Outdoor Shade Structures: Sprucing Up Your Patio For Spring

Finally! It’s time to store the parkas and fleece-lined footgear and get out the sunscreen and patio chairs. Instead of incessant snow, we now have shade structures on our minds. And not a moment too soon. It’s been a long, tough winter.

For backyard living enthusiasts, spring means one thing: it’s time to spruce up your patio. For restaurateurs of all descriptions – and for other types of businesses, too — sprucing up your patio now can bring a smile to your bottom line at the end of the year.

Adding shade structures can make your valuable outdoor real estate even more appealing. You’ll want to use your patio more often, and you – or your patrons – will be more comfortable doing it. It doesn’t get better than that.

Patios are hot.
Hot as in trendy, that is. But there’s no reason your patio has to be hot as in toasty. Shade structures can make any size patio more inviting. You can create a tiny, intimate hideaway space or multiple shaded areas around a spacious patio, dividing it into functional or visual “rooms” without interrupting the wide-open feel and traffic flow.

Whether you’re working to spruce up your backyard or your business establishment, you can use shade structures to improve all kinds of outdoor areas, including:

  • Seating areas.
  • Barbeque or outdoor kitchen.
  • Bar area.
  • Lawn for croquet or bocce.
  • Kids swing set or sandbox.
  • Walkways and sidewalks.

There are shade structures just right to spruce up any patio.
Shade structures can be as fancy as a gazebo or as simple as a retractable window awning. There are several types, each one with great benefits but an entirely different look. Any of them can be very small or quite large.

Awnings. This might be your first thought when you hear “shade structures.” Awnings – also called canopies — are typically attached to a wall. Old-fashioned versions always had a simple cantilevered shape, and often they were retractable. These days, you can design awning-style shade structures in other shapes that are rounded or squared off, as well as slanted.

Though these alternatives shapes are usually found on commercial buildings, there’s no reason you can’t have an interesting shape to shade your home patio, too. And of course you can create canopy shade structures that are free-standing instead of attached.

Pergolas. Rapidly gaining in popularity, pergolas are usually wooden shade structures that are beloved for the way they filter sunlight rather than omitting it. Because they have an open-work roof made of slats, they aren’t appropriate for rain or snow protection. But that open roof treatment and sturdy corner pillars make pergolas the perfect shade structures on which to grow plants. They can be attached to a wall or free-standing.

Tension membranes. Shade structures can look ethereal as well as sturdy. Tension membranes are made of lightweight fabric that’s held taut by wires, so they lend themselves beautifully to triangular or other unusual wing-like shapes. Their structural stability enables them to cover very large areas without a lot of visual bulk.

Umbrellas. A perennial favorite, umbrellas are the most portable shade structures. They can be used as an integral part of patio furniture, or they can be weighted to stand alone. You can move them around as you like, and they make excellent companions to larger, permanently-installed types of shade structures for those times when you have larger gatherings and need more shade.

Sprucing up your patio with shade structures is cool.
Not only will your patio look much more welcoming, it will actually be cooler when you add shade. Shade structures keep the sun off people, furnishings, plants and pets, protecting them from the sun’s harmful UV rays. But they also keep your patio itself cooler, so it radiates less heat.

So which shade structures will you choose to spruce up your patio this spring?

Photo Credit: htlcto via Flickr