Outdoor living room ideas: 15 ways to maximise any outdoor space

These outdoor living room ideas are perfect for creating a stylish space for relaxing and entertaining this summer

 Compilation of gardens showing an array of outdoor living room ideas including outdoor sofas, coffee table and fairy lights
(Image credit: Future)

Creating an outdoor living room has never been so popular – acting as the ideal way to feel at one with nature whilst being surrounded by the creature comforts we adore indoors. 

Outdoor living room ideas, alongside outdoor kitchen ideas, are one of the biggest garden trends of 2024. Utilising outdoor spaces, large or small, as additional living space allows us to maximise the square footage of our homes and great a more integrated lifestyle. 

No matter the size, from a wraparound deck directly off the house to an intimate balcony, or a sprawling patch of lawn, any plot can be furnished to function as a stylish outdoor living room by adopting a few simple interior design principles. 

Not sure how to get started? We chatted with interior designers and garden experts who shared their top tips and outdoor living room ideas to help set the scene...

15 Inspirational outdoor living room ideas

Creating an outdoor living room gives us the chance to try all the latest interior design trends or expressive colour trends that you might not feel confident enough to use indoors.

"The outdoors is a brilliant place to have fun with colour, and make the bolder choices you may crave, but wouldn't pursue indoors," says interiors expert Elias Blunden-Stone, aka The Room Editor

"Play off the colours of your planted flowers, or channel your favourite holiday destination by creating the same vibe as a treasured location; like bold azure and bright white for fans of the Greek islands."

1. Choose a comfy couch arrangement

Outdoor living room idea with Leanne Ford’s latest sofa collection with Crate & Barrel

(Image credit: Crate & Barrel)

Investing in key pieces of the best outdoor furniture will make your place feel like a true hideaway from the world.

Recreate the creature comforts of your indoor living room by choosing the same style of outdoor furniture. Comfy corner sofas have become hugely popular for outdoor living spaces to emulate the authentic feel of a living room, rather than traditional wooden garden furniture. 

An upholstered sofa instantly brings an indoor living room feel to any backyard social space. Not to mention, it also proves highly practical for offering plenty of seating for all. 

Sabina Miller, buying director at Heal’s agrees, saying: "The key to creating a functioning alfresco space is ensuring you have suitable outdoor furniture that will offer the same comfort and durability that you would expect from indoor designs. Cushioned seating provides a sumptuous spot to relax in the summer sunshine." 

2. Add an outdoor rug

Outdoor living room with corner sofa dressed with monochrome cushions. coffee table and black and white striped rug

(Image credit: Future)

Outdoor rugs serve a multitude of functions when used in an outdoor space. Firstly, adding pattern and colour to the flooring, be it patio paving, turf, or decking, instantly brings the space alive, adding a touch of interior design flair. 

Secondly, there’s a practical element of providing comfort underfoot, because unlike being barefoot in your living room, your bare feet are exposed to the elements in an outdoor living space. The simple placement of an outdoor rug alleviates the issue of problem surfaces: it will save your feet from burning on hot floor surfaces during the hottest part of the day, or from slippery surfaces during a sudden downpour. 

Let’s not forget a rug can also protect outdoor flooring from spills that may occur from any food or drink being enjoyed while entertaining or throwing a garden party – to save you from cleaning patio slabs mid-afternoon to prevent staining. It's for this reason also that you should know how to clean an outdoor rug to keep it looking its best.

Start from the ground up. "Define the space with an outdoor rug, then build up seating, decorative textiles (in outdoor-friendly fabrics), and surfaces (like tables or stools) – I like tray-top tables for maximum versatility," advises Elias.

3. Arrange furniture around a coffee table

outdoor living space with living room style sofa lamp and coffee table arrangement

(Image credit: Future)

When it comes to arranging furniture in an outdoor living room idea, apply the same styling principles as you would when configuring an indoor living space. Avoid a common living room design mistake by looking for a focal point to arrange your sofas and chairs around - a coffee table is a perfect solution.

A low table in the centre gives an outside space more purpose. A coffee table indoors is sometimes solely there to anchor the decor, providing a focal point to fill an otherwise wasted space or act as somewhere to fan out your favourite magazines or coffee table books. 

In contrast, a coffee table in an outdoor living room idea is much more practical, providing the perfect platform to place useful items, like gardening supplies or snacks and drinks if you're entertaining – saving you constant trips indoors to fetch them. 

4. Dress furniture with cushions and throws

outdoor living room idea with a coastal theme by the sea

(Image credit: Future | Simon Scarboro)

No living room sofa is complete without a curated collection of cushions, yet so often the garden furniture sits naked in the backyard, not styled and accepted as merely a seat rather than cosy and welcoming like a living room sofa.

Using the same styling principles as you would apply indoors, layer seating with textured throws against brightly coloured cushions to bring an outdoor living space to life with a pop of personality. 

“Adding small decorative touches such as cushions and throws is a great way of rejuvenating your current outdoor furniture this season, without needing to spend a lot of money," suggests Clotilde Passalacqua, interior design Manager at IKEA

"Tactile accessories will effortlessly add an element of comfort to your outdoor space, helping to create an inviting environment for you and your guests to enjoy time outdoors.”

Choose specially designed outdoor fabrics to ensure your accessories are fade-resistant to the sun and splash-proof from any water exposure. It's also worth cleaning outdoor cushions throughout the summer to keep them looking in tip-top condition.

5. Make a style statement with lighting

outdoor living room idea with L-shaped sofa and floor lamp lighting

(Image credit: SUNS Lifestyle)

When it comes to backyard lights we often think function over form, giving all the aesthetics to the interiors of the home. Instead, take inspiration from the ambient lighting scheme in your living room to welcome the same level of lighting to outside spaces. Incorporating more thoughtful lighting adds a stylish living room feel. 

While outdoor lighting comes in many practical forms, such as directional spotlights around borders and paths and large patio lights, we love the idea of using lamps to enhance the indoor-outdoor feeling of the outdoor living space.

"Freestanding lamps and lanterns, that are solar-powered and rechargeable, are great outdoors as they can be moved around the space easily, offering a lot more flexibility and the option of directional lighting," explains Reilly Gray, Founder, SUNS Lifestyle.

"We've seen sales of our solar-powered lanterns and lighting increase as customers invest more into their outdoor spaces and look to make the most of them all year round. The right lighting gives a real sense of home whilst allowing you to enjoy your outdoor space long after sundown."

Solar-powered lighting can offer up to 18 hours of light on a full battery, but can also be charged using USB-C as an alternative power source, presenting not only a practical but a sustainable living solution too. 

6. Set out a fire pit to gather around

Outdoor living room area with focal fire pit with footstools for extra seating and traditional rattan sofa

(Image credit: Future)

An outdoor living room isn't complete these days without an on-trend fire pit, a perfect way to inject heat and ambience into your space.

As well as being highly practical from a heating perspective, a fire pit can also act as a great focal point to style your space around and is a great garden party idea to keep gatherings going long after the sun has set.

"Much like an internal living room, either centre the space around a focal point or lay it out for conversational ease. Where the focus might be a fireplace (or television) indoors, focus outdoor living around a particularly pleasant view of the garden, or (if you have a safe environment for it) a fire pit or fire bowl," advises Elias.

7. Welcome shade to maximise usage

Outdoor living room iea on patio with retractable motorised awning for shelter and shade

(Image credit: Hillarys)

While an outdoor living room is a dream, there will be times when you need to escape the rays and for that, you need a suitable shade. An awning is a winning way to provide shelter, even better when choosing a motorized design that can be welcomed at the touch of a button. 

"Firstly, you need to think about how you currently use your space, and what you might like to achieve by having an awning installed," advises James Chilton, product manager, awnings, Hillarys

"If, for example, you love using your garden into the evening, you may want to consider an awning that has the option of a built-in heater, so you can use your space as it gets chillier. Similarly, if you’d like to use your garden year-round, including in the darker autumn and winter months, you’re likely to benefit from built-in lighting."

"All awnings work extremely hard: they offer shade on a hot summer’s day; provide superior UV protection, and are retractable for complete flexibility."

Awnings come in a variety of fabrics which allows you to find the color, pattern and texture that’s right for your space.

8. Embrace occasional furniture

outdoor living room with outdoor rocking chair and coffee table

(Image credit: Mad About Mid Century Modern)

Occasional furniture is a great way to effortlessly style your outdoor living space. As you would in your indoor living room, team occasional chairs with a garden sofa to provide ample seating. Consider buying a rocking chair to create the perfect spot to rock the hours away with a good book.

Incorporating additional chairs into your outdoor living room space means you can cater to everyone when entertaining, ensuring a comfortable place for all to perch. 

"Try and offer seating at different heights and comfort levels for different guests," advises Elias. "As fun and garden-friendly as they are, not everyone wants to flop around in a beanbag chair.

9. Add depth with garden mirrors

Small garden with green painted wall with garden mirror to show how to make a small garden look bigger

(Image credit: Future | Lizzie Orme)

Garden mirrors are the styling gem that every homeowner should embrace when styling an outdoor living room. Not only do mirrors add a sophisticated touch to the space, the reflection also adds depth and curiosity. 

The trick of using garden mirrors is especially effective in smaller plots because mirrors can create a sense of space by bouncing light around, helping to make a small garden look and feel bigger.

10. Create ambience with candlelight

outdoor living room ideas with flamelss outdoor candles and fairy lights

(Image credit: Lights4Fun)

No matter the setting, indoors or outdoors you can never go wrong with candlelight for instantly setting the mood and creating a relaxing ambiance for a living room space. Our team at w&h is currently obsessed with the best flameless candles for doing the job without the need for a naked flame. 

While we welcome a best scented candle to add fragrance and a citronella candle to keep wasps away the rest are best when flameless to provide safe candlelight to fill an outdoor space. You can safely fill side tables, coffee tables, and even the flooring area surrounding your seating arrangements to cast a warm glow all around to enjoy your outdoor living room idea long after the sun disappears. 

11. Adorn the walls with artwork

Slatted wooden garden fence with framed outdoor art for a quirky outdoor living room idea

(Image credit: YardArt)

Wall decor is no longer just reserved for interiors, as decorating exterior walls with mirrors and artwork is becoming increasingly popular. Dressing the walls helps to instantly create a sense of an outdoor living room by mimicking classic interior styling. 

Taking exterior wall decor one step further Elias adds: "For a truly indoor decorative kick, look into adding garden-friendly art. I am a huge fan of art outdoors, and I like to think beyond the garden gnome. Look for durable ceramic or metal sculptures, or rustic wooden or metal wall art panels that will age well in the elements. Weathered vintage signage is a way to add fun retro style."

12. Add a splash of color

Garden images showing outdoor paints on a terracotta painted wall and outdoor living room idea with painted wall mural

(Image credit: Protek)

While embracing the latest wildflower garden border trend is a good way to get started with colour you can add a splash of paint to walls, fences, and furniture to make more of an impact. You can even use the same principles of how to make a small room look bigger with paint by choosing colours that enhance a small backyard.

"Painting fencing, walls, and furniture are key decisions, as they create the canvas for the garden," says Becky Rackstraw, director at outdoor paint specialist Protek. "But the planting must be considered about the painted structures and it also offers the opportunity to spotlight a favourite plant."

"Picking the correct shade for a fence can dramatically affect the garden – it’s the backdrop – there are several approaches.  I’d recommend either a strong colour, Protek Royal Exterior Faded Terracotta, to make it sing and appear to jump out; or a dark black or greeny grey Protek Royal Exterior Wolf Grey that will allow it to ‘fall away’. Generally, pick a shade that blends well with the overall garden to create a feeling of space."

"Overall have fun and ensure the colours in your garden make you feel uplifted and happy," Becky concludes because creating a happy space for your outdoor living room will ensure hours spent relaxing in the surroundings. 

Check out the latest Garden Shades colour trends from Cuprinol for further inspiration.

13. Seek storage

outdoor living room idea with wall storage unit on white cladding wall

(Image credit: String Furniture)

Furnishing an outdoor area with storage pieces and functional elements of furniture helps to instantly make an outside space resemble that of an indoor space. 

“A flexible system allows you to furnish your outdoor space with beautiful and timeless functional furniture," says Bo Hellberg, CMO at String Furniture. With galvanized shelves and panels, the right outdoor storage promises to withstand even the harshest of weather and bring a touch of Scandinavian style with it. 

"Easily attached to a wall or fence, a storage system is ideal to keep compact spaces clutter-free. Even the smallest of garden spaces need plenty of storage and with its unique shelving, you will have a natural place to keep all your garden tools pots, and other rough objects all year round.” 

While you might not be able to fully embrace beautifully organised bookshelves because of the exposed elements, there are still plenty of ways to maximise their potential – from an array of potted plants to decorative ornaments and garden accessories to embrace an outdoor version of the Bookshelf wealth design trend. 

14. Decorate the floor

outdoor living room idea with decorative flooring

(Image credit: Future)

There's been an overwhelming trend in recent years for painting paving slabs to transform them from drab to fab on a budget – and who isn't looking for ways to make a home look more expensive on a budget

This is a winning idea to apply in a newly zoned outdoor living area where the patio feels like a jazzed-up version with a simple coat of paint and a decorative stencil. 

Follow the latest flooring trends to give your outdoor living room a new style direction. Any outdoor area with stone flooring could do with a little inspiration because let's be honest no matter how clean the patio slabs are they still feel very safe and 'garden essential' rather than stylish. 

15. Create a chill out zone

outdoor living room idea with an oversized orange beanbag

(Image credit: Future)

For times when you're not hosting friends and family, you might wish to use the space to simply recline and switch off and there's no greater accessory for that than a lazy seating solution such as a beanbag or plump floor cushions. 

Set aside one corner of your dedicated outdoor living room area to become the chill-out zone, where the emphasis is very much on relaxed seating and nothing else. This would make the ideal area for kids or grandkids to enjoy a less formal setup than that of the couch and coffee table arrangement.

How do I set up an outdoor living room?

Homeowners looking to upgrade their outside spaces should approach the decor with the same level of consideration as indoor styling. 

Take key trends (such as the popular Japandi trend) outside, to create outdoor living room ideas filled with considered furniture and accessory choices. From comfy corner sofas to practical side tables, the key is in the detail for comfortable alfresco living. Thanks to the latest garden furniture and accessory designs, it's never been easier to create a more beautiful and luxurious outdoor living space that feels like a seamless transition from indoor to out.

"When it comes to furnishing a terrace or outdoor area don’t be scared to mix different styles of furniture together in the same way as you would in an interior," says global interior designer Sophie Paterson, at Sophie Paterson Interiors.

outdoor living room with comfortable outdoor sofas and chairs with outdoor rugs and outdoor coffee table

(Image credit: John Lewis & Partners)

How do you make a cosy outdoor space?

Making an outside space cosy is easy when you know how, you simply adopt many of the same aspects as you would make a home feel cosy. "If you like to get outdoors and use your space as early (or late) in the season as possible, make sure and have "after-dark" accessories, that will help you cosy up, on standby," says Elias. Dig out your best electric blanket from winter and give it a new lease of life when the sun goes down.

"It's pretty obvious, but extra throws will come in handy once the sun sets. Ambient candlelight makes things cosy. Invest in tall lanterns that will keep lit candles secure, transportable, and out of the wind," Elias continues.

"Even artificial light will add cosiness. There are more options than ever for either rechargeable outdoor-friendly lighting or more stylish solar-powered units that charge all day in the sun and provide the perfect glow after dusk."

“Never before has the word ‘cosy’ been associated with the garden. Historically, gardens have been utility spaces, or for aesthetic value such as decorative botanical gardens. Now, however, people want to give their garden a cosy feel, making it an extension of their homes," says Jonny Brierley, CEO at Moda Furnishings. 

"With the introduction of softer outdoor-use upholstery, lighting, accessories, and even fire pits, people are applying the same interest in the design of their homes to the design of their gardens.”

Tamara Kelly
Lifestyle Editor

Tamara is a highly experienced homes and interiors journalist, with a career spanning 22 years. Now the Lifestyle Editor of womanandhome.com, she has spent the last 17 years working with the style teams at Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, and it’s with these award-winning interiors teams that she gained a wealth of knowledge and honed her skills and passion for styling and writing about every aspect of lifestyle and interiors.

A true homes and interiors expert, Tamara has served as an ambassador for leading interior brands on multiple occasions, including appearing on Matalan’s The Show and presenting at top interior trend forecasting events such as the Autumn Fair and Spring Fair.