Winter is Coming: How to Prep Your Patio for the Holidays

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Gillian Grefe

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Published on November 3, 2020

This winter will find Americans more homebound than usual. But stuck at home doesn’t have to mean stuck inside. Just upgrade your outdoor space with these winter patio ideas.

The goal is to create an area for relaxing, eating and entertaining that’s as welcoming as your home’s interior. That feeling of coziness is what winter is about. “Winter is the time for comfort,” wrote poet Edith Sitwell. “It is the time for home.” 

Here, Heather Goerzen, Havenly Design Lead, shares winter patio ideas designed to make your outdoor space more inviting, even when the weather might not be:

Prioritize Your Patio Needs

Your climate will determine how you use your outdoor winter space as much as your patio’s square footage and configuration. Is your patio on the small side or is it expansive? Is it multi-level, shaded or screened-in?

But the most important consideration is how you’d like to use your outdoor space in the fall and winter:   

  • As a place for the kids to do homework with friends? You’ll need conversational groupings and a table that can double as a desk.
  • As a dessert destination for you and your sweetheart? Light the fire pit and grab the s’mores kit.
  • As the setting for holiday gatherings? Invest in some backyard games to allow your family and guests to keep moving and stay warm. Think cornhole, bocce ball and ladder toss.

Knowing the purpose of your patio will guide you toward the pieces of furniture that anchor your space, as well as your heating and lighting needs.

boho patio

Layer in Lighting

Don’t let earlier sunsets dim your outdoor prospects. 

Extend your lounging al fresco hours with strings of patio lights. “There are a ton of weather-friendly options that will remain durable year-round,” Heather says. “Simply pour another glass of wine and enjoy the twinkling lights overhead.”

Candles and lanterns set a different kind of mood by adding a relaxing, warm glow, and you can choose from real or battery-powered.

Getting Warmer

Mimic your favorite patio restaurant and set up an outdoor heater or two. “This will invite both you and your guests to linger longer as the temperatures dip,” Heather says. “There are countless brands on the market, including some very affordable options.”

Or trade in your outdoor coffee table for a fire pit. If you have an extra large patio, think about creating a separate fire pit space or adding a chiminea to the mix.

“For fire pits, we love the organic and effortless look of a concrete or plaster finish in a traditional rectangle or circular form,” Heather says. “For a more sophisticated aesthetic, we recommend leaning into natural-looking ‘coals’ versus glossy beads.” 

Many fire pits also have a ledge where guests can set a glass of wine or even kick up their feet and get comfortable, she adds. “Bonus: this also becomes the perfect invitation for s’mores roasting.”

Garden & Lawn Fire Pit

Fold in Fabrics and Textures

Textiles make your outdoor space a cushier place to crash, particularly when it’s cold outside. 

Keep a stash of machine-washable blankets and quilts within easy reach. “If you have a covered patio, invest in a stylish basket where you can store knits and throws,” says Heather.

A few other ideas: 

  • Dress up your deck with a waterproof rug
  • Scatter throw pillows covered in fall and winter hues on the seating. 
  • Hang outdoor curtains, made from all-weather fabric, to block the breeze. 

And don’t forget to protect your cushioned sofas or chairs with tarps. 

Not only will this keep your furniture cleaner—and warmer—for impromptu gatherings outside, it will also help it last longer and look better,” Heather says.

Decorate for the Season

“It’s common to outfit your patio for summer with plenty of potted plants, but in the winter the tendency is to let things get a little barren,” Heather says. “Consider swapping out your annuals for some fall beauties, like mums, or even more durable winter evergreens.”

Heather’s budget-friendly alternative: Create a DIY arrangement by styling a bunch of bare branches upward, and scattering pine cones and moss at the base to hide the dirt. 

The final touch in creating an outdoor space that’s inviting and exciting? Bring in decor elements for the holidays

Perhaps that’s an outdoor lit tree, a statement wreath or a curated vignette with pine cones and hurricane candles. 

Says Heather, “It helps set a festive and fun mood that will have you pouring another glass and enjoying the fresh air.”

Outdoor patio design

Create your own winter retreat with an assist from a Havenly designer. Start by taking our design style quiz.

Words by Staci Sturrock