleasant it feels to be in, so it's always a good idea.'

‘If you have a small space, then potted plants are the perfect alternative to heaps of plants. Sometimes, too much can look overwhelming and "cheap" anyway, so sticking to as little and as effective as possible can be a good thing.’

But while anyone can add plants to their outdoor seating area to create a natural and sophisticated vibe, this won’t last if you don’t look after your plants. So, always make sure you maintain a watering schedule and understand the plant’s needs - especially if they’re seasonal.

Steve says, ‘Replace plants all year round so that you always have some that are blooming. This will help keep your seating area look maintained and well-loved, which makes it look more expensive. If you struggle with finding plants that flower in winter, then try violas, cyclamen, or pansies.’

4. Remember to accessorise

Decked garden with steps leading to a blue painted summerhouse and outdoor seating

(Image credit: Future PLC/Adelina Iliev)

There’s a big difference between bare and minimal, and even the most minimal indoor spaces are filled with the odd accessory. So, why wouldn’t you do the same with your outdoor seating area? 

Accessorising your outdoor seating area can instantly up the ante and make it look more expensive, and a perk of doing this is that you get to make this space completely your own. 

Kirsty Barton, Marketing Manager at Alternative Flooring, explains, ‘When looking to add visual value to your outdoor seating area, getting creative with additional detail is a great place to start. One effective way to achieve this is by introducing a rug to an outdoor seating area, which instantly adds personal style to the area while creating a sense of balance and focal point.’

Of course, you don’t have to stop there. You could also add the best outdoor cushions to your garden furniture and focus on creating show-stopping outdoor tablescapes for your guests to enjoy. However, you need to care for these accessories to maintain this expensive-looking impact. 

Steve says, ‘It's important to keep on top of cleaning these, and remember to keep them out of constant sun if possible to prevent fading of any colours.’

5. Ditch the clutter

Wooden garden seating around stone fire pit with outdoor cushions and blanket

(Image credit: Future PLC)

By now, you should know that decluttering your home can make it feel bigger and more expensive. But what most people don’t realise is that the same rule applies outside the home - especially within your outdoor seating area. 

Steve says, ‘A cluttered outdoor space can make it feel cheaper, so remember that less is more when it comes to how your space looks. I recommend making sure there's enough walking space around all furnishings, and don't fill up the space with too much furniture.’

Of course, we understand how easy it is to store kid’s bicycles, gardening tools, and even the logs for your woodburner in a space that also doubles up as your outdoor seating area, but you need to be ruthless when it comes to this functional spot. If you can, reserve your outdoor seating area for your garden furniture and accessories alone. 

Then, you can choose garden storage to keep everything else safe and out of the way. When you’ve done that, all you need to do is clean your garden furniture to keep it in tip-top condition. 


How can I make my outdoor area look nice?

The easiest way to make an outdoor area look nice is to add functional and aesthetically pleasing furniture. If you have a smaller area, a small bistro dining set could work perfectly. If you have a larger area, you could opt for a lounge set or a larger outdoor dining table. 

When you have this in place, you can focus on the smaller details such as outdoor rugs, cushions, plants, and lighting. 

Ultimately, you have the final say on whether your outdoor area looks nice or not, so you can add whatever you want. Try not to make it too cluttered, though.

Outdoor kitchen in small garden

(Image credit: Talking Tables)

How do you make a small garden look expensive?

The aim is to make sure that you’re working with your small garden ideas, rather than against it. Although it can be easy to fill a small garden with furniture and accessories, sometimes this can cheapen it and make it look even smaller. 

So, focus on flexible and functional furniture that won’t overpower a space, as well as vertical additions such as climbing plants and trees. You could also use your walls and fences as space for more plants and herb gardens. 

Then, finish with smaller details that won’t encroach on the space, such as hanging lights and cushions for your garden furniture. 

See? Making your outdoor seating area look expensive doesn't need to actually be expensive!

Lauren Bradbury

Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.