How to make a deck more inviting – 5 expert tips for outdoor living in style

These insider insights will give your decked space a more welcoming feel

outdoor dining table with vase of flowers
(Image credit: Serena & Lily)

Outdoor decks are a place to relax, enjoy the sunshine, dine alfresco, and entertain loved ones. In other words, they're the social hub of a backyard, so it's important that they feel like a welcoming and comfortable space that both you and your guests want to spend time in.

'I think of outdoor decks as living rooms outside the house,' says Chris Matthias, Founder of House Adorable.

'By envisioning them serving similar purposes as your indoor living room, you can start picturing how to decorate them and how to arrange your furniture to make it the coziest, most inviting place possible.'

Create a more welcoming decked space with these expert tips

The outdoor living experts share their ideas on how to make a deck feel like an extension of your indoor living space.

1. Pick comfortable furniture that accommodates everyone

Dobbies decking with sofa and plants

An inviting setup from Dobbies

(Image credit: Dobbies)

'Nothing says "welcome" like comfortable seating,' says Jonathan Faccone, an interior designer and the Founder of Halo Homebuyers.

'Choose weather-resistant furniture that is made to withstand the elements, and cushions that are designed to be weatherproof and fade-resistant.' And as well as being comfortable, ensure it looks great, too – and can accommodate the number of people you need it to.

Corner sofas slot into spaces perfectly while stackable chairs are useful for smaller decks. For an unexpected focal point, consider a swinging patio chair – a look that's proving popular according to Wayfair, and for good reason.

Whatever outdoor furniture you choose, make sure it fits the purpose of your deck. 'On a poolside deck, we love an all-out private beach club look: several chaise lounges in a row, each with its own side table and umbrella, layered with pillows and beach towels in a consistent color palette. Stripes are a classic and fresh choice,' says Kirsty Williams, Chief Design Officer of Serena & Lily.

Kirsty also highlights the benefits of furniture that you can easily move in or out of the sun – suggesting 'an umbrella with wheels, lighter-weight lounge chairs, a chaise with wheels, smaller scale side tables, and a bar cart or console. This flexibility also allows for entertaining large groups and more intimate gatherings.'

Jonathan Faccone
Jonathan Faccone

Jonathan is a full-time real estate investor, designer, and developer. He is the Managing Member of Halo Homebuyers, a real estate home-buying company based in Bridgewater, New Jersey, and doing business throughout New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania. For over 11 years, Halo has been redeveloping distressed properties and beautifying neighborhoods with attention to design aesthetics and quality craftsmanship.

Kirsty Williams headshot
Kirsty Williams

Kirsty has been with Serena & Lily since 2012, a luxury indoor and outdoor furniture company that combines a coastal, Californian style with quality design. She hails from Aberdeen, Scotland and is a graduate of St. Martins School of Art, London.

2. Use lighting that still looks great during the day

outdoor pendant lights over deck by Serena & Lily

These Summerland Outdoor Bell Pendants from Serena & Lily create a fabulous focal point

(Image credit: Serena & Lily)

'Adding ambient lighting to your deck is an incredibly effective way to create a comfortable and inviting atmosphere,' says Jonathan Faccone. 'Solar lights, paper lanterns, and string lights are all great options. If you’re able to, consider installing overhead or recessed lighting to create a truly magical atmosphere.'

According to Wayfair, wall lighting is currently proving popular: 'It creates atmosphere, but more importantly, it supports wayfinding and accessibility,' the team comments. 

'We love using multiple forms of lighting, in the form of a group of pendants or sconces, plus candlelit lanterns,' says Kirsty. And, with the right designs, lighting can make just as much of an impact in the day as it does when it's a-glow at night. These rattan-effect pendants are a gorgeous example, adding serious style points to the scene.

Summerland Outdoor Bell Pendant | $698 from Serena & Lily

Summerland Outdoor Bell Pendant | $698 from Serena & Lily
This open-weave pendant is made from durable resin and comes in three colorways: harbor gray, driftwood, and light dune. There are also two sizes available so you can pick the perfect one for your space.

3. Curate a considered color palette

outdoor dining area with furniture painted with Little Greene

This scene incorporates Little Green exterior paints in 'Loft White 222', 'Celestial Blue 101', and 'Garden 86'

(Image credit: Little Greene)

Whether styling an interior or exterior space, color is crucial and plays a key role in setting the mood. So spend time planning your palette.

Start with the decking color itself. Wooden decks can be enhanced and protected with a clear coat or a beautiful stain color that highlights its natural environment, says Philippa Radon, C2 Paint Color and Design Expert. 'Stains are offered in various natural, earthy colors, from bleached, coastal grays (popular on the east coast) to mahoganies to blacks (which have seen an increase in popularity).'

Neutral-hued furniture has a timeless appeal and can be updated with colorful pillows as the seasons change. And, in line with a move towards 'moody patios', Wayfair has found that black furniture has been popular recently. It's 'one of the more intriguing trends we're seeing for this season,' says Rebecca Breslin, Wayfair Professional Senior Design Manager. 

Alternatively, add a sense of playfulness with bolder, more vibrant tones. These green-painted chairs, shown above, complement the exterior walls and rugs beautifully.

4. Bring plenty of plants into the mix

covered patio with climbing plants up a trellis

A tranquil space from Serena & Lily

(Image credit: Serena & Lily)

'Adding oversized terracotta pots with citrus or other colorful plantings of variable heights and flora tones creates a more inviting and cozy area and a reminder that this is outdoor living,' says Philippa Radon. 'The more plants, the better!'

'Adding greenery will make your outdoor deck feel more natural, peaceful, and inviting,' adds Jonathan. He suggests hanging plants and using other container gardening ideas, as well as planting flowers around the perimeter.

If your deck is enclosed on one or more sides, consider creating a living wall with climbing plants and a trellis, as demonstrated in this setup shown above. It's a great way to make the most of the vertical space and bring more foliage and color into the scene.

Antiqued Ring Ceramic Jar Planter, 15" | $168 from Terrain

Antiqued Ring Ceramic Jar Planter, 15" | $168 from Terrain
Boost the amount of greenery in your outdoor living space with the help of this durable, terracotta-blend planter. I like its natural and pared-back style with its pleasing texture and think it would complement all sorts of schemes.

5. Add personal touches

outdoor dining setup by Serena & Lily

The perfect setup for alfresco dining in style, from Serena & Lily

(Image credit: Serena & Lily)

Like indoors, accessories play a major role in adding drama, style, and a personal touch, says Philippa.

'It’s important to consider proportion, mixing materials and textures, and the layering of details such as lighting, lanterns, pillows, and throw blankets for chilly evenings,' says Kirsty of Serena & Lily. 'An outdoor rug can define a space and feel soft under bare feet.

'We encourage adding the same layers you would indoors, but in performance materials.'

And for the perfect finishing touch when entertaining guests, arrange a vase of seasonal blooms – picked from your own cutting garden if you have one – for your outdoor dining table.

Woven Fabiana Indoor/Outdoor Pillow | $78–$88 from Anthropologie

Woven Fabiana Indoor/Outdoor Pillow | $78–$88 from Anthropologie
Add a playful pop of color to your bench or outdoor sofa with these scatter pillows – it's hard to resist those pompom details.


Of course, there are other ways to make your deck look more inviting – it all depends on how you want to use and enjoy the space. 

'A fire pit might help your party last longer or make a staycation feel a bit more romantic,' says Lindsay Kenison, Associate Category Merchandise Manager of Patio Furniture with Christy Sports. 'Soft lighting beyond your deck and around the yard can make your landscaping look more remarkable. Fun games, an outdoor movie screen and projector, or your dream grill will keep you returning to your space night after night and season after season. 

'The key is to not get overwhelmed – start with the basics and build your space over time with quality and comfort.'

Holly Crossley
Senior Content Editor

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then; over the years, she's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator. Having worked for Gardeningetc.com for two years, Holly now writes about plants and outdoor living for Homes & Gardens.