Patio Prep

10 steps to getting your favourite outdoor space ready for the best summer ever.

Patio Prep - YAM Magazine

By Joanne Sasvari

Whether your patio is a vast, sweeping veranda overlooking the Salish Sea or a tiny balcony overlooking a parking lot, chances are you’ll be spending a lot of time on it this summer. That means you’ll want to make it functional, comfortable and beautiful. But if it’s been neglected for a while, or even just over the winter months, it probably needs a little work to make it, well, work. Here’s a 10-step plan for creating your perfect summer patio.

1. Clean, Paint, Repair

Before you can get to the fun of decorating, you’ll need to tackle the not-so-much-fun of cleaning up. Even if you keep your patio in good nick, wind, rain, sun, heat, cold and even pollen will take their toll. Start by cleaning off the dead leaves, cobwebs and any other debris, then scrub any grimy surfaces — you may need to hire someone to power-wash if things are especially dire — and launder any furniture, cushions and/or fabrics. Once your patio is clean, assess to see if there’s any damage, then get to work patching and painting. 

2. Design It for the Life You Live

Your patio is where you relax with a good book, work on that challenging project, host your famous Canada Day dinner party and enjoy a quiet breakfast with the family. So no matter how small it is, your patio should have a comfy area for lounging and a table and chairs for dining or working. If possible, design it in zones — an outdoor bar can be a space-saving area for socializing, for instance, while privacy barriers can create separate “rooms.” 

3. Keep It Shady, Cool and Dry

You could design the prettiest patio ever, but no one’s going to use it if it’s battered by relentless sun or rain. The easiest way to fend off the elements is to pop open an umbrella, either the kind of upright market umbrella that fits through a hole in a table or an offset one cantilevered over your seating area. But umbrellas have their limitations — they can get blown around in high winds, for instance, and don’t always cover the area fully. 

Luckily, there are loads of other options as well, including both permanent and temporary structures. Among them: shade sails, awnings, retractable canopies, pergolas and gazebos, with or without curtains. If budget and building restrictions are no obstacle, you can also build a roof over your space and install outdoor ceiling fans, drapery and lighting. Also: If you want to use your patio year round, consider investing in a portable electric or propane heater.

4. Choose the Right Furniture

When it comes to deciding how to furnish your patio, you will need to consider style, size, colour, budget and what you actually want your furniture to do. Do you want a cushioned sectional sofa to sprawl out on, cottage-country-approved Adirondack chairs to relax in or a farmhouse-style long table with bistro chairs to gather around? Maybe the sun-soaked mid-century chic of an Acapulco chair is more your thing, or a rustic bench that can be tucked away when it’s not needed. 

Be brutally honest about the limitations of your patio and what you plan to use it for — you may dream of hosting romantic, Provençal-style dinners all summer, but if you never actually do it, buying a long table and all those chairs is a waste of money and space.

Patio furniture can vary wildly from the flimsy, moulded plastic chairs you’ll find at a big box store to designer-approved pieces in luxe natural materials that may last a lifetime, but can cost thousands of dollars and require serious maintenance. One choice that falls somewhere in the middle in terms of style, durability and cost is the C.R. Plastics line of North American-made recycled-plastic chairs, tables and loungers that come in a rainbow of summer-approved hues. 

Patio Prep - YAM Magazine
C.R. Plastics Harvest Collection

5. Let There Be Light

Well-placed lighting can create a welcoming ambience, but more importantly, it makes your outdoor space safer and more functional. Many umbrellas, pergolas, gazebos and other sun shelters come with LED lighting built right in. You can install wall sconces or, if you have a roof over your patio, ceiling lights, even a chandelier. You can also hang fairy lights or arrange portable lanterns or flameless candles wherever needed. Just keep in mind that, given the severe fire risk we’ve seen these past few summers, it’s best to avoid anything with live flame. 

Patio Prep - YAM Magazine
NOMA outdoor LED Solar Accent wall-mounted deck lights

6. Get Cooking

When the weather is sultry, who wants to turn on the stove? Better to fire up the grill and dine outside on your beautiful patio. A fully equipped outdoor kitchen is great if you have the time, room, budget and energy to build one. Even if you don’t, a grill is a crucial addition to your outdoor living space, along with a surface for food prep and serving. (Opt for an electric grill if you are in an apartment, and avoid using charcoal on wooden decks.) You should also add a cooler or fridge for beverages and perishables, bins for waste, tools for cooking and serveware that won’t break if dropped, such as today’s gorgeous melamine dishes and acrylic glasses. 

Patio Prep - YAM Magazine
Larkin Melamine Dinnerware Collection, Pottery Barn

7. Accessorize with Flair

Even if you play it safe and invest in quality furniture in neutral colours and timeless styles, you can still have fun decorating with vibrant accessories and even switch them up year after year. Among them: bright, cheerful, weather-resistant cushions, outdoor rugs, tablecloths and decorative tchotchkes. Consider creating a focal point with a firepit (gas or propane if you live in the CRD) and/or putting up a privacy barrier that you can paint in fun colours or use to display wall art. And don’t forget to have some cozy throws on hand for guests to snuggle up in if the weather gets chilly.

Patio Prep - YAM Magazine

8. Don’t Forget the Tunes! 

Music not only sets the tone for any gathering, it disguises noise from traffic or your annoying neighbours. And there’s no need to wire in a fancy sound system — you can just opt for high-quality portable outdoor speakers that easily connect by Bluetooth to your mobile phone.

Patio Prep - YAM Magazine
Bose SoundLink Revolve+ II Bluetooth speaker

9. Add Some Greenery

A few pots of growing things will make your patio look pretty and right in step with the biophilia trend. Plants can also add lovely fragrance, attract pollinators like hummingbirds and butterflies, and, in the case of citronella, lemon balm, lavender or peppermint, even repel mosquitoes and flies. Besides, every cook needs a few containers of culinary herbs like basil, mint, parsley, chives, sage, rosemary and thyme.​

Patio Prep - YAM Magazine

10. Prepare for Next Season​ ​

Nobody wants to think about fall when summer hasn’t even arrived, but having a plan now will help reduce the hassle at the end of the season. Invest in covers for your patio furniture and bins for the rest of your outdoor gear, and find a place to store it all. Come fall, clean the grill (so it doesn’t attract rodents when it’s not in use), power-wash and, if needed, stain the deck, and look for end-of-season deals if you need to replace anything. 

When next summer rolls around, your patio will be ready — and so will you.