Landscape & Hardscape Ideas

Patio styles from the 1950s to today

Everything from hemlines and haircuts, architecture and art are subject to the whims of fashion. Patios are no exception. A few distinct styles have emerged over the years, but some parts of patio design will always be timeless. Let’s look at different patio styles over the past few decades.

The 1950s “mid-century” look was popular again in recent interior design trends. Opposite of the sensory-rich Bohemian or European aesthetic, a mid-century look has clean lines and solid colors. The 1950s were all about technology and dreaming of a utopian, space-like future filled with convenient gadgets meant to make life more leisurely. Pattern was found not in furniture fabrics as much as in the lines of the architecture of the home. Patio wall bricks were molded in punch out circles and squares in repeating motifs. These iconic “breeze blocks” (the holes in them allowed for air flow) were the concrete fences homeowners went for in the manufacturing boom of the era.

The 1960s back yard was all about fenced-in fun. Personal pools became popular and the in-ground pool design of the time featured rounded edges and light pavers. The chain link fence was a quick and practical solution for delineating yards during the housing boom. Poured concrete slabs with small tables and floral tablecloths dotted the landscape. Attached tin awnings made the back porches permanently shaded outdoor spots. The dawn of outdoor living had begun.

The 1970s patio reflected the cultural shifts of the late 60s and early 70s. Hammocks hung from backyard trees. Macrame plant hangers graced the patio. Plaid or large floral patterns were everywhere. Fringed patio umbrellas came to replace the tin awnings, and the bowl of fake fruit that may have graced the patio table in the 1960s was replaced by potted plants. Glass block walls were popular inside and outside the home for letting light in and keeping privacy in tact. Cast stone veneers began gracing interior and exterior walls, adding earthy textures and patterns.

The 1980s were about opulence and luxury. Pools got bigger and patios expanded. Any cinder blocks still lingering from eras past were replaced with brick or stone walls in lighter colors. Overstuffed furniture and glass table tops were patio furniture staples. The modern and sleek look with a touch of abundance was the goal. Lighter stones that reflected the light or a darker Tuscan look dominated the pool and patio designs. Miami Vice Gray and Pink dominated color schemes.

The 1990s brought us Shabby chic. The age of repurposing was here. Bunches of silk flowers, chipped white paint, and charming, eclectic pieces graced the patio. Patio design experimented with some wood decking and paver combinations, as wood surfaces again became popular. Garden water features and terra cotta pavers were outdoor decor staples. Muted shades, plaids, florals and all shades of white colored the porch.

The 2000s-today has seen a shift in outdoor decor. Outdoor living is now a staple in a more active lifestyle than any past era’s way of living. Instead of occasional picnic areas, patios are treated as an extension of the house or as an outdoor room. Home entertainment centers, living rooms with fireplaces and full kitchens and bars are being installed even in the most modest of lots.  Homeowners are looking to enhance the space to help raise their quality of life.

Far from boring or staid, today’s patio designs are exciting new twists on old standards. Creative ideas are easily modeled by today’s 3D software programs that allow designers to bring homeowners’ dreams to life. Hardscaping colors, materials and lines are now matched as much as possible to the existing structure of the home and are much easier to care for than patios past. To design a patio that will last, buck design trends in favor of something more timeless.

Fashion trends are fun, but when it comes to the “bones” of an outdoor space, its best to stick to what will work for decades to come. Natural stone and wood is always a good choice. You can always change out a floral tablecloth for a gingham one but remodeling a patio isn’t something you’ll want to do twice. When you have an outdoor space that blends into the landscape and the existing hardscape, you can weather any whims of fashion.

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