How To Create a European-Inspired Patio Retreat

The focal point of our ongoing backyard renovations is our beloved European-inspired patio! Creating a European patio space is a great way to enhance the natural beauty of your yard while transporting you to a simpler time. In this post, I break down how to design a European patio to create the backyard of your dreams!

Our European-Inspired Outdoor Area:

Our backyard renovations have been the bane of our existence this summer. From CAD drawings with Yardzen to HOA approvals, to actually breaking ground and building the backyard of our dreams, we’ve had our hands FULL.

This project is the first outdoor area I’ve designed and I’m pretty freaking proud of it. We were really limited with what we could do in this space due to drainage/sloping issues and our limited budget.

before and after of deck and patio

In the beginning “planning” phase of our renovation, I knew that I wanted our yard to match our interior style and really seamlessly mesh with the neutral, earthy, and vintage vibes we have indoors! This is how I began to research how to design a European patio space!

how to design a european patio

I knew right away that some sort of European-inspired antique brick patio scheme was our goal… But how do you achieve such a thing when you live in a builder-grade home in suburban North Carolina?!

Well, you’re in luck because in this post I’ll break down HOW to design a European patio space you will love!

What Is a European Outdoor Living Space?

The European vibe has increased in popularity a ton in recent years. But if you are wondering what actually quantifies as”European-inspired design” you aren’t alone!

Here are a few of the elements that ode to the classic, old-world design of Europe:

  1. Formal Garden Features: European gardens are renowned for their formal layouts, hedges, and topiary. Consider manicured boxwood hedges and well-pruned shrubs to create a formal European garden look. If you are going for more of a “cottage” vibe, overgrown flower gardens with various colors and styles are perfect!
  2. Natural Materials: Using natural stone for pathways and patios can evoke the rustic elegance of European landscapes. Consider cobblestone, flagstone, or pea gravel paths to add a touch of authenticity.
  3. Water Features: European gardens often feature elegant water elements, such as fountains, reflecting pools, or ornate birdbaths. These can become focal points and add a soothing ambiance to your outdoor space.
  4. Classic Statuary: Incorporating classical sculptures or statues reminiscent of ancient European art can lend a timeless and artistic touch to your outdoor design.
  5. Outdoor Seating: Choose outdoor furniture that reflects European style, such as wrought iron or wicker pieces with plush cushions. Adding a pergola or arbor with climbing vines can create an inviting outdoor seating area.
  6. Alfresco Dining: Create a charming dining area with a European-inspired outdoor dining table, surrounded by greenery and soft outdoor lighting for a romantic atmosphere.
  7. Outdoor Lighting: Illuminate your outdoor space with lantern-style light fixtures, string lights, or elegant wall sconces to evoke the warm glow of European evenings.
  8. Terracotta Planters: Decorative terracotta planters filled with vibrant flowers and herbs can be a delightful addition, adding color and a Mediterranean touch to your patio or garden.

Personally, I resonate the most with an English cottage garden vibe with just a dash of the South of France.

How To Design A European Patio Retreat: Step By Step

Let’s get started breaking down how you can create a European-inspired patio space!

European Style Landscape + Hardscape

When considering how to design a European patio space, the first step is to select landscape and hardscape that create a neutral, old-world look that replicates Europe 100 years ago!

Create a Large Patio Space with a European-inspired hardscape

how to design a european patio

European hardscapes include a lot of rough, hand-hewn natural stone, antique hand-made bricks, and bricks laid in harlequin or herringbone patterns.

When we were in the process of selecting our patio pavers, I really had my heart set on authentic antique bricks. I didn’t want an overly orangey/red brick patio but the thought of worn, old, handmade bricks with white/black patinas was a dream for me.

antique style brick

After talking to several contractors, I learned that antique brick is very expensive and hard to source. An additional consideration is that antique brick surfaces are very slippery when wet and much less durable. The upkeep would be quite extensive and it would not be the safest option for young children.

Due to these reasons, I begrudgingly let go of my antique patio dream and instead, we started working towards replicating the “look” of antique brick with a more cost-effective and safe product. We ultimately decided to use a neutral-colored paver and lay the pavers in a herringbone pattern.

herringbone brick pattern patio

The pavers we selected have some color variation but overall it’s a very neutral, monochrome look which I love. PLUS, they are incredibly good quality, low maintenance, and SAFE. I have no regrets. 

how to design a european patio

We also needed to install a bit of a retaining wall to create the flat patio space. I thought a rugged natural stone wall would be beautiful but, again, this would have been very costly due to the labor and sourcing of appropriate stone.

We were able to find a rough, retaining wall block with a pretty cap that meshed perfectly with our pavers and I was content with our choice. 

Here are the bricks we used for the pavers and the retaining wall:

Add European Inspired Landscape

The topic of landscape is a lengthy one and SO many types of plants can mesh with a European theme. There is also the issue of planting zones to consider before you select plants. Thankfully for us, we purchased a Yardzen Design, which helped us select plants that grow in our zone, are perfect for the shading of our yard and mesh with our overall design!

Here are some common European-inspired plants:

  1. Lavender (Lavandula spp.): Known for its fragrant purple or blue spikes of flowers, lavender is a classic European herb that adds a touch of elegance to any garden.
  2. Roses (Rosa spp.): Roses are a symbol of romance and are often found in European gardens in various colors and varieties, such as English roses and climbing roses.
  3. Boxwood (Buxus spp.): Boxwood hedges and topiaries are a staple of formal European gardens due to their dense, evergreen foliage.
  4. Hydrangea (Hydrangea spp.): These flowering shrubs produce large, colorful blooms and are commonly used in European-style gardens for their lush appearance.
  5. Cypress (Cupressus spp.): Tall, slender cypress trees or shrubs are often used to create a Mediterranean feel in European-inspired landscapes.
  6. Olive Tree (Olea europaea): Olive trees are synonymous with Mediterranean gardens and can add a sense of timeless charm.
  7. Peonies (Paeonia spp.): With their large, showy flowers and a variety of colors, peonies are a favorite in European cottage gardens.
  8. Hollyhocks (Alcea spp.): Tall, spiky hollyhocks produce colorful, single or double flowers and are often seen in cottage-style gardens.
  9. Wisteria (Wisteria spp.): These climbing vines produce cascades of fragrant, lavender or purple flowers, creating a romantic atmosphere.
  10. Lilac (Syringa spp.): Lilacs are known for their sweet fragrance and clusters of colorful blossoms, making them a beloved addition to many European gardens.

Select European Style Patio Furniture

Another important element of European design is selecting outdoor furnishings that mesh with your hardscape and landscape.

European outdoor furniture is very versatile and there isn’t any ONE style that is predominant. I like to think of a mix of natural wood, and wrought iron furniture with comfortable seating and of COURSE an outdoor dining area!

how to design a european patio

We are still in the process of selecting our outdoor furnishings and I’m currently suffering from a bad case of decision fatigue!

I’ve been searching non-stop for the best European-inspired outdoor furnishings and will share below some of my favorites!

european inspired outdoor seating sets
  1. CB2 Breton Sofa + Chair
  2. 71.7” Acacia Outdoor Patio Daybed
  3. Safavieh Wrought Iron Bistro Set
  4. World Market Segovia Sofa (What we have on our lower patio)
  5. Madrid Outdoor Sofa 
  6. Crosley Furniture Sedona 4-Piece Solid-Cast Aluminum Outdoor Conversation Set with Table, Loveseat, and 2 Club Chairs
  7. Ballard Design Teak Sofa
european inspired outdoor dining tables and dining chairs
  1. Northmont 6-Person Rectangle Patio Dining Table
  2. Backyard Farmer Brown Reclaimed Wood Dining Table with Trussel
  3. Farrah Square 4 – Person Outdoor Dining Set
  4. Wayfair Bayou Breeze Bistro Chairs
  5. SAFAVIEH Thessaly Victorian Scroll Iron 5-Piece Outdoor Patio Set
  6. Terrain Bistro Set

Add a European Decorative Element

To really take your European design to the next level, consider adding a decorative element like a water fountain, statue or hedging in an antique European style!

Here are some ideas for unique decorative elements to bring your European design to the next level!

  1. Terra Cotta Planters: Use large terra cotta pots or planters for flowers and greenery. They add a Mediterranean touch and are often seen in Italian and Spanish outdoor spaces. We bought several cheap, large planters from the At Home store and painted them to look antique. OR, you can try out THIS METHOD for antiquing a black pot!
  2. Fountains or Water Features: A small fountain or water feature can create a soothing atmosphere reminiscent of European courtyards and gardens.
  3. Outdoor Lighting: We hung THESE adorable cafe lights and strategically placed several lantern-style outdoor lighting fixtures to add warmth and a romantic glow to the patio in the evenings.
  4. Archways and Arbors: Install archways or arbors covered in climbing plants to create a sense of entry and separation within your patio area.
  5. Cushions and Textiles: Use cushions and outdoor textiles with classic European patterns like stripes, toile, or floral prints to decorate your furniture.
  6. Topiaries: Shape potted plants into topiaries to add a formal and structured element to your patio.
  7. Herb Garden: Create a small herb garden in decorative pots or a raised bed for both culinary and aesthetic purposes. We planted what I hope will bloom into a lovely English Tea garden on one corner of our patio wall!
  8. Statues and Sculptures: Sculptures are the epitome of European garden style! Consider adding classical statues or sculptures that evoke a sense of history and artistry.

Love Outdoor DIY? Check Out More Outdoor Projects Below!

I hope this post was helpful if you are wondering how to design a European patio retreat. Remember, you can always incorporate multiple styles of European design to create a space that reflects your own personal taste!

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One Comment

  1. Wow! You are so talented! The BEFORE and AFTER pictures are so amazing!! Thank you for sharing the details on what you bought to achieve the look for the ones like me who struggle with turning what’s in our head into a reality.

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