Create a charming and romantic outdoor space with these cottage patio ideas.
Outdoor areas should be seen as an extension of our homes, so whether you are augmenting an existing patio or creating one from scratch, it’s important to design a space that complements your house.
When considering cottage patio ideas, consider how are you going to use the space. Is it going to be a dining area for al fresco meals, or somewhere to relax after a long day? Giving your cottage patio an identity will help you to create a design that works for you as well as with the architecture of your home and garden.
Increasingly patio ideas also need to take into account the effects of climate change and be as eco-friendly as possible to tread gently on our fragile earth. Find inspiration for how to transform your space.
Cottage patio ideas
Designing a cottage patio that will complement both your lifestyle and your home involves making key decisions on a number of elements, from patio furniture ideas for relaxing and entertaining, to choosing the right patio lighting and patio planting ideas to enhance your enjoyment of the space.
The following ideas will help you to transform your cottage patio into your dream outdoor space.
1. Choose sustainable landscaping materials
Before you look into how to lay a patio, you need to decide on the choice of materials. Select paving that works well in the location, suits your budget, but is also as environmentally sustainable as possible.
Permeable paving options for cottage backyard ideas include brick, stone, pavers and gravel. Aim to avoid imported stone, and where possible scour salvage yards and re-use cobbles, bricks and even concrete pavers. Pavers can be made from recycled materials and reclaimed and traditional surfaces are particularly suitable for a cottage style.
'To keep a patio soft in terms of its impact on the earth, think about which stones you use. Reclaimed and local will have the least impact and carbon footprint. Stone takes thousands of years to be created, and will last a long time too,' explains garden designer Marian Boswall.
Mixed materials add interest and break up a large area, although think through the design carefully so it doesn’t look too haphazard. Flat areas for seating could use flagstones, whereas pathways and surrounding borders could use various sized stones, for example.
'When it comes to creating a sustainable patio, aim for materials that have been sourced or manufactured within the country; there will be concrete paving ranges that replicate the look and feel of imported natural stone,' explains Chris Griffiths, head of product sustainability at Marshalls.
'Pay attention to drainage, too, particularly if you live in an area at risk of flooding. A permeable surface will sustainably deal with rainwater, and there are drainage option that blend subtly into the paving, without compromising the overall look,' he adds.
2. Soften the look of paving with planting
Planting among the paving is an excellent cottage patio idea that is is aesthetically pleasing, perfect for a cottage style naturalistic planting design, and environmentally friendly.
Great choices include some favorite cottage garden plants, such as erigeron, thyme, aubretia, dianthus, chamomile, saxifraga, Alchemilla mollis, succulents and mondo grass. Dig out any weeds and add in some compost if needed before planting.
'I like to plant between the paving slabs. Either take out old jointing or a slab or two, or lay new paving stones with gaps between joints. Planting small mosses and herbs adds biodiversity as a sustainable garden idea and beauty and helps water seep slowly back to the earth when it rains,' says Marian Boswall.
3. Accessorize with pots
Container gardening ideas offer the possibility of a moveable display that can highlight the seasons or even put you in a holiday mood.
Whether an eclectic mix of pots or a carefully orchestrated scene, as cottage patio ideas, potted displays they allow you to express yourself in a way that you can adapt, allowing you to change the look in an instant.
Seasonal annuals can be added to more permanent evergreen shrubs, you can echo the colors of the house for cohesive co-ordinated combinations, be harmonious with your palette, or go for bright, eclectic energy with your plant choices.
4. Repurpose and recycle
Have fun finding interesting reclaimed pieces to use as cottage patio ideas, from seating to decorative detailing.
Scour local salvage yards or community websites. Dressing your outdoor area in a unique way with handcrafted or homemade up-cycling will add individual personality to the space, while also saving items from going to landfill.
Timber offcuts or pallets could be re-used for seating or to form a vertical garden, old crates can hold containers, and there are always lots of galvanized items, such as old coppers and troughs for use as characterful planters.
5. Add a pergola for shade and privacy
Pergola ideas are a simple addition to your backyard and provide a beautiful alternative to more substantial garden buildings. ‘Pergolas, clad with climbing plants, create a cozy and private space, finish off with outdoor heating and garden lighting’ says garden designer Charlotte Rowe.
The frame will provide a structure for climbing plants to scramble over, offering shade and filling the air with a sweet smell when they bloom.
Consider if you want shade year-round with evergreen climbers, such as star jasmine, climbing euonymus, potato vine and passionflower, or just for the heat of summer with deciduous options, from clematis to climbing roses. For privacy, back the area with large-leafed variegated ivy or other evergreens and fringe the area with frothy perennials and colorful annuals.
Set up a wooden table and chairs underneath the pergola for a beautiful al fresco dining space, and complement with table linen inspired by the prints of the Mediterranean to give your cottage patio idea that vacation-feeling at home.
6. Choose a large table for entertaining
This summer is one for celebration and reunions, so make sure everyone has a seat at the table; using patio cover ideas is a great way to ensure parties aren't interrupted by bad weather.
A long rectangular table or a round table will maximize the available space on a cottage patio and ensure everyone can socialize together.
Teak is one of the best outdoor furniture materials for cottage patios as it weathers beautifully, reflecting the aged patina of your home. Plus, it is really durable so doesn't need to be stored in a shed or garage once summer is over – ideal for a cottage where space is often at a premium. However, if your cottage patio has cover, using antique furniture like the table above, creates character.
7. Position seating to make the most of stunning views
When it comes to choosing garden furniture for a small cottage patio, the design determines the style of a small space.
‘Wrought iron garden furniture will be less clunky so won’t impose on your space and will create a more decorative and attractive courtyard,’ says Susie Watson of Susie Watson Designs
'Accessorize with colorful garden cushions in a variety of hues to brighten up the space,' she adds.
8. Plant edibles among ornamentals
Edibles don’t just belong in your vegetable garden ideas. Incorporate them among your cottage patio ideas and enjoy their beauty as well as the ease of harvesting, for a seating or dining area with a difference.
Look for compact varieties of edible crops to grow for vegetable garden container ideas, include climbers trained up supports, and try low growing patio edging with wild strawberries or ribbons of thyme to use the space creatively.
'Help yourself' takes on a whole new meaning with homegrown organic garnishes to hand, especially if you place the garden right outside the patio door, so you can grab a handful of whatever you need while cooking.
9. Sink the patio
In more exposed locations, or where you seek a little privacy, a sunken patio lined by low walls still allows you to gaze over views, while also being protected from the wind.
This design by Ian Kitson follows the contours of the surrounding borrowed landscape, with the serpentine walls echoed by sinuous planting blending into the countryside.
Planting is simple to accentuate the design with neatly clipped waves of buxus hedging and repeated ribbons of bright crimson penstemon, drought-tolerant planting such as purple salvias and accents from spires of phlomis.
10. Enjoy the patio into the evening with a firepit
Even the warmest days can bring with them cool evenings. As the sun drops, light up a backyard fire pit to keep the party going well into the night.
Place a fire pit at the heart, then surround it with colorful cane seating and plenty of water resistant outdoor rugs and cushions to create a cozy spot for evening relaxation.
11. Create a private dining space on your cottage patio
Take advantage of an exterior wall – or garden wall – to create a secluded dining space. Pair white walls with pale flooring to create a bright sun-trap that will be a delight in spring-time and all through the summer.
'It is important with small garden ideas to simplify the material and plant palette to create a cohesive scheme,' says garden designer Adolfo Harrison. Opt for a combination of seating styles to create a relaxed look.
12. Choose a secluded spot
Position a cottage patio in a secluded spot hidden away from the wider garden – a secret place for a meal, or to sit and read a favorite novel with a cup of tea.
Immerse yourself in a touch of wildness with self-sown flowers popping up, vines entwining supports, eclectic pots, and encircling shrubs, for a secret patio feel.
Plants such as Alchemilla mollis, erigeron and Sisyrinchium striatum will find their way into crannies. Wafting ornamental grasses and perennials are lovely enclosing the space to create your garden escape. A curved bed part way round the patio could form a living framework that divides the space.
13. Use festoon lighting to create a romantic ambience for your cottage patio
Prolong al fresco summer evenings for as long as possible by illuminating your garden with festoon lighting.
'The right designs can transform an outdoor space,' says Tina Maony director of design furniture store Go Modern. 'And advances in technology have created a much wider choice.'
Opt for outdoor lighting ideas with a warm white ambient glow to create a magical twilight atmosphere that is ideal for illuminating parties and barbecues.
14. Add a pop of color
Brighten your cottage patio with painted structures and detailing. Try some color psychology, such as green and earthy tones for eco-friendliness, orange and yellow to stimulate appetite, bright tones to boost the mood, or tranquil, harmonious cool and calming tones for a space to relax in.
'Preparation is key when painting to ensure the longevity of outdoor structures and furniture. These things are likely to face all conditions throughout a year. For wooden items it is vital to fill cracks, holes and other imperfections using wood filler,' says Michael Rolland, MD of The Paint Shed.
Make sure you know how to paint furniture before you start.
Sand and prepare the surface and choose the right type of paint. ‘Not checking the weather before painting is a common mistake. You may think that painting in full sun will speed up the process, unfortunately the faster the sun dries the paint the more mistakes there will be, such as drag marks and dried drips. Overcast and warm is ideal,’ adds Michael.
15. Create an outdoor kitchen for al fresco entertaining
Increasingly we are maximizing the potential of our gardens, using them as extensions of the living space to recreate that holiday feeling. Outdoor kitchen ideas have become a must-have design feature and the trend for cooking outdoors has seen the rise of pizza ovens and even outdoor kitchens being incorporated into more and more homes.
Create a cottage patio reminiscent of the sun-baked cities of Italy by painting walls with rich terracotta and iron reds and pair with patterned tiles and chunky wooden furniture to complete the look.
16. Add a swing seat to your cottage patio
Gardening is all about taking a moment to pause; to stop and smell the roses, as well as the jasmine, buddleia and honeysuckle. Adding a bench, or a swing seat, into your garden gives you the perfect place to sit back and enjoy the spectacle.
A seat like this, painted to blend in with the planting, will fit seamlessly with a cottage garden and is perfect for a cottage patio area. Its frame design means it can be planted with climbers to create an oasis of colorful and fragrant blooms, while also adding much needed garden shade.
17. Add a water feature for a serene space
Nothing evokes calm and tranquility quite like the sound of trickling water. Introducing a water feature as a cottage patio idea will not only add texture and visual interest to your garden, but will also contribute to the air of serenity, creating a restful environment that is sure to delight.
This could be a series of small ponds in place of some of the pavers, a larger single pond or an engineered rill designed by a specialist.
To fully enjoy the mirror-like qualities of the ever-changing reflections don’t over plant the surrounding area.
18. Create a decked cottage patio
Adding deck ideas to your garden opens it up to a whole host of design opportunities. A softer alternative to paving, it harmonises with trees and planting to create the perfect space for al fresco dining or relaxing, and it can be raised for better views.
Opting for unstained wood means it will age gracefully over time, blending into the garden aesthetic and complementing your cottage home.
19. Add privacy with planting and screening
Are you wondering how to make your cottage patio more private? Planting and other garden screening ideas are a brilliant way to do so.
Opt for tall willowy plants, which will create a peaceful shelter both from the window and from the rest of your garden. Growing them in pots means you also have the flexibility to move them, when needed.
Another way to increase privacy is to build a pergola over your patio area and grow climbing plants over it – roses and clematis are all great choices that will also smell delicious when in bloom.
If your garden has several levels consider building a wall to enclose your patio which will both make it feel more private and prevent onlookers.
20. Design the perfect space for an al fresco drink
Turn any corner of your garden into a chic pot to host a summer reception with a rustic bar table and stools. Their compact size and natural aesthetic makes the perfect fit for a wide variety of gardens, and they will age beautifully if left outside.
How can I make my patio more attractive?
Dressing your cottage patio will immediately enhance the look. This includes using soft furnishings, such as cushions and a cosy throw, some favorite decorative pieces to draw the eye, unusual vases brimming with flowers, and seasonal color with plants in containers.
How do I make my cottage patio feel cozy?
Make your cottage patio feel cozy by use soft furnishings and accessories. Large, colorful outdoor cushions spread across sofa-style garden furniture, with a couple of blankets to hand for when the evenings get cold.
If you have a dining area on your patio lay an outdoor rug under your table. ‘It makes the space feel considered and comfortable, and keeps evening chills off your feet’ says Tasha Green, director of outdoor soft furnishing specialist Weaver Green.
A firepit also goes a long way to making the space feel warm and cozy. Position in the heart of your entertaining space so that everyone can feel the benefit of the flickering flames.
How do you make a small cottage patio look bigger?
Make your small cottage patio look bigger with careful planting and by adding a mirror.
A small and inexpensive addition to the garden, a mirror can revolutionise the space, flooding shady corners with sunlight and making it look instantly larger. Pick a design which is shaped like a window to create the illusion of hidden areas, giving your garden a magical air.
If your cottage patio is small, then make the most of all the available space. Think vertically, planting up fences and walls to transform your small cottage patio into a botanical oasis.
How can I update my patio cheaply?
There are lots of budget ideas to update your patio cheaply.
Some quick and easy ideas include sowing flower seeds in cracks, looking out for unusual items to recycle and up cycle, and unleashing your inner artist by painting garden furniture and structures using leftover paint pots.
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Having graduated with a first class degree in English Literature, Holly started her career as a features writer and sub-editor at Period Living magazine, Homes & Gardens' sister title. Working on Period Living brought with it insight into the complexities of owning and caring for period homes, from interior decorating through to choosing the right windows and the challenges of extending. This has led to a passion for traditional interiors, particularly the country-look. Writing for the Homes & Gardens website as a content editor, alongside regular features for Period Living and Country Homes & Interiors magazines, has enabled her to broaden her writing to incorporate her interests in gardening, wildlife and nature.
- Leigh ClappContributing Editor
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