15 Shade Ideas for Your Outdoor Space

Stylish Ways to Find Relief From the Heat

shade ideas

The Spruce / Almar Creative

While it's relaxing and restorative to spend time outdoors, not everyone wants to or should be exposing themselves to the sun's rays. Sometimes, it's just too hot. So, when planning an outdoor room or environment, include at least one source of shade in your designs—ideally in areas of activity where you can benefit from the fresh air without being in direct sunlight.

  • 01 of 15

    Dining Courtyard

    outdoor dining area shade
    Joel Dessaules Design

    Palm Springs, California, is a sure sunny spot, so designer Joel Dessaules came up with clever ways to create shade for this beautiful one-story mid-century modern Alexander home in the desirable Racquet Club neighborhood.

    To cool things down, lava veneer from Hawaii was applied to the home's front elevation to help absorb and radiate heat, while block walls were built to block sun and provide shade. A cantilevered steel butterfly-shaped shade structure was installed on the flat roof, which also absorbs and redirects the sun's intensity.

    Toward the back of the house, another butterfly-shaped structure echoes the front one, creating a covered courtyard dining room. Soft lighting, fans, and misters help cool off diners on hot nights. A weather-tight closet was converted into an indoor/outdoor kitchenette that is accessible to the courtyard dining room—a convenient alternative to the larger indoor kitchen.

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  • 02 of 15

    Palm Springs Umbrella A-Go-Go

    palm springs modern yard
    Scott Van Dyke/Joel Dessaules Design

    When seeking shade, go back to the basics. Palm Springs, California, designer Joel Dessaules of Joel Dessaules Design had lots of fun with this mid-century modern backyard that celebrates the heyday of swimming pool culture and style. Vintage or retro furniture and a nice, old-fashioned-style umbrella with a zig-zag motif that echoes the pool tile is perfect—can you imagine an earth-tone market umbrella in this yard?

    The tanning chaises are custom designed by Joel Dessaules Design Inc. and made of powder-coated stainless steel to protect them in the water. The umbrella is by Santa Barbara Umbrella. The white woven metal chairs are vintage. The bench and sun canopy chairs are one-of-a-kinds from Trina Turk.

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  • 03 of 15

    Shade and Shelter

    Modern pergola
    Anthony Crisafulli

    A busy Brooklyn family had lots on their wish list for this narrow yard in the Clinton Hill neighborhood. The designers at NewEco Landscapes followed through with beautiful results, managing to incorporate a mural wall, fireplace/pizza oven, custom cabinetry, a vegetable garden, lawn, and a modern pergola with a slanted roof. Major workarounds included an existing concrete slab and an AC unit, which got relocated behind the outdoor kitchen so it did not become the yard's focal point.

    In addition to being a great-looking outdoor structure, the pergola provides shade for dining or outdoor activities during the day. Heat lamps and lighting were installed on the pergola ceiling and fence for chilly evenings.

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  • 04 of 15

    Shade Sail Pergola

    shade sail
    South Cambs Landscape Ltd.

    The homeowners of this modern, formal English garden requested a space that was low maintenance with an outdoor entertaining area. Father-and-son design and construction company Geoff and Ben Kirbyshire of South Cambs Landscape, Ltd., in Steeple Morden, near Royston, Herts, headed a team that completed the job in two weeks. Pressure-treated softwood was used for the horizontal-slat screening and raised beds, while two shades of Indian sandstone laid in a random pattern were used for the patio, along with tumbled sandstone edging sets. Low-voltage garden lighting is accessible with a remote switch.

    There is a need for shade even in overcast Great Britain. The shade sail, from Shaded Nation, covers a raised deck that can be used for dining or other activities. Plants were supplied by Euro Plants.

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  • 05 of 15

    Colorful Awning

    colorful awning
    Tim Mooney, Mollymook NSW

    The owners of this 1970s split-level "Habitat" project house situated in the northern Sydney, Australia, town of Bilgola Beach requested that architect Annabelle Chapman retain and improve upon its early '70s vibe. This roof terrace has a view of the dazzling blue Tasman Sea but does get hot. Chapman found an era-appropriate orange-striped external canvas fabric by Sunbrella to create a rolling shade, which retracts when not in use.

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  • 06 of 15

    Updated Awning

    Jill Paider Photography

    Your grandparents may have had tin awnings on their 1950s tract home, but they've come a long way since the days when door-to-door salesmen would compete for new homeowners' business. Contemporary awnings are softer, made of more pliable and longer-lasting materials, and, quite simply, better looking. Santa Monica-based designer/artist Joan Robey found a solution for this Sherman Oaks, California, patio, in which white fabric panels can be adjusted over the outdoor dining table via a pulley system.

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  • 07 of 15

    Tree for Shade

    tree for shade
    J. Michael Tucker/Okashi Design

    The original and oldest source of shade is a tree, especially a nice big one with twisting, sculptural limbs. Redesigned by ODS Architecture, this home near San Francisco went from overly shady to just-enough when its backyard tree was artfully pruned to allow dappled light to shine through. A tree can lower a home's temperature by as much as 20 degrees or more during the hot months. Think seriously before chopping one down and replacing it with a patio cover.

    General Contractor on the project was On The Beam.

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  • 08 of 15

    Pergola with Custom Shades

    pergola with shade
    Dian Garbarini

    There are many sunny days in Southern California's Orange County, so creating some type of shade structure is essential for anyone who spends time in their backyard. Instead of using 2 x 2 slats that tend to warp, designer Dian Garbarini chose custom-fabricated fixed Roman solar shading panels that provide filtered shade. Made with Phifer fabric, these shades reportedly block out 90 percent of the sun's harmful rays. If they get dirty, just hose them off.

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  • 09 of 15

    Retractable Canopies

    retractable canopy
    Shade FX

    This freestanding pergola in Ontario, Canada, uses a system by Shade FX in which one drive beam located in the middle of the canopy operates the mechanism. Because there is only one track, you don't have to align tracks when operating. This type of system mounts to most types of frames, including wood, without worrying about any jamming or binding. Shades are available in a variety of fabrics, colors, and patterns to coordinate with your outdoor furnishings and decor.

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  • 10 of 15

    Pull-Down Shades

    shade screens
    Hively Landscapes

    Sometimes that glare hits you from every angle, and you can't seem to escape it. While most shade structures like this attached pergola designed by Hively Landscapes in Dover, Pennsylvania, provide overhead protection, they don't do much to stop intense rays from a setting sun. That's when these roll-up shades comes in handy—simply pull them down when needed, and retract when there's no glare.

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  • 11 of 15

    Shade for Modern Farmhouse

    modern farmhouse
    Gaston Architects

    Designed by Gaston Architects, this house on 2.5-acres in the rolling hills of Atascadero, California, near San Luis Obispo, resembles a farmhouse—a modern one with all the conveniences. All of that outdoor space required a need for shade, which is provided with simple umbrellas and flat awnings that project from the roofline and have a corrugated, modern-rustic look that goes perfectly with the farmhouse design.

    Landscape architect on the project was CM Design; builder was Semmes & Company of Atascadero.

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  • 12 of 15

    Yellow Shade Cover

    patio with shade
    Your Digital Photo/St. Petersburg

    There's a lot you can do with small spaces and urban environments. Strobel Design Build of St. Petersburg, Florida, oversaw an outdoor remodel that included a rooftop patio with a sunny yellow shade cover for comfortable dining al fresco.

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  • 13 of 15

    Shade in the City

    new york rooftop garden
    Lynn Gaffney

    Located on a rooftop above a loft in New York's Chelsea district, this swooping structure designed by Brooklyn-based architect Lynn Gaffney provides shade, privacy, and safety—the slats were spaced precisely to prevent the owners' cats from squeezing through and escaping.

    The slats also allow dappled sun to filter in, along with breezes—which help on hot summer evenings. Potted trees add more shade to the environment, especially the taller and wider they grow.

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  • 14 of 15

    Rooftop Teahouse

    rooftop shade structure

    What better place than a rooftop in the heart of Chicago to build a teahouse? Designed by Rooftopia, the space provides an ideal escape, shade structure, and place to entertain with a fabulous view of the city.

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  • 15 of 15

    The Reliable Patio Umbrella

    Backyard in Spring and Summer
    Spiderplay / Getty Images

    Sometimes your budget or space do not permit building a shade structure. Umbrellas have been around for a long time and aren't going away anytime soon. Find a sturdy one from a reliable source, measure your space to ensure it will fit, and know what to look for when shopping for a good outdoor umbrella.

Article Sources
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  1. US EPA, OAR. “Using Trees and Vegetation to Reduce Heat Islands.” Overviews and Factsheets, June 17, 2014. https://www.epa.gov/heatislands/using-trees-and-vegetation-reduce-heat-islands.