Flowers, freestanding structures, and other simple solutions to stay cool this summer.
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white and gray Room and Board patio furniture

Whether your patio consists of sprawling space or is a cozy urban oasis, making the most of it during the hottest days of summer requires one essential element: shade. Installing permanent awnings or roofs, setting up temporary structures or gazebos, and incorporating potted plants, existing trees, and fast-growing vines can all help you move your indoor activities outside, providing a cool, temperate space for dining, reading, and socializing.

If you live in a region where harsh winter weather could damage your outdoor furniture, choose sturdy materials and sealed finishes, or opt for a pop-up gazebo or removable shade you can bring inside after the summer ends. Areas with all-day sunshine benefit from adjustable umbrellas, curtains, and awnings that mean you always have at least one shaded chair for an afternoon nap; rentals or odd-shaped backyard patios are ideal for freestanding pergolas and leafy potted plants. If your home's aesthetic trends more minimalist, look for a pergola made from sleek wood. For a townhouse or apartment in the heart of the city, go with an umbrella that folds up small in the winter. A cottage-inspired painted trellis covered with trailing vines and wisteria offers a secluded spot with a country feeling even in the middle of suburbia.

Whatever your patio, there's a perfect way to add some shade this summer.

backyard patio seating area with rug and umbrella
Credit: Courtesy of Wayfair

Add a Freestanding Umbrella

A freestanding cantilevered umbrella offers generous shade over seating areas, and the adjustable arm that means that you can reposition it as the sun moves—this means your space is as comfortable during your at-home happy hour as it is during your morning coffee break.

Shop Now: Sol 72 Outdoor "Capri" Cantilever Umbrella, $283.99,

Credit: Ellie Miller

Light It Up

A traditional outdoor umbrella secured through the center of a dining table provides shade over your eating and entertaining space, but it blocks out a lot of natural light. Suspended tea light lanterns lend a glow to your space both before and after the sun goes down.

patio furniture next to pool
Credit: Courtesy of West Elm

Hang Outdoor Curtains

Hang weatherproof curtains around the edges of a partly enclosed space—like an open patio—or use them on a freestanding structure to create an outdoor room with an upscale resort cabana vibe. Since you can adjust them during the day, you can limit sun and heat when you need to—and let the light in when you don't.

Shop Now: Sanbrella Indoor/Outdoor "Solid Cast" Curtain, from $139,

Credit: Lisa Romerein

Green Your Space

Natural landscaping on a brick patio creates shade from a variety of sources, including a wooden trellis covered with leafy foliage, colorful potted plants that soak up the sun from each side, and tall bushes that provide privacy and help block unwanted sounds.

outdoor patio with cantilevered umbrella
Credit: Courtesy of Pottery Barn

Extend an Overhang

Place a super-flexible cantilever umbrella right next to your roof's overhang for some added patio shade. Simply close the umbrella in the evening.

Shop Now: Pottery Barn Round Cantilever Outdoor Umbrella, 11', $1,249,


Use an Awning

If a permanent shade solution blocks too much of the light from your windows, opt for a retractable awning that you can roll in and out as needed: Extend it in the morning to keep your outdoor furniture from getting too hot before lunch, and roll it back in the evening when the sun is no longer as intense.

outdoor patio with roof and wooden furniture
Credit: Getty / Eric Audras

Add a Roof

Enclosing your space with a slatted roof while leaving the sides open offers a more permanent shade solution without sacrificing airflow. Slim beams frame pristine views, while the full coverage overhead protects your furniture from winter weather, summer rain, and blistering sun.


Incorporate the Landscape

A pergola-style open roof combined with large-leafed tropical trees and a tall fence provides a large amount of shade without making the space feel claustrophobic. Incorporating the trees' trunks and branches into the architecture enhances the natural beauty of the dining area.

Close up of wisteria flowers blooming in spring
Credit: Getty / Natalia Ganelin

Grow Vines

Whether your taste leans toward bright flowers, sweet grapes, or trailing ivy, plant vines that can grow up and around freestanding posts and structures for a lifetime of low-maintenance shade. Wisteria, pictured here, requires work to keep it in check, but enjoying the flower's beauty (and the shade the plant will ultimately provide) is worth it.

patio hanging plants from metal roof
Credit: Getty / iprogressman

Use Planters

Hanging planters offer a simple, no-commitment option for adding shade to a patio: Suspend them from an overhang on your home or from hooks to create a temporary wall of foliage that looks beautiful while keeping you cool. Choose annuals and give yourself the chance to switch up your color scheme every spring.


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