The dictionary definition for patio is “an outdoor space for dining or recreation that adjoins a residence.” This basic understanding is needed because there are no boundaries when it comes to patio designs, but it all begins with a foundation for outdoor living.
Form Follows Function
The first step in patio design is understanding what you want to accomplish. Do you only require a spot big enough for a table, chairs and BBQ grill for occasional outdoor dinners with those in your home? Or do you spend a large part of the summer entertaining large groups of people in your backyard? Or do you desire a quiet, shady spot for only you to get lost in a good book? Or do you want a patio wonderland that can do all of these things? Knowing the patio’s function helps create the form.
Where to Place It
Once you know your outdoor living goals, where to place the patio comes next. Pay attention to the sun and wind patterns in your backyard so they work to your advantage. For instance, if the time of day you would use the patio most is also when it’s sunniest, some form of patio cover could be a key part of the layout.
Also consider the scenery around the proposed patio. Is there already a focal point like gardens or woods that you’d like to gaze upon? If so, then orient the patio to lead the eye there. If the views beyond aren’t so great, the layout can incorporate privacy borders (such as fences or landscaping) to block views, and the focal point can become something like a water fountain or an outdoor kitchen.
What Size Should It Be
The area that’s been determined as the best place to put a patio will also determine its size. If you have a large backyard, a rambling outdoor living room with multiple levels, seating and activity areas can be yours. If, instead, you have a small courtyard or side yard area, then an intimate alfresco dining area would be ideal.
While a large area gives you a large list of options to incorporate, a small area does not necessarily limit your options; some of the very best design ideas come about because of limitations. For example, a 6-foot patio can center around a fire pit and be edged with half walls that also work as bench seating.
What Features Are Desired
A simple slab of poured and stamped concrete outside your backdoor can be a straightforward plan. But if a gas grill, water feature or lighting is part of the design, provisions must be made for running and installing the appropriate utility lines. Installation of utility lines can also change the layout; for running water in an outdoor kitchen, it may be more advantageous to site it closer to the house to reduce the cost of plumbing lines.
What Should It Look Like
When following the steps listed above, you will know the function, siting, size and features. The final step is what does it look like and what is it made of?
At this point, designing your patio is exactly like designing a room in your house. You will consider materials, furniture, appliances, lighting and landscaping. A construction budget and schedule can now also happen. In essence, you are creating an outdoor room that – in the Metro St. Louis area – can easily be used 9 months out of the year, so all of this planning will result in a patio project done right the first time.
Because there are so many details that go into creating your perfect patio, you will benefit from working a design-build firm like Mosby Building Arts, who have Consultants, Planners and Carpenters under one roof. Browse their portfolio of outdoor living projects for inspiration, and begin your project by calling the Mosby office at or contact them here.