10 Smart Ways to Bring Shade to Your Outdoor Space

Outdoor areas don't have to be all about soaking in the sun. Sometimes it's nice to relax in a shady spot, shielded from the harsh rays. There are many ways to bring shade to an outdoor space. You can build a new freestanding structure or enhance an existing patio or pergola through the addition of a shade screen. Many such screens are made from fabric or canvas, but even materials like lattice and bamboo are popular options that cast delicately dappled light onto the outdoor living space beneath or behind. Best of all, there's no need to call in a contractor; most of these projects are simple enough for the average homeowner to complete easily and quickly, often within the space of a single weekend. So click through our gallery to see a selection of yard improvements that will have you made in the shade.

  1. Sail Away

    Sail Shade Canopy

    A sail shade is among the easiest DIY sun-blockers you can make. All it takes is a triangular-cut piece of fabric with eyelets punched in the corners. Use strong twine or rope to attach the shade to poles, the side of the house, or nearby trees.

  2. Floating Screens

    Bamboo Shade Screen

    This thin bamboo panel, which appears to float in midair, lets dappled sunlight pass through to the seating area below. The black-painted structure strikes a classy contrast with the other natural materials.

  3. String Along

    Curtain Pully System

    If you aren't looking to invest in an expensive retractable roof, threading wire through the grommets of curtains rigged up to a pulley system is a smart way to achieve the same effect for less.

  4. Slim Shady Slats

    Covered Outdoor Kitchen

    This swooping structure shades an outdoor BBQ area from the relentless rays of the Arizona sun. Made from slim slats of wood held in place by steel supports, the design also includes three pendant lights that transform the space at night.

  5. Lovely Lattice Light

    Lattice Panel Patio Cover

    Lattice panels are a great material for creating shade, in part because they look beautiful when light shines through them or plants twine around them. Here, copper lattice panels offer a patio some respite from the sun.

    Related: 5 Things to Do with…Lattice

  6. Partial Pergola

    Non-Traditional Pergola

    Pergolas are a classic approach for adding shade to a patio, but if you want to break out of the box, forgo the traditional square-shaped structure for a cool corner version.

  7. Create with Canvas

    Canvas Covered Patio

    If your deck or patio is partially covered, drape lengths of fabric or canvas between the joists to create shade. Space out the pieces of fabric for a more transparent look, and add lights to illuminate the space at night.

  8. Basket Case

    Woven Wood Shade

    Thin pieces of wood veneer were woven together like a basket to create a unique canopy suspended above an outdoor dining area.

  9. Simple DIY Shade

    DIY Shade

    This easy DIY canopy was made by staking four posts in buckets of cement concealed inside garden planters, and then tying a square of outdoor fabric to the posts. 

  10. Colorful and Contemporary

    Contemporary Pergola

    Vibrant fabric covers sections of an abstract outdoor pergola by landscape designer Jamie Durie. The structure offers a contemporary twist on a classic concept.


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