The lingering nights of summer are months away, but the time to prep the patio is now. Let the inspiration games begin with this leafy urban oasis.

It’s called interior design, but this backyard retreat proves the same rules apply outdoors: Mix, don’t match. Keep large pieces neutral (but go bold with pillows). Remember that plants always lift a space. And add a few surprises—yep, we’re looking at you, stock-tank coffee table.

Patio backyard retreat
Credit: Matthew Benson

Green Party

Foliage-heavy containers, hanging air plants and trailing vines create a jungle vibe. Bonus: After the neighbors’ petunias fade, your greenery will still look fab.

Floor Plans

Just as they do indoors, carpets anchor furniture and define zones. For longevity, choose a UV-protected outdoor rug to resist fading and mildew.

Patio inspiration
Credit: Matthew Benson

Higher Calling

A raised bed filled with tomatoes and herbs brings an eye-level splash of color and aroma, and can create a textural privacy screen along one side of a patio.

Raised bed on patio
Credit: Matthew Benson

Light Show

Dangle mini lanterns from tree branches for a magical mood. Flameless votive candles operated with a remote or set on a timer are the safest, easiest option.

Mini lanterns
Credit: Matthew Benson

Fired Up

A space-saving chiminea tucks safely into a corner for campfire ambience. Nearby, pillar candles flicker in lanterns.

Table Games

In lieu of a coffee table, cluster a few garden stools. If someone needs a seat (or a spot for a drink elsewhere), just swipe one from the pack.

Dining Out

Trade paper for cloth napkins and use real or melamine dishes. You’ll help the planet and look good too. Lanterns anchor a runner in place of a tablecloth.

Back Story

Conceal an ugly wall or fence (in this case, chain-link) with bamboo or twig-like screening, available at home centers. Think of it as outdoor wallpaper.

Farm to Table

Hack a low table by flipping over a galvanized stock tank and draping it with a patterned scarf. (Between parties, use the tank as a puppy or kiddie pool.)

Get the Look

Blue hues, boho style and backyard gardening are all hotter than ever. A sampling:

Sunbrella fabric resists fading and moisture. Sail Strip, 22-inch square, $128; Sayluita, 12x18 inches, $88.

Serena and Lily Pillow Covers
Serena and Lily Pillow Cover

Durable melamine, styled to look like glazed earthenware. 12-piece set, $24.99.

Threshold Dinnerware Set
Threshold Dinnerware Set

Spruce with rust-proof aluminum legs and a self- watering base system. 47 inches long, $96.

Better Homes & Gardens Elevated Planter