Designer reveals the most common patio decorating mistake – and what you should do instead

Patio party season has arrived, but is your space ready? Avoid the most common mistake with advice from the expert

Large county garden with patio space and dining table
(Image credit: Andy Stedman Design)

Garden party season is tantalizingly close; and we have already picked our homemade cocktail receipts and chosen our outfits, weather dependent, of course

However, what can we do to get our exterior spaces ready? As these areas play host to our friends and family once more, it is critical that our gardens mirror the ambiance of our interiors – and the easiest way to create this flow between indoor/outdoor living is with a patio. 

See: Patio ideas – for living and dining outdoors, stylishly

It's certainly easy to see the appeal behind patios, as they offer a stylish space to indulge in the late summer sun without the luxe amenities of a living area – but in all their glory, patios are hard to get right. 

Cue Andy Stedman – founder and Creative Director at Andy Stedman Design – who has revealed the one thing that may be hindering our patio design. And his revelation might just save our summer and beyond. 

Large county garden with patio space and dining table

(Image credit: Andy Stedman Design)

What is the biggest patio design mistake?  

According to Andy, the ultimate patio mistake is neglecting to 'scale the space' and forgetting to leave enough room for large furniture. Many of us may not think about bringing sizable furnishings onto our patio or terrace; however, the designer encourages us to think big – while using these pieces strategically.

'Go big, fill the space, but allow for flow around when chairs are pushed out. Hide unsightly drain covers with recessed covers to pave within, hiding the drain entirely, containing the flawless porcelain paving lines,' Andy says.

'Light, large paving tiles can make a small space look larger. Tight grout joints make it look contemporary and seamless.'

What should we do instead? 

Large county garden with path and flowers

(Image credit: Andy Stedman Design)

1. Pre-consider how the space will be used

Larger pieces of furniture take more planning but taking the time to thoroughly consider the patio's size is perhaps the most important step in scaling the space. Andy explains that a patio should be 'large enough to accommodate the desired furniture configuration, size, and [have enough] room to move around it.'

Large county garden with patio space and dining table

(Image credit: Andy Stedman Design)

See: Patio furniture ideas – pretty ways to furnish your patio

'Two facing three-seater sofas and coffee or fire table is a classic layout, with a dining table and chairs for four to eight people – plus other desired functionality for cooking such as a BBQ or pizza oven.'

'The idea is for the terrace to feel part of the garden and house - while providing very usable enjoyable space – and so it is important to soften with planting while adding interest with styling elements such as planters, candle lanterns, occasional seating,' Andy adds.

2. Don't forget about the lighting 

City garden with patio space filled with furniture and lights

(Image credit: Andy Stedman Design)

When designing a patio, adding subtle lighting throughout similarly helps to scale the space while accentuating the area's focal points, whether that is a garden ornament or a large tree. Correct lighting also extends the patios whilst adding style and into the evening – all year round. 

'We mix atmospheric lighting with task lighting to ensure clients can use the space to the maximum,' Andy adds. 

3. Remember the importance of planting 

City garden with patio space with furniture, trees and lavender

(Image credit: Andy Stedman Design)

While scaling a space with large furniture is important, Andy reminds us not to neglect the planting. Instead, he recommends time choosing hedges or trees, such as 'such as pleached Carpinus Betulus (Hornbeam) Prunus lusitanica Angustifolia (Portuguese laurel)' which will 'create background structure and seasonal interest.' In addition, these plants' immediately create a defined space' while acting as a screen 'from neighboring properties. 

'This can be softened with lower-level planting - think about adding contrasting textures, plant shapes, and pops of color,' Andy suggests. 

Now we have every excuse to go big – in terms of patio furniture and in terms of parties too. 

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.