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GardenSMART :: 7 Tips for Arranging Patio Furniture

7 Tips for Arranging Patio Furniture

By T.K. Wismer, Blue Oak
Photographs courtesy of Blue Oak

One of the most common design questions that I get asked by clients and friends is how to arrange furniture in their homes and outdoor areas. Whether you are pulling furniture out of storage, looking to invest in new pieces, or just want a fresh look for the new season, visualizing how outdoor furniture will fit and function can at times be daunting. Here are a few tips to consider when arranging outdoor furniture and accessories.

1. Start with a Clean Slate

Clear out your area or draw out the space with nothing in it. This will help you visualize all of the possibilities. Use a tape measure to get the dimensions of both your space as well as your existing furniture pieces and any rugs, planters, etc. that will need arranging. If you are looking to purchase new items, most retailers will list dimensions online.

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2. Decide on a Focal Point

Decide where you would like you and guests to focus when using your patio. This can be as simple as a bird feeder that attracts wildlife or as grand as an outdoor fireplace but regardless, make sure your best view is unobstructed. On the other hand, you may have a less than desirable element that you would like to turn the focus away from. In both scenarios, decide upfront so that you can layout accordingly.

3. Set the Largest Piece First

Now that you have a focal point in mind, start with your largest piece first since this may be the piece with the fewest options for arrangement. This will also help to establish the scale in the area so that a balanced layout can be achieved.

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4. Define Zones

Consider the activities that are likely to take place in your outdoor area. For example, do you need dining, lounging or gaming spaces? Do you often entertain for eight plus or is a four-top table more realistic for your needs? Once you decide what activities you would like to accommodate, set zones for each, keeping in mind that 8 feet between different areas is a good distance to create separation while still allowing each area to be engaged and feel like part of the overall activity or conversation. Try to avoid having a zone completely untethered. Tie areas together using rugs or continuous color themes to create cohesion.

5. Be Mindful of Traffic

You will want at least 30 to 36 inches between furniture to avoid feeling like you are moving through an obstacle course. It is also recommended to have 14 to 18 inches between sofas and coffee tables. Side tables should also be kept at arms distance. Be sure not to obstruct any doors, gates, or storage areas so that you don't have to shuffle furniture every time you need access.

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6. Create Balance

Use scale to balance a space. Similarly scaled pieces will create a more harmonious look. Depending on what feeling you are going for, symmetry creates a relaxed restful space while asymmetry creates movement and energy in a design. Pair chairs to balance the visual weight of sofas. If multiple seating pieces are not an option, plants and dividers are also nice ways to bring balance to a design.

7. Create Depth

Creating a layered look helps to add depth to the overall design. Mixing patterns on your throw pillows, and adding a rug or umbrella are easy ways to add interest and texture for a layered look. Drawing the eye up is also a good way to create depth in a design. Live walls, oversized planters, and arbors are all great options to add dimension to your patio.

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