Winter has yet to officially arrive, but if you're anything like us, you're probably already feeling twinges of cabin fever. If the thought of spending the next several months inside is too much to bear, know that you can still reclaim your outdoor space—as long as you're willing to shell out some cash or get a cold-weather workout.
A few surprisingly simple design tweaks and heating elements are all you need to use your outdoor space well into the winter months. And you'll be part of a growing trend, architects say; homeowners are already treating their outdoor spaces as extensions of their homes. With winter-proof patios, homeowners are getting more bang for their buck.
“We are designing a greater number of outdoor living spaces that can be used at least nine months out of the year and, on occasion, the full year,” says Thomas Wall, owner and architect of Mitchell Wall Architecture & Design in St. Louis.
Ready to transform your patio into an all-season wonderland? We've got your instructional manual right here. We'll admit: Some of these projects could take some heavy lifting, and might have to wait until spring. But there are a few tips that can get you warm and toasty al fresco in no time.
1. Raise the roof
Winter snow sure is pretty to gaze upon. But if you don't want to be sitting in it, you should consider covering your patio.
"Adding an overhead shelter to an existing deck is one of the most common requests I see in outdoor living," Wall says. "This can be anything from a simple, detached pergola to a full roof with fans, heaters, and speakers coming off of the main residence."
The cost and timeline for this can vary greatly, Wall cautions, depending on your current structure and wish list.
However, he adds, "in the world of architecture, adding a covered deck is a relatively simple process. If there are no circumstances to complicate things, it can be done quickly and on a budget."
2. Plant coniferous trees
Snow, unfortunately, isn't the only element to contend with. Keeping out winter winds and minimizing humidity can mean the difference between being comfortable outside and running indoors for cover.
To win the battle with Mother Nature, Wall recommends strategically planting certain kinds of trees around your space.
“Coniferous trees not only prevent wind four seasons a year, but they have the added benefit of taking away some of the moisture,” he notes. "The drier the air, the less you feel extreme temperatures."
But before heading to the plant store, take note.
“Spend time outside before you enter into the project, and know which direction the wind comes from,” Wall recommends. “Get to know your outside before you make it change. That way, you can be sure the changes you make will be money well-spent.”
3. Bring the heat
Of course, no winter-friendly outdoor space is complete without a heat source. Make a warming station the focal point of your patio and you'll not only be toasty, but you'll have a design that's ideal for entertaining as well.
“Many homeowners now are requesting outdoor fireplaces, fire pits, and Mexican-style chimeras,” notes Austin-based designer Pablo Solomon. “These are wonderful for gathering around and having a warm drink with friends.”
While a built-in or custom fire feature can set you back thousands, you can find budget-friendly fire pots or chimeras for under $200. One option is the Sun Joe Classic Stone Fire Pit ($132), which has the look of natural stone, without the hefty price tag. And if you're feeling industrious, you can build your own fire pit. It's a relatively simple process, as long as your ground isn't frozen.
Love to entertain? Take San Francisco–based designer Gina Gutierrez’s advice: “I like to use pits that have a large enough rim to lay down snacks and drinks while keeping warm by the fire,” she says. Try the CobraCo Diamond Mesh Fire Pit ($167), which has a 5-inch-wide edge that’s perfect for holding your winter ale.
If your patio isn't covered, be sure to check that your fire pit comes with a cover, which can keep it safe in inclement weather.
4. Seat smart
Buying outdoor furniture is kind of an art: You want something that looks rich, but is also built to last. There's enough to worry about with sun, rain, and heat during warmer seasons. But if you're making your patio winter-friendly, you'll want to make sure you invest in furniture that can withstand winter elements as well.
“Investing in quality outdoor furniture means having furniture that will last for years to come, versus furniture that you’ll place at the curb in a year,” says Deborah Holt, marketing and e-commerce specialist at Sunnyland Patio Furniture in Dallas.
When it comes to furniture that can take a beating from Mother Nature, Holt recommends looking for Sunbrella fabrics, weaves with UV inhibitors, powder-coated finishes, and extended warranties.
Still cold? Heated furniture takes this outdoor environment to next-level warm. Options include the sleek Galanter and Jones Helios Lounge($7,900), which you plug in, or the more budget-friendly and battery-powered Chaheati MAXX Heated Chair ($120).
Finish off your winter patio design with warm accessories so everyone can stay snug.
Blankets such as the Pendelton Motor Robe with Leather Carrier ($100) are designed for camping, but they’d also look amazing slung over an Adirondack chair. For an even more chic look, try all-white pillows like the Serena & Lily Montecito Floor Pillow ($228) and furry throws such as the West Elm Faux-Fur Ombre Throw ($49).
Finally, don't forget the simple touches. Adding cushions to your cold-prone Adirondack chairs, for example, will make them more inviting. Pro tip: Buy a waterproof deck box to store everything during extreme inclement weather.
6. Light it up
One of the best parts of spending time on your patio in the summer? Staying outdoors late, especially when the sun doesn’t set until 8 or 9 p.m. But the fun doesn't have to end even when it's dark at 5 p.m.
“Lighting is key when it comes to setting the mood, especially during dark winter nights,” Gutierrez says.
Ideally, you'll use heat lamps that keep you warm while lighting up the space. Try AZ Patio Heaters Portable Glass Tube Heater ($128), or go big with the Lava Heat Italia Triangular Commercial Flame Patio Heater($959).
For a more festive setting, string up some white twinkle lights across your yard. Then light some larger candles and keep lanterns on your patio, like the San Rafael II LED Solar Mission Lantern ($19), for the final touch.
Transaction Coordinator - Virtual Assistant