Patio Design and Patio Furniture - The Use of Focal Points

A focal point is an important design element; it is a place where the eye naturally comes to rest. In a well-designed patio there is always a planned focal point, such as a large dining set, perhaps with a well-selected umbrella. But a patio's focal point could also be another interesting object or landscape feature.

Examples of landscape features that can be a patio's focal point are an interesting pathway leading from the patio to an area beyond, a flower garden, a mature tree, or a dramatic view of the back lawn.

However, an outdoor dining table with chairs is often a natural focal point because of its size. If you intend to have a large outdoor dining set, there are several things to keep in mind.

Be conscious of the style of the table and chairs and try to keep styles the same. If you have a very rustic patio, then a contemporary table and chairs may not go well together. It is usually a good idea to maintain the same decor style.

Select the colors of the furniture and cushions with care. Visualize the furniture in the location where they will be used. The colors should be similar or complimentary to the surrounding area.

An umbrella is a good addition if it is appropriate. An umbrella in an area already covered may look odd. However, umbrellas usually work well in screened-in areas that are still exposed to direct sunlight. If you buy an umbrella separately from the table and chairs, make very sure the colors and patterns go well with each other as well as the surroundings.

A pair of chaise lounges with an umbrella could also be an interesting focal point. The umbrella would have its own stand. Of course, the cushions on the chaise lounges and the umbrella material would have to either match or be complimentary with each other.

A statue, fountain, or other ornament can be used as a focal point. However several things should be kept in mind. If using a statue, the statue and its size must be in keeping with its surroundings, the style of the house, and the decor of the patio. A large statue of the god Jupiter would probably not look well on a patio with, for example, western decor. But a statue of Venus in a traditional English garden setting would be a pleasing addition. A graceful statue would bring an air of serenity.

Size is important as you would not want to overpower the surrounding garden features with a statue that is too large. One of the most agreeable placements for a nicely sized statue within a garden setting is placement by a wall, such as a red brick wall, especially where there are plants, including climbing plants. Never place a statue in isolation, but in an area where it can become part of its surroundings.

These are but a few examples of possible focal points in a patio or garden setting. There are many other possibilities. The important thing is to include the focal point naturally within the patio or garden environment so that it blends in and be in harmony with its surroundings.

Aleister Holmes is a contributing writer to Better Patio Furniture website at

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