Designers reveal the 5 most common patio decorating mistakes – and how to avoid them

There's no reason why your patio shouldn't be as stylish as the rest of your home – here's how to get it right

Patio mistakes
(Image credit: Future)

Picture the scene. It's a Friday evening in Mid-summer. You're awaiting the arrival of your guests for the reunion garden party of the millennium when you suddenly realize – your patio just isn't living up to expectations. 

To avoid this unfortunate fate, we've rounded up design tips from the people at the top of the patio world who reveal the most common patio decorating mistakes – and what you should be doing instead. 

See: Patio ideas: 50 stylish patio schemes & design tricks for a welcoming outdoor space

1. Underestimating the importance of boundaries

Patio mistakes

(Image credit: Future)

 'The big mistake people repeatedly make is to underestimate the importance of their boundary materials,' states acclaimed garden designer Adolfo Harrison from Adolfo Harrison Garden Design.

Adolfo continues, highlighting how boundary materials form 'a significant part of the area directly outside your house' so, 'rather than settle for off-the-shelf fencing, give it the same consideration that you would if it was indoors. 

'See if you can continue your internal wall colors outside to create a seamless transition that will make your interiors feel larger, and remember that bespoke furniture can be integrated into the boundary to save space and materials,' he adds.

 2. Buying the wrong sized plants (and putting them in the wrong place) 

Patio mistakes

(Image credit: Future)

 If anybody knows how to curate their patio and plants – it is Lucy Conochie of Lucy Conochie Design. The designer who effortlessly injects botanical jewels across the most prestigious of spaces. 

Most interestingly, Lucy suggests buying 'pots and containers as large as you can afford, even if it means just having one.'

'Bigger pots will retain moisture for longer, which means less watering, and a large planting area gives you much more scope for what you can plant. There are plenty of small trees and shrubs that will thrive in patio containers, and you can play around planting colorful bedding plants around the base,' Lucy adds. Lucy also urges us to group large pots on odd numbers 'to create impact.'

 3. Not creating a defined space 

Patio mistakes

(Image credit: Future)

 Following Lucy's advice, Andy Stedman, founder, and Creative Director at Andy Stedman Design, further emphasizes the power of a plant – only in its ability to create a defined space. He, too, offers planting suggestions, saying: 'It is important to have a balance of planting to soften the patio area. Use evergreen shrubs and trees, such as pleached or box-headed Carpinus Betulus (Hornbeam), to create background structure and seasonal interest, which immediately creates a defined space.'  

'This adds screening from neighboring properties and fences and wraps the patio area in greenery. This can be softened with lower-level planting – think about adding contrasting textures, plant shapes, and pops of color.'

4. Forgetting about a focal point 

Patio mistakes

(Image credit: Future)

While we shape our interiors with statement colors, furnishings, and art pieces, we may not give quite as much thought to our patio spaces. 

'Clients often make outdoor furniture mistakes around how they envision the space – forgetting about spacing and privacy, how the patio will look when summer is over, and what makes the space interesting and a talking point,' Andy shares. The designer then offers his suggestions for creating an instant focal point on our patio. 

'By adding seasonal interest with planting, and focal points such as a fire pit or water feature, outdoor furniture or even a sculpture immediately brings the space to life. Add outdoor cooking facilities, feature lighting, and music, and suddenly entertaining at home feels fun, inviting, and glamorous,' he says.

5. Not scaling the space 

Patio mistakes

(Image credit: Andy Stedman Design_Livingetc_patio 19 - bespoke concrete fire table)

 After Adolfo highlighted the power of boundaries, Andy further explored how to create an indoor/outdoor living space – by remembering to scale the space and leave room for large furniture. 

While many forget to think about large furnishings for their patio, Andy suggests going big. However, he also reminds us to use the 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,' he shares.

See: Outdoor heating ideas: 10 stylish ways to heat up your patio all year round

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

We've still got time to pick up some bigger pots and even bigger furnishings – our patio party is safe – right on time.

Megan Slack

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 whilst 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.

Megan currently lives in London, where she relocated from her hometown in Yorkshire. In her home, she experiments with interior design trends and draws inspiration from the home decor ideas she observes in her everyday work life. Her favorite pieces include her antique typewriter and her expansive collection of houseplants. When she isn’t writing, she is browsing London’s coffee shops and bookstores to add to her ever-growing library, taking over the open shelving in her apartment.