12 Ways to Shade and Define Your Outdoor Patio Space

Redefine Your Outdoor Living Space with Architectural and Decorative Shade Options  

Our San Antonio designers and architects know just how important it is to create a shady space to enjoy summers in the backyard without burning up under the Texas sun! Shade options like awnings, pergolas, and screened porches serve to not only offer protection from the sun but also to define outdoor living spaces. Our Texas-based designers share twelve ways to shade and anchor your outdoor patio. Here are six of our favorite architectural outdoor shade structures that add beautiful practicality and six decorative shade options that incorporate charm with a softer edge.   

Shaded Patio
Shaded Patio

Architectural Outdoor Shade Structures

There are so many benefits to indoor-outdoor living, which is why homeowners are investing more than ever before to create stunning outdoor living spaces featuring kitchens, pools, and extensive patios. Permanent architectural shade structures are perfect for protecting these open-air spaces from harsh sunlight and rainstorms so that they can be enjoyed all day long. Adding an architectural shade structure to your backyard will also define and anchor your outdoor living, connect it to the interior, and make it an inviting place to spend hours in the fresh air. Here are our San Antonio architects’ six favorite architectural shade options. 

1. Pergolas 

Pergolas are an open-roof shade structure featuring a series of wood beams supported by columns. A pergola can be free-standing or connect to the main home. Since pergolas have an open roof, they only offer partial shade, a practical choice for north or east-facing yards that receive indirect sunlight. Pergolas can be covered in climbing vines or fabric panels to add additional shade. To add drama to your landscape lighting plan, add string lights to create an enchanting nighttime space.    

Pergola
Pergola

2. Loggias 

A loggia is an Italian architectural feature that will transport you to days of cool sea breezes and Aperol spritzes, no matter where your home is located. Loggias are long, open galleries that typically feature a series of columns and arches. Essentially a long porch or balcony, a loggia is integrated into the exterior of the home rather than an added extension. Advanced architectural planning will be needed to build this gorgeous shady and breezy outdoor space.  

Loggia
Loggia

3. Screened porches 

Screened porches are a popular choice in Texas. The benefits of a screened porch include shade from the sun, protection from bugs, the addition of privacy, and the expansion of indoor-outdoor space. Screened porches can be highly customized to match any home style and create an elegant flow from the interior to the exterior.     

Screened Porch by DK Studio
Screened Porch by DK Studio

4. Extended Rooflines

Extended rooflines off the main house are a cohesive and practical way to add outdoor shade to the backyard and establish an indoor-outdoor feel. An extension of the home’s roofline can be planned for in early construction phases or added to an existing home in a renovation project. A roof extension will define the livable patio space and keep it close to the main house for easy flow.  

Extended Roofline by Amity Worrel
Extended Roofline by Amity Worrel

5. Cabanas 

Cabanas are an essential backyard shade structure to add if you are looking to create a luxury feel around your swimming pool. Cabanas are typically covered, open-air designs featuring fabric panels on all four sides to offer privacy when needed and control sunlight from all angles. In addition to lounging, cabanas can serve as a suitable place to change in and out of swimwear.  

Cabanas
Cabanas

6. Palapa 

Palapas are similar to cabanas, but they come with a tropical twist. A palapa is an open-air pavilion, typically constructed with wooden beams, that includes a thatched roof. The thatched roof gives this architectural shade structure its tropical feel. Plus, it offers protection from the rain. This structure is perfect for homeowners looking to create a retreat feel in their backyard.  

Palapa
Palapa

Decorative Outdoor Shade Options 

In addition to building permanent shade structures in the backyard, decorative shade options can be added to bring in color, texture, and softness. Decorative shades are ideal for creating a mood, capturing gentle breezes, and adding interior comforts to the outside living space. Here are our San Antonio interior designers’ six favorite decorative outdoor shade selections.     

7. Outdoor Curtains 

Outdoor curtains can be added to balconies, covered patios, pergolas, and cabanas to create moods ranging from a Palm Springs oasis to a Mediterranean escape. Durable outdoor fabric panels bring color, texture, and practicality to outdoor spaces. They can create separation, shade from the sun, or definition to the outdoor living areas. 

Outdoor Curtains Superior Awning
Outdoor Curtains Superior Awning

8. Umbrellas 

Shade umbrellas are a practical and straightforward shade addition to any outdoor space. Offering easy portability, outdoor umbrellas can be strategically placed next to patio tables, loungers, and pool decks to provide shade during peak sun. When summer is done, they can be picked up and stored for the season.   

Umbrella by Ballard Designs
Umbrella by Ballard Designs

9. Canopies

Canopies fall in between architectural and decorative when it comes to their design. Canopy structures are typically supported by a metal or wooden frame and feature fabric roofs and side panels. These semi-permanent structures are perfect for defining an outdoor lounge or dining space, and they add a luxurious flair when hosting al fresco events. 

Canapy by Ideal Home
Canapy by Ideal Home

10. Stationary Awnings 

Stationary awnings can be hung above a window or door to offer interior shading or be extended to shade and define an entire patio space. Awnings can range in material choices from woven grasses to wood slats to metal overhangs. However, striped fabric is a classic selection that will add charm to your outdoor space while offering protection from the sun and rain. 

Stationary Awning
Stationary Awning

11. Retractable Awnings 

Another type of awning is a retractable awning. Retractable awnings are perfect for homeowners who want to suntan on their patio in the morning and shade it in the evening for al fresco dining. Retractable awnings come in a range of styles and can be manual roll-outs or motorized. 

Retractable Awning
Retractable Awning

12. Shade Sails

Shade sails are similar to awnings, but they are a little more free form. These large panels of fabric can be anchored to the exterior walls of the home, used to extend the roofline, or supported by free-standing poles. While these sails offer shade, they typically do not protect from rain.  

shade sails by archilovers
Shade Sails by Archilovers

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