11 Outdoor Decoration Mistakes Interior Designers Always Notice

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Kelsey Clark

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Published on February 16, 2024

Patio season is in full swing, which means our designers have one thing on the brain: outdoor decoration.

While outdoor spaces are decidedly more laid-back than interiors (especially if you have an open-concept backyard situation), we’d argue that outdoor decoration is just as important as living room design. Because patios are meant to bring people together and play host to cook outs, bonfires, and deep conversations – proper ambiance, warmth, and furniture flow is paramount.

So, we’re breaking down outdoor design the best way we know how: by spotlighting common outdoor decoration faux pas. Ahead, find the outdoor decor mistakes our designers always notice, and what to do instead:

1. Stopping at furniture

wicker patio sectional on boho rug with outdoor umbrella

Yes, this is an outdoor space and not your living room. But, ambiance and general appeal is still important in a sunroom or patio, so don’t skimp on outdoor decor! Add woven poufs for extra seating, clustered lanterns for height and ambiance, outdoor throw pillows for added coziness, and a durable area rug for welcomed texture. Side tables will complete your seating arrangement and add up space for decorative plants, candles, and the like (not to mention another glass of rosé). 

2. Awkward furniture layout

covered patio with wooden outdoor table and black metal chairs

Like a living room, a patio or terrace is all about bringing people together. So furniture layout and seating is just as important outdoors, especially if you plan on hosting spring soirees and summer garden parties. Make sure you create intentional conversation nooks with your seating, or delineate separate lounging or seating areas via separate area rugs and decor. 

3. Skipping the plants

wooden outdoor sofa with plants and string lights

Yes, you’re already outdoors, but adding potted plants and florals to your space will add charm and warmth in spades. Whether you have a sunroom connected to a gorgeous backyard or a 10th-floor terrace in the city, the patio should never feel like an afterthought, and a little green thumb action never hurts.

4. Leaving the walls bare

boho patio with colorful rug and neutral furniture and natural accents

If your outdoor space has a spacious back wall or a cozy corner, take advantage! Treat it like an indoor space and never leave a wall blank. Spruce up your space with hanging baskets, wall planters, or even a trellis with crawling ivy to draw the eye upwards and make the space more interesting.

5. Limited seating

Trellis-covered patio with string lights and modern boho furniture

Choosing the right amount of furniture for any space can be difficult, but finding that sweet spot is really important when designing a comfortable and well-put-together patio. There should always be some negative space for the eye to rest (especially in a plant-filled outdoor oasis!), but it should never feel cluttered or overwhelming. Start by thinking about how you want to use the space and the seating that’s needed to bring that vision to life, and measure in detail before ordering any furniture!

6. Zero lighting

modern patio with wicker sofa, fire pit, and lighting

Outdoor lighting is a must — how else are you supposed to take al fresco dinners well into the nighttime hours? If you have a covered space, have fun with overhead pendants and lanterns, or opt for string lights and outdoor sconces to illuminate an open backyard. A fire pit not only adds extra ambient lighting, it’s an entertaining must-have (especially in cooler climates with s’mores on standby).

7. Skimping on textiles

Outdoor decoration

To make an outdoor seating area feel just as cozy and lived-in as a living room, don’t skimp on weather-resistant textiles! From throw pillows and area rugs to textured poufs, textiles truly make a patio feel complete. Not only do these accents add comfort to an outdoor seating area, they also add pops of color, subtle patterns, and eye-catching textures for a dynamic design.

8. Not enough surfaces

Outdoor decoration

What’s an outdoor sofa without a coffee or side table for your frozen margarita or chilled rosé? We always recommend having side or cocktail tables indoors to make a living room as comfortable and functional as possible, and the same goes for outdoor seating areas. In addition to a coffee table, consider a dining table for al fresco meals and side tables near accent seating (so no one has to reach too far for their drink).

9. Ignoring the elements

Outdoor decoration

The weather is an obvious concern when designing an outdoor space. Always consider the climate in your area, and factor in creature comforts accordingly. If your space is full-sun and 85-plus degrees all summer, an outdoor umbrella (or a pergola) is a must! To take a patio into the fall in a cooler climate, add a woven basket with outdoor blankets for guests. It’s the thoughtful details that make a space that much more special.

10. Sticking to one texture

Outdoor decoration

When it comes to selecting furniture and pairing sofas and accent seating together, it’s important to create contrast (just as you would indoors). For example, if you go with a neutral upholstered sofa, consider bringing in rattan accent chairs with black cushions, like in the above outdoor space. This aesthetic looks much more elevated and design-forward than a single upholstery color or texture or worse, a matching furniture set.

11. Forgetting a “wow” moment

Outdoor decoration

We understand that not every patio lends itself to a “wow” design moment. But if you’re lucky enough to have a spacious pergola or sprawling seating area, consider adding a unique focal point, like chandelier-style clustered lanterns, climbing greenery, or a cool stone coffee table. An eye-catching design feature will level-up your patio and make it feel that much more personalized.

Looking for a way to overcome your unique home dilemmas? Work one-on-one with our expert interior designers for just $129 per room. Get started today with our style quiz.

Words by Kelsey Clark