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Garden Rooms and More

Tuck chairs under an arbor or place a pavilion at the end of a winding path. Read on for ways to make an outdoor space feel like a real destination.

1. Go for Filigreed Flair

Photo by Keller + Keller

An ornate metal structure evokes a Victorian-era English country garden and offers a romantic prefab option for a backyard room.

Similar to shown: Lattice Pavilion made of powder-coated steel in a hammered-bronze finish, about $1,800;

2. Opt for Solar Mood Lights

Photo by Keller + Keller

Strands of bulbs powered by the sun are an easy way to light up a far-flung garden room. A solar panel staked in the ground harvests enough energy for 6 to 8 hours of illumination. Add a candle chandelier to enhance the mood. Solar String Lights with 200 bulbs, about $40; Plow and Hearth. Wrought Iron 6 Arm Candle Chandelier with Bird Cage, about $40;

3. Unfurl a Rug

Photo by Keller + Keller

An outdoor rug can cover a worn or unremarkable surface while also adding warmth, color, and an indoor touch. This rug echoes the vibrant hues of the annual blooms nearby.

Similar to shown: Koko Company Melange 6-by-8-foot Indoor/Outdoor Floor Mat in Tutti Frutti Red Mix, about $100;

4. Follow the Natural Contours

Photo by Mark Lohman

By working with the landscape rather than fighting it with an earthmover, you can turn a flaw into a design element. Here, a steep rise presented an opportunity for an intimate patio buttressed by a multilevel sitting wall. Watch a video on how to build your own round patio ringed by a sitting wall.

5. Create a Focal Point

Photo by Mark Lohman

A single standout feature, such as this built-in fire pit, provides a central spot around which to arrange furniture and orient views. Find a step-by-step for building your own fire pit.

6. Encourage a Journey

Photo by Mark Lohman

A winding path holds the promise of undiscovered vistas and nooks. The mulch trail with split-log steps above this sitting wall, for example, invites an exploration of the garden. To make a similar version, use flexible plastic edging for borders and buy mulch by the yard—your town may offer it for free—and have it delivered by truck.

7. Raise It Up

Photo by Christina Schmidhopfer/Sunset

A DIY platform made of pressure-treated pine slats helps protect against rot and termite damage while giving a structure a more prominent, multilevel look. It also keeps pooling water away from the floor and furnishings. Top Choice #2 Prime Pressure Treated Lumber in 8-foot lengths, about $4 each; Lowe's

8. Erect See-Through Walls

Photo by Christina Schmidhopfer/Sunset

Screens on the back and sides and gauzy drapes framing the front offer the feeling of an enclosure without blocking views or breezes.

Similar to shown: Indoor/Outdoor Grommet Drape in Natural, from $50 per panel; Pottery Barn

9. Stay Dry in a Downpour

Photo by Christina Schmidhopfer/Sunset

A porous pavilion roof is of little help during a shower. Here, clear plastic panels overlay the rafters, offering a respite from the rain while still allowing sunlight to filter in. Suntuf 26-inch by 12-foot Clear Polycarbonate Roofing Panels, about $32 each; The Home Depot

10. Hang a Flameless Lantern

Photo by Christina Schmidhopfer/Sunset

Chinese candle lanterns are a fun way to create ambience but can be a fire hazard. Battery-powered LED candles and lightpacks offer safe alternatives.

Similar to shown: 14-inch Gold Yellow Traditional Nylon Chinese Lantern with Tassel, about $5, and 16 LED Hanging Battery Terminal for Lantern, about $4;

11. Border With Pots

Photo by Judy White/

Containers can serve as low walls around a garden room. Vary the sizes for a more dynamic look, with a few standout specimens in large containers and bright flowering plants in small- to medium-size pots that are easier to move around. Consider a matched trio in graduated sizes, such as the Three-Piece Textured Planter Set by Zingz & Thingz, about $70;

12. Inject Color

Photo by Judy White/

Revitalize a worn platform with a therapeutic stain for aged wood while brightening it with a garden-friendly azure hue. We like Rust-Oleum's Restore 10X Advanced Resurfacer, in Blue Sky, about $25 per gallon; for stores.

13. Dress Up Railings

Photo by Judy White/

Planter boxes that hook onto deck or porch railings bring cheery blooms to eye level. Choose from two types: planters with brackets that sling over the rail and ones like these that clip onto the top. The 28-inch Rounded Cedar Deck Rail Planter (about $50; Hooks and Lattice) will help get you growing in no time.