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It’s patio season; and if your patio currently looks less like a Pinterest-worthy masterpiece and more like an empty, sad little slab of concrete, don’t panic. You have plenty of time to transform your backyard into the warm weather entertaining area of your most photogenic dreams. The good news: Patios generally connote a fairly sizable space to work with, which means that, unlike those of us with tiny balconies, you probably have room to indulge your design wishlist.

But before you get carried away buying woven jute pouf after woven jute pouf, press pause. Building a patio space that’ll stand the test of time and be well worth the investment starts by determining how to introduce the essentials. For this, we turned to some of our favorite designers and bloggers to learn the one thing they recommend buying first; read on, and start shopping.

Meghan Mcneer

Joy Moyler

Without a doubt, a good sturdy

decorative umbrella

is my patio essential! Nothing can zap the fun out of a summer day faster than the hot sun melting your makeup, leaving all those haute new metallics running down your face. An umbrella is perfect for the unexpected downpour. And what causes more wrinkles than eyes squinting from the sun? I adore a perfectly eclectic tablescape topped off with a bright colored umbrella—perhaps one that matches your favorite lipstick! [Enjoy] the day with friends and family as the sun goes down… cocktail in hand of course.

Shop Joy’s Pick: Double Decker Umbrella, Santa Barbara Designs, price varies

Brittany Ambridge

Lindsay Hollinger

Decorative stools

are fantastic sculptural pieces; extremely useful for patios and outdoor spaces. They serve multiple purposes: chair, side table, plant stand, art object… I have two concrete stools on my patio, and they get moved around depending on if I’m entertaining guests and need seating, or relaxing by myself and need a convenient spot to rest my wine glass. It gives the space flexibility, and I can style them with plants as a table, or place them around a bistro table for seating.

Shop Lindsay’s Pick: Arias Waxed Concrete Stool, Bloomsbury Market, $139.99  

Marisa Vitale

Sarah Gibson

The item that stands out the most as an essential would be

string lights.

.. there’s something about the ambiance and glow that makes people want to hang out outdoors on the patio longer and enjoy the evening. I love viewing a patio as an outdoor extension of your living space. It’s a great way to get additional functional square footage out of your home.

My recipe for a great patio begins with


—tile, stone, or some sort of flat area that defines the space—, shade (I used a pergola in my own backyard), comfortable furniture, a fire pit for late night cozy conversations, string lights for ambiance, yard games or entertainment, and, most obviously, plants. I’ll also style in outdoor pillows and throws that keep the space feeling cozy and inviting once the sun goes down.

Shop Sarah’s Pick: Bella Vista lights, Seletti, $149.99

Susana Simonpietri  

I think besides the basic furnishings one always needs in a patio, often we tend to forget about adding

proper lighting

to be able to enjoy outdoor spaces at night. It’s rare to have a space with a covered dining area with a pendant for overhead light, but when that’s the case it’s easy to add nice ambient light with hurricanes filled with battery powered string lights.

Shop Susana’s Pick: Ernest Wooden Lantern, Anthropologie, $78

Michael Wiltbank

Starrett Ringbom

I think the most important item for a patio is

fresh cut flowers

from your own garden on the tables. They don’t have to be fancy, just some hydrangeas or dahlias in a jar, and your patio will feel lovely and beautiful. White Flower Farm sells the most wonderful plants and bulbs, so whether you have a farm upstate or a roof garden in Brooklyn, you can get what you need from them. [That said], home grown flowers are the most special.

Shop Starrett’s Pick: Dahlia Mediterrannee, White Flower Farm, $9.95

Brittany Ambridge

Jacquelyn Clark

As far as I’m concerned, my non-negotiable patio essential is

string lights

. I’m sure most of us know by now that great lighting is imperative in any great design scheme, but all too often that seems to be forgotten once we move outside. The reality is that a beautiful night spent outdoors with your nearest and dearest is made infinitely more special when there are twinkly lights strung up above. My favorite part is that it’s such a cost-effective way to bring instant beauty to any outdoor space.

Shop Jacquelyn’s Pick: Globe String Lights, Birch Lane, $56.99

Jacquelyn Clark

Shavonda Gardner


hanging chair

totally changes the game when it comes to outdoor entertaining and lounging. Its great paired with a sofa or daybed as a fun alternative to a traditional sofa/loveseat or sofa/side chair combo.  I love to see it styled with vibrant pillows for a boho vibe, or with a side table or garden stool nearby to hold that refreshing summer drink.

Shop Shavonda’s Pick: Cohanga Hanging Chair, Selamat, $489 

Shavonda Gardner

Corey Damen Jenkins

When I’m designing patios and terraces for my clients, one thing I give careful attention to is how they will entertain in the evening hours. Therefore, heat and lighting are two crucial elements that one really shouldn’t do without. Heated

fire pits


free-standing propane heater

s are great options to consider (think something functional and stylish, like those pyramid-shaped Tiki heaters). The goal is to create a comfortable atmosphere for your family and guests to continue enjoying long after the sun sets and the temperatures drop.

Shop Corey’s Pick: Thermo Tiki Outdoor Propane Heater, Elm Bay, $289.99


Emily Blanchard

Bring the indoors out! I’m obsessed with

indoor/outdoor rugs

. They are perfect for adding texture, color, and warmth to a patio space. And the best part? When the season is over, just roll it up and use it inside.

Shop Emily’s Pick: Boho Kilim Nagar Indoor Outdoor Rug, World Market, $149.99-$449.99

Brittany Ambridge

Lauren Wills

My patio essential is a

comfy and stylish sofa

. New Yorkers covet summer and there’s no better way to enjoy it than lounging out in the sun. I love this bold striped one (linked below) from CB2. Throw a couple of throw pillows on there for some pops of color, and voila!

Shop Lauren’s Pick: Tropez Black and White Stripe Outdoor Sofa, CB2, $999

Meghan McNeer

Lindye Galloway

We’re pretty obsessed with


right now, and they’re having a moment in each of the homes we’re designing. Their playful look is great for both kids and adults and is the ultimate lounging scene. We always like to add cushions for texture and comfort while you sip your wine into sunset.

Shop Lindye’s Pick: Hanging Rattan Chair,

serena and lily


See more ways to spruce up your outdoor area:

Easy Ways to Add Personality to Your PatioThe Summer Decor Staple You Should Be Buying NowHow to Turn Your Boring Backyard Into an Outdoor Oasis

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Outdoor Furniture photoChad Mellon