How to Block Out Neighbors' View of Your Patio — 5 Tricks to Add Privacy in a Subtle, Stylish Way

Designers favorite tools that will not (always) make it super obvious that you're trying to figure out how to block out a neighbors' view

Stone patio space with wooden pergola with greenery and two hammock chairs
(Image credit: Life Created for Living with Lolo)

When warm weather is in sight, the prospect of sipping coffee out on the patio is pure bliss. Just imagine the sun's rays, teamed with a little bird song... it's the perfect setting, for which your patio can make a prime location.

However, feeling the watchful eye of neighbors is not the outdoor living vibe we want to create. No matter how good their Sangria may be, So how can you make your patio feel more private? All without making it so brutally obvious that it is borderline rude and putting you at risk of not receiving an invite to the next neighborhood BBQ? 

When it comes to easy tweaks to make a patio feel more private it is all about working with the landscaping you have and incorporating outdoor structures that will not impose on your backyard view. However, what if you are on good terms with your neighbors, and do not want to shut them out, per se, but just want to create a patio space that feels more intimate and inviting? We asked some pros, and this is what to do.

1. Plant a jungle canopy for conversation zones

Christine-Ritter-Designs gray patio seat with wooden slat outdoor table in front of leafy tree and palm border

(Image credit: The Kandid/Justin Lim Photography for Ritter & Co/Christine Ritter Designs)

There is a reason why we happily revive our patios after winter, this outdoor space has conviviality written all over it. 'Patios are an excellent space to host the most intimate of conversations,' rightly says Christine Ritter of Ritter & Co. 'I find creating zones on a patio essential to bring people together. The right roofing for shade, the right furniture to lounge on… and, most importantly, privacy - to make sure nothing distracts.' For an inviting patio, furniture needs to add spark and meet your design needs, then when it comes to creating a comfortable environment where conversation will flow, large plants and the best trees for privacy will add subtle seclusion and style.

'My most favorite tool for privacy is nature,' continues Christine. 'Trees and leaves provide a huge range of benefits - from privacy, to attention restoration… and, when curated properly, can turn into sculptural features of their own. 

'If given the space, rather than build a wall on a patio to block others from looking in, I source a selection of trees to create a natural wall all around. For this patio in Hong Kong for example, we used a range of tropical plants (easy to care of and typhoon-proof) and mixed in some feature plants, such as a lemon tree, a sculptural Draceana and a fiddle leaf fig tree.‘

Christine continues to note how the power of planting was clear in this project to create patio privacy. ‘With no additional wall built and surrounding buildings about 10 meters all around - the trees provided the ultimate level of privacy without blocking natural airflow, creating the perfect, private escape in the middle of a busy city.' For best results, a combination of plants is key, this will bring the most visual interest with different levels and dappled light that will draw the eye in as much as it will distract it from the conversations... A varied plant approach might make a small garden look bigger too. 

2. Use shadow to create iconic detail that distracts

Patio with wooden pergola and climbing plants framing hammock chairs

Space by Living With Lolo, photography courtesy of Life Created

(Image credit: Life Created for Living with Lolo)

This paved patio space with its gorgeous slatted wooden pergola is the perfect example of how to use the best plants to cover a fence, layered with an outdoor structure like a pergola, or canopy, can frame a seating area, making it feel more intimate. 'Enhancing the privacy of your patio can be effortlessly achieved by incorporating greenery or privacy screens,' says Lauren Lerner, CEO and Founder of Living With Lolo.

'Nowadays, privacy screens are available in a wide variety of metal patterns and sizes, offering an array of excellent choices for you to consider.' What’s more, you don’t have to invest in a completely closed outdoor structure or screen if you would rather keep the space politely open, if anything, designers encourage us to use those with a little space and more intricate patterns incorporated into their designs:

’If you don't have a particularly green thumb, there are also really lovely partition screens available, both vintage and new,’ adds ‘The ideal way to create more privacy on a patio would be to either grow or buy a mix of mature climbing plants and hanging plants to create a natural barrier with a little romance to it,’ shares Laëtitia Wajnapel, creator of Cinquième Gauche. ‘These make great decor elements while affording some privacy. Again, if you are into shadow play, pick a screen with an interesting pattern and watch as your patio comes alive at different times of day.’ 

A more robust alternative here would be to use breeze blocks, consider them around an outdoor kitchen, for example. 'If you want something a little more involved and your house style lends itself to it, you can invest in some breeze blocks, they are particularly striking when paired with a midcentury house of course, but can work just as well with modern construction.'

3. Be very strategic with planting

Small patio space with lavender pots and ivy planted up the screen

Space by Victoria Holly Interiors, photography courtesy of Lauren Engel

(Image credit: Lauren Engel for Victoria Holly Interiors)

How you plant your garden will directly impact the ambiance, from the colors your choose to the plant form. Victoria Holly, Principal and Founder of Victoria Holly Interiors elaborates on how a variety of greenery is a great way to make your patio feel more secluded in a more natural way. 'The best and prettiest way to make your outdoor space or patio feel more private is greenery,' says Victoria. 'There are several ways to do this. Utilize tall potted plants or trees strategically placed around your patio to create a natural privacy screen. 

'If your style is more bohemian, I recommend doing a mix of different round planters and different types of plants. Whereas if your style is more modern or even traditional, opt for rectangular planters and tall ficus bushes. In either case, we recommend setting up a drip system for your patio or a timed hose so you can have real plants without having to worry about them dying when life gets hectic.

'You can also utilize privacy screens such as trellises or lattices. Or modern vertical slat walls,' continues Victoria. Garden trellis has always served multiple uses, for the planter or more decoratively-inclined landscaper. It works for yards of all shapes and sizes but you can see how effective using the vertical plane can be to add privacy to a small patio, in a truly subtle way. Offering up hanging space for repeat planting or wilder additions like a little ivy.

4. Add softness with outdoor drapes

Outdoor living room space with furniture, large canopy and gray color scheme

(Image credit: Clarity Northwest Photography for Triple Heart Design)

Though a little less subtle, drapes will still give a soft finish, and with a light breeze, it is a less stark choice than an altogether closed-off panel. One that is sure to make your backyard feel like a retreat too. 

'If you’re going for a more luxe and modern look, outdoor curtains can be beautiful if done right on your pergola or porch,' recommends Victoria. What you choose will depend on the style you want to create: 'Select drapes for a softer more traditional feel, slatted panels for a modern minimalist look, hanging plants and bamboo or trees for a natural privacy fence,' suggests Shelagh Conway, Principal and Founder of Triple Heart Design. Especially if you want an outdoor living room feel, use similar patterns from inside, and mimic them in your outdoor space to create cohesion.' Think of your patio as an extension of your home and create an outdoor space to reflect the indoors. The space needs to feel welcoming and cozy.'

You may not find outdoor curtains in every home store, but they're easy to find online (you can even buy outdoor drapes on Amazon).

5. Let outdoor furniture hug your home (or a hedge), just a little

Patio space defined by wooden sectional and surrounded by large leafy palms and greenery

Styled by Laëtitia Wajnapel, creator of Cinquième Gauche, photography by Jessica Isaac

(Image credit: Jessica Isaac for Cinquième Gauche)

Keeping conversational corners a little closer to home (literally) can pay off when adding more privacy to a patio too. 'In terms of layout, if you don't want to be seen by your neighbors, it is best to install your patio furniture as close to your fence/hedge/ screen as possible without feeling cramped,' further recommends Laëtitia. 'This way you benefit from the full coverage of your privacy screen.'  

To finish the look (and happily distract prying eyes), choose modern garden lighting to hang prettily around the patio for a soft ambiance that might even accentuate your planting efforts. 

Camille Dubuis-Welch
Contributing Editor

Camille is a freelance interiors writer and the former deputy editor of Real Homes where she covered a broad range of topics, including DIY, small space design, and gardens. She studied English language and Italian at the University of Manchester and it was during her year abroad studying in Bologna that she started documenting her adventures and observations in a blog. Camille has a passion for art and beautiful spaces. When not writing or refreshing her home, you will find her gallery hopping, taking photos, painting, and traveling to seek out interiors inspiration.