Shade ideas for patios, gardens and backyards: 20 chic ways to keep cool
Our favorite shade ideas for gardens will help you shelter from the sun's glare in style
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We all love a spot of summer sunshine. But on sweltering days, you'll need some shade ideas for patios to keep you cool, collected, and protected from the glare.
A sheltered garden retreat can be somewhere to escape to with a good book or a group of friends. It can be a temporary solution – a stunning parasol, for instance – or a built-in structure that will provide respite from the rain too. There are plenty of chic and creative ways that will suit all kinds of plots – and we've picked out our favorites for you to peruse.
Whether you want to grow your own leafy canopy to dine underneath, build a bespoke outside room, or find out how to design a fairytale shelter perfect for twilight drinks, there's plenty to add to your garden design ideas in our selection.
Shade ideas for patios and gardens: 20 stunning looks
These shade ideas for gardens aren't only practical – they're super stylish too. You'll feel inspired for your own in no time.
1. Create a pretty picnic scene with a canopy
Easy to assemble and fully transportable, this gorgeous canopy is a surefire way to elevate even the simplest of picnics. We especially love the fringe detailing which gives it an elegant, vintage vibe.
Layer up tons of soft textiles and comfy cushions and consider popping a small table beneath too as somewhere stable to rest a glass of wine or a bowl of snacks. Before you know it, a patch of lawn or patio will be instantly transformed into an enchanting and shaded retreat.
2. Try an adjustable roof
'Outdoor structures such as canopies and pergolas are a great addition to any space, especially when they can be installed with multiple features in mind to create a pleasant atmosphere and essentially provide the comfort of indoors, outdoors,' says Stuart Dantzic, Managing Director at Caribbean Blinds (opens in new tab).
Take a look at this sleek design above, for instance – the aluminium louvered roof can be adjusted to provide the perfect amount of shade. And if it rains, it can be closed completely to form a watertight cover. There are also heaters and LED lighting installed in the structure too, meaning you'll be able to enjoy the zone all year round at any time of day or night.
3. Go for a super chic parasol
Need a cool spot to enjoy your morning coffee? Then pop up one of the best garden parasols for instant shade. They come in all shapes and sizes, from neat, arcing shapes just big enough for two to supersized rectangular canopies designed to comfortably cover a dining table for eight.
Single colors tend to be the norm – stone, gray, black and cream are all chic contemporary choices – but we particularly love this Riviera-inspired parasol above. The bold blue trim adds a jaunty nautical touch that’s sure to be a firm favorite for years.
4. Extend your living space with a veranda
If you've got bigger shade ideas for patios (and a bigger budget to play with) then you might consider opting for a veranda. This type of structure extends directly from the exterior of the home, often to cover a deck or porch. They create a fabulous indoor-outdoor setting that's sheltered from the elements.
This example has a rustic farmhouse vibe with its exposed beams, and looks gorgeous alongside the shutters and soft-hued furnishings. Of course, there are plenty of smaller and more contemporary enclosed patio ideas available too.
5. Embrace a boho vibe with a makeshift canopy
If you're on the lookout for cheap garden ideas for shade, then how about fashioning your own from a pretty sheet of fabric or an old bedspread? Sure, it won't be a permanent solution, but on days where the sun's heat is simply too much to bear, it's a simple and chic approach.
A few lengths of cord and some grommets and tent pegs will come in useful to secure it into position. Fill the space with patterned cushions, pouffes or beanbags atop an outdoor rug for a laid-back, bohemian tone.
6. Look for furniture with a built-in shade solution
Swap the sun's harsh glare for a secluded seating spot instead, by opting for furniture with a built-in canopy. Popular back in the 1920s these fan-style folding covers were often found dotted along the beaches of Cannes and Nice. Today they are just as effective for blocking out the sun – simply raise or lower the canopy as needed.
They are great for keeping out a stiff breeze too. This design, in a dark gray faux rattan, features a canopy sofa, two movable seats, footstool and side table. They all slot neatly together when not in use, which is great if your patio is particularly compact and bijou.
You can find more small patio ideas in our guide.
7. Curl up on a swing seat
Treat yourself to a cozy daybed where you can unwind and be rocked to sleep come rain or shine. The best garden swing seats can make a very special addition to a backyard, especially when they are as beautifully crafted as this one.
Made in Devon using oak and corrugated tin, the roomy seat shown above is suspended from metal chains at each corner. Tuck these beautiful structures into a quiet, leafy corner and they can quickly become a much-cherished place for taking time out, especially during the hottest part of the day.
And, during cooler months, you can load it up with blankets, cushions and throws and light one of the best fire pits nearby for cozy, memorable moments.
8. Design your own retreat
If an off-the-peg shelter is just not your thing, then with a little imagination and creative flair you can create your own one-of-a-kind garden room. Start by clearing an unloved corner and think about how you can partially enclose the space.
Painting your existing garden fence or wall black or another dark tone will instantly smarten it up, create an intimate feel and make a fantastic background for showing off salvaged finds such as these weathered shutters.
Adding a freestanding screen can help with that room-like feel while a simple pergola overhead covered with corrugated plastic sheeting is unobtrusive but effective at keeping sun and rain away. Plus it's the perfect support for hanging a cluster of lanterns too. Pop in a highly decorative tiled floor or large rug, some open work rattan furniture and plenty of tropical blooms and you've a truly special, totally unique retreat.
9. Go for a side-supported parasol
Some courtyard gardens can turn into furnaces on hot, summer days with brick walls and paving intensifying the heat. But you can restore some sense of cool and calmness with a large, cantilevered parasol.
Suspended from an arching or right-angled side arm these contemporary sun-shades are often designed to be easily adjusted to follow the sun's path, without having to drag a weighty base around. So, you can ensure a large, uninterrupted area of shade throughout the day. What's more, they're a great outdoor living space idea as there's no need to constantly dodge around an annoying central post whilst catching up with friends.
10. Grow a living canopy...
If you have a favorite spot for outdoor dining in your garden that's desperately in need of some shade, then how about including a natural canopy in your scheme? Okay, it will take some time, patience and a little skill in training and tying in branches, but it looks stunning and will simply get better with age. The beautiful dappled light created beneath the leaves is enchanting and with a little planning you can choose trees that reflect the changing seasons.
This elegant design by Claudia De Jong features four plum trees that have delicate blossom in spring, golden fruit late summer and leaves that turn russet brown in autumn. With strong, straight trunks they have been planted a couple of meters apart to form a square, roomy enough to surround a table and chairs. The overhead branches have been carefully tied into a square framework and any outward shoots are neatly trimmed away.
11. ...or make the most of one you already have
If you're lucky enough to already have an established tree in your yard than you can certainly utilize it when seeking shade. Whether you set up a sun lounger, picnic rug, or one of the best hammocks beneath, the leafy canopy overhead will provide plenty of blissful vibes whilst keeping you shielded from the sun.
12. Choose a sun-smart awning
Garden awning ideas have definitely come of age – long gone are the candy-striped, frill-edged affairs. Today's designs are sleek, discreet and feature built-in lighting, heating and sensors that can detect when they are needed. There are a few products that can be unfurled manually with a crank handle, but most have smooth motorized controls that can be operated remotely via handset or App.
This design is fitted with vibration sensors that can detect windy conditions and automatically close the awning to prevent it from being damaged in strong winds – clever, huh?
13. Add a striking shade sail
Consider shade ideas for backyards that create a sculptural statement. A shade sail is a case in point. Square, rectangular or triangular in shape, they come in many different grades of fabric and finishing so consider how often you will use yours before you buy. Party shades tend to be cheaper and shorter in lifespan, designed for occasional use. They are usually made from a recyclable mono-filament polymer.
This knitted fabric is durable and breathable, allowing retained heat to escape through tiny holes and while it will block some UV rays – usually around 90% – some can still get through. For a longer lasting canopy, look for fabrics that are described as water resistant or waterproof. Often woven from high density polyester they will reliably keep the rain off, block up to 98% of UV rays and come with strapping along each side for added tension and marine grade corner fittings too.
14. Design a leafy pathway
As well as being practical, adding shade into a sunny garden can completely transform the whole space and make it feel much more inviting too. One of the simplest ways to do this is to add a series of arches along a pathway. Not only will this frame the view beyond, but it also creates a rhythmic play of shadows along your garden path that highlights the texture and color of surrounding plants.
A gently arcing design like this one above will help to open up the space. Plant with wisteria which will quickly cover the frame with its light, vivid green foliage and if you buy a grafted plant that's over five years old, you'll enjoy a dazzling cascade of blue or white blooms every May and June. There are tips on how to grow wisteria in our guide.
15. Escape to an arbor
Fancy some quiet time out of the sun? Try out some garden arbor ideas to make a stylish retreat. Compact and simple in design, they create a secluded but comfy place to perch for an hour or so, especially when armed with a cuppa and a good book. Usually designed with a gable roof and slatted wood or trellis sides they can be tucked into a leafy nook and surrounded with fragrant climbers for extra charm.
Look for a sturdy design made from pressure treated timber and go for a seat that is roomy and supportive. This one shown above has a built-in bench with sloping back making it extra comfy – just add a couple of plumped up cushions and you won't want to move.
16. Upgrade your gazebo
Forget wrestling with flimsy frames and fly-away covers, the best gazebo can be a truly stylish addition to your garden and the perfect setting for lazy evenings throughout the summer months.
This one is cool and understated with its stone-colored canvas, and looks fantastic paired with neutral accessories and furniture. The fabric gives excellent protection against the sun's rays, too – blocking out 98% of ultraviolet radiation. And if you want a little more privacy? Easy – just pull the curtains closed.
17. Make your shady spot a focal point
Turn your need for shade ideas for patios into an opportunity to add a little drama. A finely crafted metal gazebo – such as this hexagonal design – will bring a smile to everyone's face and become a magical setting for your morning coffee to your evening drinks.
Although a large structure, the open trellis sides are designed so you can see through to the garden beyond, ensuring the shelter doesn't dominate and block the view. Add a canvas roof liner for extra protection from sun and showers. Side coverings are also available in myriad colors.
18. Give a summer house a modern edge
Traditional yes, but the perfect shady retreat for many has to be a summer house. Quintessentially English, these outdoor hideaways can become ideal locations for a friendly catch up, afternoon tea or a sundowner G&T.
Made with timber walls and usually sporting symmetrical windows and wide opening doors, some designs such as this beauty come with an impressive lead-effect glass fibre roof. Its beautiful sweeping lines teamed with cool paintwork and simple furnishings create a light and spacious feel, ideal for modern outdoor living.
There's more inspiration for your outdoor room in our summer house ideas.
19. Plant a pergola for dappled shade
Imagine spending the summer months under a cool leafy canopy which rustles in the breeze. Well, building a pergola could be the answer. Constructed from heavy, weather-treated timber uprights with a framework of timber joists above, they are pretty quick to assemble. And, planted up with a few mature climbers, they can look as though they've been there for years.
Position one right next to the house and you will use the space pretty much all the time. Just add a cozy outdoor sofa, side table, rug and outdoor lighting and it will be a cool place where everyone will want to hang out. Hang a few paper lanterns overhead for a fun finishing touch that will make the space even more inviting.
Want to try building one yourself? Our step-by-step guide on how to build a pergola will show you how.
20. Invest in a high-tech shelter
If your garden is very exposed and you love entertaining in all weathers, then it's worth splashing out on a generous outside room for your shade ideas for patios.
Simple but oh-so-stylish, this structure is large enough to cook, laze and dine under. It features a rotating louvered roof that can be fully retracted as day turns to twilight. And, endless combinations of sliding and louvred walls, built-in lighting and heating options enable you to configure it to suit your site and needs. It's a fabulous option for contemporary patio cover ideas.
What is the best way to create shade in a garden?
Perhaps, after perusing all these lovely shade ideas for patios and gardens, you're a little unsure on the best one for you. Well there's no definitive answer, as the right pick depends on a multitude of factors, including your budget and sense of style.
If you're looking for a quick and generally inexpensive solution, then you can't go far wrong with a parasol. In fact, in a survey by VonHaus (opens in new tab), it was found that 40% of people would choose a parasol as their go-to garden cover. 'These practical as well as stylish, come-rain-or-shine protectors are the best way to create your perfect alfresco space,' the team say. Plus, with the variety of colors and patterns on offer, it's easy to pick one that complements your other patio ideas.
A gazebo, on the other hand, is a little more robust (albeit more expensive). You can opt for permanent builds or temporary structures, but either way, they will offer more shelter. They provide the opportunity to create more of a 'garden room' too. 'Even a canopy-style one without sides will not only provide shelter but will also give you the perfect area to showcase your decorative talent,' says Jess Contomichalos, Stylist at Danetti (opens in new tab). 'You could hang bunting, festive lights and set up a buffet table or bar area under the canopied section.' Our outdoor bar ideas feature has plenty of inspo.
Arbors and swing seats provide a lovely space to sit and don't have to be expensive. They're a good pick for a more traditional tone as well as for smaller plots. However, if you want to shelter a larger zone (for instance, a dining area) then these won't be the solution for you.
Awnings are great for versatility, as they can retract as and when needed. They tend to be cheaper to install than a veranda or full enclosed patio extension, but some may prefer the more cohesive appearance of the latter options. However, a permanent build attached to the exterior of your home is likely to be the most expensive option of all, although it will undoubtedly extend your living space for years to come.
Jill puts her love of plants and all things garden related down to the hours spent pottering around with her Nan and Grandad when she was little. Today she is lucky enough to have a garden of her own in Surrey, England, and spends much of her time writing about them too.
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