Patio cover ideas – 15 ways to create shelter, shade and privacy in the garden
Our patio cover ideas will make an outdoor dining or seating area a pleasure to use
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The best patio cover ideas will not only protect you from sun, rain, wind and cold, but they will also be a stylish feature of your garden that will enhance your outdoor space.
If you’re determined to use your garden for as long as possible this summer, a patio cover will help you shelter from both the late summer sun and the odd rain shower.
‘Think of cover for a patio – and a shaded spot – as a multi sensory experience of sight, sound and scent,’ says award-winning landscape and garden designer, Sarah Eberle.
Sarah's patio ideas focus on creating a real sanctuary in your garden: ‘Trickling water or swaying grass will feel cooling, while foliage is good at absorbing heat. The aim is to create an area to relax in, so avoid busy bright colors and instead focus on texture, using green and paler blooms.'
For calming garden shade ideas, Sarah recommends using blues, 'they look wonderful in the evening light, too.’
Patio cover ideas
Mediterranean garden ideas have been big in 2022 and in the Mediterranean they do shade well out of necessarily. So look at pictures of gardens from Italy, Spain, Malta and Greece for patio cover ideas to suit all sizes and budgets.
To get you started, we've rounded up the best patio cover ideas for creating shade, adding intrigue and providing shelter in your garden.
1. Build a pitched roof
If the patio furniture idea of your dreams it to create a space that feels like a true outdoor living room, build a patio cover that offers full protection from the elements, like the pitched roof on this patio by designer Tiffany Hinton of Lola Interiors (opens in new tab).
'The homeowner was looking for a space to take in the beauty of her marsh-front view – while also enjoying comfort from the elements with features like the corrugated metal roof and retractable screens,' explains Hinton. 'In addition to a comfortable sitting porch, this is their summer kitchen, where they often grill and cook – including pizzas in a wood fire oven – but just because it’s outside doesn’t mean it didn’t get the same attention as her coastal Mediterranean interiors. The showstopper here – a custom built metal hood that served as centerpiece for the space, merging form and function."
2. Use a pergola to define a space
If your patio is sited away from your house, covering it with a pergola is a great way to make the placement look intentional and permanent. Pergola shade ideas are perfectly showcased in this large, three-tiered yard in Los Angeles, where designer Annie Carolin of Pride of Place Design (opens in new tab) added a metal pergola above the second-tier patio to distinguish a conversation area.
3. Choose a floating roof in a modern space
At this modern southern home, the roof extends off of the side of the house without any support beams, a perfect match to the minimalist, organic architecture. The patio cover also offers functional benefits thanks to dual fans and recessed lighting.
On the patio below, designer Brittany Farinas of Miami-based House of One (opens in new tab) took advantage of the shelter to create an indoor-outdoor room with luxe sofas and a pair of fire pits.
4. Add a pergola with lights
A pergola above your patio is a great way to incorporate patio lighting ideas so you can use your outdoor space after dark. If you're designing a patio from scratch, you can have your pergola hardwired for an electrical connection and install pendant or downlighting.
If you're retrofitting an existing or store-bought pergola, try adding string lights in a zig-zag pattern beneath the pergola roof, or purchase a plug-in pendant light that can be hung, swag-style, in the center of your pergola.
5. Enhance your outdoor ambience
Covering your patio adds to the feeling that your outdoor space is part of your home, so take advantage of a covered patio to create an outdoor room with style.
This patio cover features rustic wood beams and columns that add visual warmth and character to the space. Meanwhile, designer Shoshanna Shapiro or Sho & Co. added hanging plants and farmhouse-style light fixtures to the ceiling to underscore the home's aesthetic.
6. Install a barely-there pavilion
If you are building a patio cover for a modern home, then look no further than a frameless glass structure.
Designed to provide free-flowing sightline, while protecting from wind, rain and excess sun, a modern ‘glass-box’ structure can feel surprisingly at home in a rural setting, too.
Freestanding glass pavilions can provide all the creature comforts of an indoor living area in the heart of your garden. Plus, they provide the opportunity for one of the most popular patio door ideas of the moment – bi-fold doors.
Use infra-red heating to keep the interior warm.
7. Create shade in your garden with trees
Bring a contemporary garden to life with a selection of clever patio planting ideas. The rights trees and shrubs for shade can provide adequate shade, as well as privacy to your outdoor oasis.
The parasol pruning of plane trees in the garden above has encouraged a flat but full canopy to provide plenty of shade in this small garden.
Both parasol (single stem) and umbrella (multi-stem) trees will have had the central lateral branches cut back to achieve their shape; the canopy can be trained over a frame for extra support.
8. Provide patio shade with an umbrella
With sunny days in short supply in some parts of the country, it’s easy to overlook the importance of shade when setting up an outdoor dining or outdoor kitchen area.
But, shelter from the midday sun is vital for skin protection and all-round comfort. While outdoor areas in hotter climates benefit from permanent shade – in the most northeastern parts of the US – it’s best to go for a flexible solution, such as an umbrella.
Umbrellas can be freestanding, with a heavyweight base, or supported by your patio table. They can be prone to wind damage so always lay flat when not in use. A cantilever umbrella has the pole at one side, which may better suit your furniture layout, and often pivot to follow the sun so you’re not blinded halfway through lunch.
9. Invest in a entirely bespoke patio cover
A pergola shouldn't be resigned to country homes. In fact, a modern scheme can hugely benefit from contemporary pergola ideas and structural design, such as this one above.
Any garden structure should be considered in relation to the house. That's not to say it needs to match exactly – old meets new is very popular right now – but your choice should be sympathetic.
Inspired by a pergola designed by Hay Joung Hwang (opens in new tab) for the 2016 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, the owner asked her builder to work with garden designer Virginie Vallee of Square Garden Design (opens in new tab) to create a similar feature. The result is a pergola that complements the modern garden design without being an eyesore.
10. Site a pretty pergola
If there is space, a pergola with climbers is a beautiful way to bring shade to a garden or terrace and is also a natural way to incorporate garden privacy ideas into your space, whether you're designing a charming cottage patio or a sleek and modern version.
‘It also adds an element of romance, especially if you choose to cover it with scented plants such as roses, jasmine or honeysuckle,’ says Laure Chaudanson at Helen Green Design (opens in new tab). ‘A more architectural structure, combined with the right plants, works a treat in contemporary spaces, too.’
11. Create an outdoor room with a colorful canopy
Temporary structures allow for a bit of fun and the chance to dress up the garden for a particular event or occasion. For example, an Indian Summer theme would call for bright colors, pattern and plenty of blooms and foliage on display.
An outdoor living space need not be enclosed to work as a clearly defined ‘room’.
‘To successfully establish a relaxation area that feels like a natural continuation of your home, choose furniture in a similar design and style to that found inside, says Bianca Sanchez, director of Halo Design Interiors (opens in new tab).
12. Use a pergola as support for trailing greenery
If your garden lacks shelter, then adding a man-made structure like a pergola could be a good option for you.
The role of a support goes beyond playing host to flowers during the growing season. Well-designed supports also enhance a garden’s aesthetic, providing strong clean lines that look good all year around, as well as giving your outdoor space an element of privacy.
The happy marriage of support and plant is the key to adding vertical elements. In practice, this means checking a climber’s eventual size to ensure it will neither outgrow its allowed space nor swamp its support.
13. Set up a shade sail
A simple fabric sail or canopy creates shade wherever needed, and choosing a bright color and pattern will make it a feature in a large garden, too.
Outdoor fabrics have the benefit of being shower-proof, and stain, UV and fade-resistant, but an improvised shade in a sturdy interiors fabric will stand up to occasional use, too.
14. Entertain in a shady spot
Although the dream of catching some rays while dining outdoors sounds good, it’s much more practical and comfortable to include some shade.
If your garden doesn’t have a covered spot that offers protection from the sun, you can consider this when designing a patio for your space and create a pergola for it. You can then grow wisteria and vines that will provide beautiful dappled light and relief from the heat.
Once the sun goes down, use pretty patio lighting such as festoon lights and paper lanterns, and lay down outdoor cushions, for a garden party vibe.
15. Invest in a permanent patio cover
Do you live in a permanently sunny climate? If so, then installing a cooling spot for relaxing, entertaining or designed purely as a retreat, will make your garden a joy to use all day long.
When it comes to cost of a new patio, if money is no object, then a verandah is the ideal option for your back or front porch.
Timber structures have long made favorite garden shelters, and there is a vast choice of styles beyond the standard design. We recommend using materials and colors that are sympathetic to the architecture of your home for a seamless look.
What is the best patio cover?
The best patio cover is one that caters to the needs of the garden as well as the user.
If your patio is overlooked, it’s likely you will want it to have a secluded feel. Temporary options like small tress in large planters or decorative screens can help, but if you need a more permanent structure, a small pergola or automated awning are good options to incorporate into your plans.
As well as providing privacy, shelter and shade, a pergola has the advantage or creating an extra planting opportunity and adds an architectural element to the look.
What can I cover my patio with?
There are many ways to cover your patio. Incorporating an awning or durable roof to cover a patio area turns it into an extra living space that can be used year round. Choose a sleek, minimal design that integrates into your outdoor space.
What is the cheapest way to cover a patio?
The cheapest way to cover your patio is with a parasol or sail. Shade sails and cantilever umbrellas offer relief from the sun, without blocking a summer breeze or your views.
Patio covers protect you from sun, rain, wind and cold and can be fitted to an outside wall or as a stand-alone feature, so it is worth investing in a good quality design.
Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.
- Kaitlin MaddenExecutive Editor, Homes & Gardens
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