The patio umbrella has come a long way from the time when we were growing up, many decades ago. At that time, many families began buying outdoor dining sets for their patios that included a table umbrella. This umbrella style was called the garden umbrella. It had a crank that operated its opening and closing positions. And some umbrella poles incorporated a mechanism to tilt the umbrella for more convenient sun shading. These mechanical features are still used on today’s outdoor umbrellas.
But patio umbrella styles today have a more distinctive decorator look and appeal, than those of the past. This can be attributed to their innovative fabrics, designs, and finishes. And we think that’s a great thing for today’s ever-increasing interest in outdoor living.
Including a patio umbrella in your outdoor decor can create a festive ambiance for any occasion, while adding a unique accent piece to your outdoor space.
Shapes & Styles
Back in the day, when patio umbrellas were just becoming popular with the homeowner, style choices were fairly limited – roundish in shape, few color choices, and an option for fringe trim around the outer edge of the umbrella.
Creative shapes and sizes today offer more versatility when decorating and furnishing outdoor spaces. Popular shapes and styles include:
- round/roundish umbrella – 9 foot diameter umbrella is the standard size for use with dining tables, and as a stand alone fixture to create shade near a chaise lounge or an arrangement of outdoor furniture, as in the red garden umbrella photo below.
- market umbrella – many are square, 6-, or 8-sided; this style was made popular from its use in outdoor cafes in tourist areas and in everyday European outdoor cafes
- rectangular umbrella – this shape is used with a rectangular outdoor dining table, as shown in the first photo below
- vented umbrella – this design feature, at the very top of the umbrella, is to reduce the wind force up under the opened umbrella, helping to prevent it from toppling over if a strong breeze occurs; umbrella retailers typically recommend not opening the umbrella in high wind conditions
- small round umbrella – these are smaller in diameter, about 6 feet, and are typically thought of as being portable, for example, being able to take it to the beach
Using a Patio Umbrella in Creative & Versatile Ways
While they are still being used in combination with the outdoor dining table, the patio umbrella is being used in more creative ways today.
Outdoor umbrella fabrics today come in a wide variety of colors and many patterns. These fabrics are softer in appearance, and the color options are more comparable to interior decor color palettes. They are extremely durable, including being both weather and UV resistant. Typical fabric types include acrylic, polyester, and Sunbrella acrylic, and are usually fade and mildew resistant; and many are water and stain resistant, too.
Decorative Umbrella Poles
When patio umbrellas first became popular in the backyards of suburbia, their support poles were bare metal. While this style is still available, stylish poles options, now, have a richer and more decorative appearance which can provide your outdoor space with a distinctive level of detail.
Materials used in the making of the umbrella poles include weather resistant woods, like teak or eucalyptus, and metal (aluminum) poles finishes include pewter and bronze. These materials really lend a sense of warmth to your decor.
The umbrella itself is typically constructed of lightweight materials for handling, and storing, them in the winter with ease. But an essential element in having a patio umbrella is the stand which supports and anchors the pole of the umbrella. They are usually sold separately from the cost of the umbrella.
There are different stands for different uses , such as for use in the dining table, or free-standing. The styles range in appearance from basic to decorative. These anchor stands employ heavy materials that can include cast iron, steel, concrete, or sand, or a combination thereof.
Close up of the side table with the umbrella stand hidden inside as shown in one of the above photos.
Photo credits: Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, Ballard Designs, PatioShoppers