How to make your patio look expensive - tricks to get a luxe look on a budget

Garden experts share their top tips

Garden patio ideas
(Image credit: Future PLC/Claire Lloyd Davies)

When it comes to patios they can easily become a dumping ground over winter and it can feel like a big, expensive job to turn it into a relaxing space when some rolls around. Luckily, there are several ways to give it a refresh and make a patio look expensive.

Since patio ideas are usually the centrepiece of a garden, getting it right is the first step in making your garden look good.

'The patio is often the focal point of the garden and a place to socialise with friends and family during the summer months, so making the space look as luxurious and inviting as possible will be a desirable feature for many homeowners and achieving this look doesn't have to break the bank,' explains Johanna Elvidge, head of domestic design at Marshalls

How to make a patio look expensive

To make the job easier, we've spoken to a number of garden experts and asked for their small patio ideas, so you can give your space a refresh on a budget.

1. Consider adding a pergola

Garden patio ideas

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

In recent years pergola ideas have seen a surge in popularity as they give your patio area a luxe vibe as well as doubling as a patio cover idea. At B&Q you can pick up a retractable roof pergola from £159, or if you're handy at DIY you can piece together a wooden one. They are also great for growing plants up to soften the look of hard landscaping.

'A pergola isn’t just a structure for growing plants, it can also improve the look and feel of your patio space,' explains Fiona Jenkins, garden design expert at 'Adding slats to the sides and painting it in a black or grey tone helps to create a modern, grown-up space that works for entertaining and peaceful relaxation.' 

2. Set the mood with lighting

Garden patio ideas

(Image credit: Lights4Fun)

Having a patio area that you can use both day and night means you will get a lot more use out of it. With some clever garden lighting ideas you can easily make it look high-end.

'Lighting can significantly transform the appearance of your patio into an expensive and peaceful space,' explains Jeannette Hudson, furniture expert, Online Sofa Shop. 'You can create this cosy atmosphere by hanging string lights over seating areas and placing lanterns on side tables. The key is to use soft, warm lights and layer them for a balanced and inviting effect.' 

3. Keep your patio clean

Garden patio ideas

(Image credit: Future PLC)

It might sound a bit obvious, but keeping your patio clear of clutter and learning how to clean a patio properly will help to give it a more expensive look. 'Similar to how you would clean your living room to create a relaxing and luxurious space, the same should be done with your patio,' explains Jeannette. 

'Wash your patio slabs using a bucket of washing-up liquid and warm water and scrub the surface of the tiles to rid the floor of most of the dirt. Use a hose or a fresh bucket of water to remove any final bits of dirt and grime. Sweep leaves and other debris off your patio regularly to keep on top of the maintenance.' Tidy away any outdoor toys, garden pots and tools when you're not using them, to give the space a sense of order.

4. Set up an awning

Awning over a patio

(Image credit: Hillarys)

Creating shady areas to hide from the mid-summer heat is key when planning your patio and rather than using a garden parasol, an awning is perfect for providing shade but gives your space a smart look. Plus, it can easily be retracted when not needed. 

'An awning can turn your patio area into a grown-up space for you and your friends to enjoy evening drinks or graze on delicious treats,' advises Yvonne Keal, senior product manager at Hillarys. 'Upgrade your awning with integrated lighting and heating features to ensure everyone feels warm and comfortable late into the evening.' 

5. Create different zones

Garden patio ideas

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Planning how you will use your patio space so you can set up different zones, will make the space feel more organised. 'If you have a large patio that’s used for different purposes, it can become a cluttered jumble of seating, toys and plants,' explains Fiona. 

'So, try zoning it to create a more coordinated space. You can use screens or plants to separate areas and hide clutter out of sight. This gives you clear, neat spaces that are easier to style.'

6. Cover up a patio with a rug

Garden patio ideas

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

If your patio has seen better days, perhaps weeds grow up through the cracks or you're stuck with some crazy paving until you can afford to redo it, an outdoor rug idea is a great way of covering it up and making the space look really smart. 

'Consider laying an outdoor rug and sitting furniture on top, as this will help to create a modern look, which paired with plant pots and solar lights, will help to take your patio from dull and cluttered to stylish and inviting,' advises Johanna.

7. Refresh outdoor furniture with paint

Garden patio ideas

(Image credit: Future PLC/Lizzie Orme)

Outdoor furniture can easily look tired if it's left exposed to the elements over winter. Giving it a refresh with some wood varnish or even painting it a bright shade with outdoor paint, can make it look like you've invested in some new furniture. 

'No matter the size of your patio space, adding a coat of paint is a quick and relatively inexpensive update that can transform your space form drab to stylish,' explains Helen Shaw, director or marketing at Benjamin Moore

'Garden furniture such as benches or stools can be upcycled with your favourite hue to quickly and easily create a quirky, personalised look. Paint smaller accessories within the space such as plant pots in the same shade to tie everything together.' 

8. Soften edges with plants

Garden patio ideas

(Image credit: Future PLC/Joanna Henderson)

Patios can look quite harsh if surrounded by other hard landscaping like fencing, but using plants can help to soften the look for a more stylish feel. 'Accent your furniture with plant pots to bring greenery onto your patio and enhance the look of your garden.' advises Jeannette. 

'Also, place your plants in colourful pots with different patterns and textures to balance out the more muted tones of your furniture.' Garden centres will often reduce the price of perennials at the end of the season, making it a great time to stock up on plants for the following year.

9. Choose stylish décor

Garden patio ideas

(Image credit: Future PLC)

If you're on a budget, simply updating some of your soft furnishing can be a great way to give your outdoor space a refresh. 'Invest in high-quality, luxurious cushions and throws that complement the colour scheme of your patio furniture. The simple addition can instantly elevate the overall look and feel, making even the most basic furniture appear more expensive.' Tom Allen, owner of TGA Concrete Pumping

Like you would indoors, pick a colour scheme and shop around for cushions, throws, candles etc. If your garden furniture is a neutral shade, choose a contrasting colour for soft furnishings to make the space really pop.

10. Highlight garden structures

Garden patio ideas

(Image credit: Future PLC/Joanna Henderson)

With some clever lighting you can make a focal point of some of the best features on your patio. 'Strategically placed lighting can draw attention to areas you want to enhance, such as patio structures or water features,' explains Brian Davenport, co-founder The Solar Centre

'You can wrap fairy lights around patio structures to contribute to the ambience of the space while pulling attention towards beautiful features.' Maybe you've got a beautiful tree or shrub you can light up or you could hang festoon lights from one side of a pergola to the other. A few inexpensive sets of outdoor lights can turn a patio into a luxe space in a flash.


How to make cheap patio furniture look expensive?

'It’s easy to lift patio furniture with the help of some fashionable cushions and throws,' explains Fiona. 'Warm neutrals work well for a modern, Mediterranean feel while classic blue and white will conjure up coastal vibes. Top a cheap table with tiles or cover it with a linen cloth and style it with your best glasses and crockery.'

How can I make my patio more interesting?

'Lighting can be used in various ways to elevate the patio area,' Fiona advises. 'Think about using multiple sources to layer the lighting and add interest. Uplighters and spotlights can highlight your best plants and pick out their unique qualities while table lanterns and wall lights can add a bit of atmosphere. Lights placed over a dining area can cosy up the space, creating an intimate and sophisticated ambience.'

Amy Hodge

Amy Hodge has been working on interiors magazines for over 11 years. She's a freelance writer and sub editor who has worked for some of the UK's leading interiors magazines including Ideal Home, Style at Home and Country Homes & Interiors. She started at Style at Home just after it launched as food editor and is now chief sub editor for Ideal Home, Style at Home and Country Homes & Interiors.