Learning About All Things Shade

When people think of a relaxing outdoor oasis, the image of lounging on comfortable furniture and enjoying the fresh air comes to mind. Shade solutions, like umbrellas, awnings, or pergolas, play a huge role in making an outdoor space comfortable, stylish, and enjoyable. Often, you might not even think about the shade in a space unless it’s missing and you’re uncomfortable in the sun.


For many designing their outdoor space or thinking about adding shade, it’s hard to know where to start. The Shade Team at Sunbrella has compiled expert advice to help empower you to choose the right shade solutions for your space.


Outdoor pergola with black and white striped fabric covering a table with plantsOutdoor pergola with black and white striped fabric covering a table with plants
Shade can make your outdoor space more functional and enjoyable throughout the day and the seasons.


Why Choose Shade?

Skin Protection

Shade is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself from the effects of the sun. Shade fabric can block UV rays and aid in preventing skin damage. In fact, Sunbrella canvas fabrics are endorsed by the Skin Care Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation (as part of a complete sun protection regimen, including regular use of sunscreen, to aid in preventing sun-induced skin damage).


Reduced Energy Needs

Shade fabrics provide passive solar protection, meaning adding an awning to your home will help you to keep the inside of your house cooler and reduce energy needs.



Beyond serving a functional purpose, a shade structure can help elevate the design of your home. With so many fabric options available, you can choose a shade solution that is reflective of your style and looks beautiful.


Cooling Comfort

At the end of the day, what’s most important is that you can extend the living space of your home and enjoy it in comfort. Having ample shade will help you stay cooler and away from the glare of the sun, making your time outside that much more joyful. 


Outdoor pergola with blue striped fabric and blue upholstered furnitureOutdoor pergola with blue striped fabric and blue upholstered furniture
A shaded pergola provides the perfect space to read a book in the fresh air or enjoy time with friends.


We spoke with Jenny Liu, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist based in Minneapolis, Minnesota about the importance of shade. She works as the Chair of Dermatology, Department of Dermatology at Hennepin Health Care and as an assistant professor.


Dr. Liu explained, “seeking shade is one way to reduce the amount of UV that would otherwise damage our skin and is an important part of overall sun safety habits along with wearing SPF sunscreen, clothing with a UPF rating of 30+ and avoiding extended time in the sun during 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., when UV rays are strongest.”


“Shade is definitely one way to make the outdoors safe and still enjoy it. My advice is to invest in outdoor shade options that cover a large area – it’s helpful and practical.” – Jenny Liu, M.D. 


Outdoor seating area shaded by a retractable awningOutdoor seating area shaded by a retractable awning
Retractable awnings offer the most flexibility in look and use, not to mention the ability to be smart-home-integrated.


Choosing a Shade Type

A great place to start is to identify your goals and how you plan to use your space. When considering what type of shade you need, here are a few things to think about: 

  • How do you plan to use the space (i.e., an outdoor family room or a dining area for entertaining)? 
  • What elements are in the space that the shade needs to cover? 
  • Are you interested in shade that is more permanent/fixed or something more flexible? 
  • Do you want whole space or more targeted shading? 
  • What are your landscaping plans? 
  • What design aesthetic are you aiming for?   


All of these will impact the type of shade and shade fabric that will work best for your space. 


A tackboard with various fabric swatches A tackboard with various fabric swatches
Sunbrella has a dedicated team of designers who work to create and maintain an extensive portfolio of fabrics in a range of colors and styles for any aesthetic.


Shade Style

Awnings and shade solutions have evolved well beyond what might come to mind from your parents’ or grandparents’ time. Today, the breadth of colors, patterns and performance abilities make adding shade a personalized design feature to complement and elevate any space. 


If you prefer simplistic design, neutrals: 

Consider shades of cream and warm earth tones such as Natural, Silica Stone, or Crest Birch, which have textures that bring a soft visual quality to the space. 

Ivory shade fabric swatchIvory shade fabric swatch
Grey shade fabric swatchGrey shade fabric swatch
Silica Stone
White and grey shade fabricWhite and grey shade fabric
Crest Birch


If you love blue hues: 

A great pattern with a few blues is Motive Denim or consider a classic such as Captain Navy/Natural Classic or a textured soft blue such as Storm, which has a comforting element.  

Blue striped shade fabricBlue striped shade fabric
Motive Denim
Navy and white striped shade fabric swatchNavy and white striped shade fabric swatch
Captain Navy/Natural Classic
Light blue shade fabricLight blue shade fabric


If you have a traditional, colonial or red brick home:

Great options are Beaufort Black/White, simple solids such Black or patterns such as Henna/Fern Vintage, which has red accents.  

Black and white striped shade fabric swatchBlack and white striped shade fabric swatch
Beaufort Black/White
Black shade fabric swatchBlack shade fabric swatch
Green and red striped shade fabricGreen and red striped shade fabric
Henna/Fern Vintage


If you’re looking to add a pop of color to neutral exteriors:

Basil or Silica Sage are two greens with depth and layers that are forward-thinking yet timeless in execution or Kiawah Spa is a fun choice.  

Green shade fabric swatchGreen shade fabric swatch
Green shade fabric swatchGreen shade fabric swatch
Silica Sage
Brown, green, and blue striped shade fabric swatchBrown, green, and blue striped shade fabric swatch
Kiawah Spa


If you need something with both warm and cool tones:

Select a style that combines warm and cool neutrals to coordinate with virtually any exterior paint or finish trend, such as Era Ash or select a solid fabric like Oyster.

Ivory and grey striped shade fabricIvory and grey striped shade fabric
Era Ash
Off white shade fabric swatchOff white shade fabric swatch


If you have a home with an earthy stone exterior:

Try Beaufort Cloud or textured fabrics in Silica Charcoal or Linen Tweed.  

Grey and white striped shade fabric swatchGrey and white striped shade fabric swatch
Beaufort Cloud
Dark grey shade fabric swatchDark grey shade fabric swatch
Silica Charcoal
Tweed brown shade fabric swatchTweed brown shade fabric swatch
Linen Tweed


If beachy is more your vibe: 

Aruba, Mediterranean Canvas Block Stripe or the textured Silica Dune channel a tropical oasis including crystal clear seawaters and warm sands.  

Bright blue shade fabric swatchBright blue shade fabric swatch
Navy and beige striped shade fabric swatchNavy and beige striped shade fabric swatch
Mediterranean Canvas Block Stripe
Beige tan shade fabric swatchBeige tan shade fabric swatch
Silica Dune


If you love your modern farmhouse- style home:

Cooper Black or Putty Regimental are excellent options to complement and add warmth to traditional farmhouse white or bronze hardware.  

Black and tan striped shade fabric swatchBlack and tan striped shade fabric swatch
Cooper Black
Tan and black striped shade fabric swatchTan and black striped shade fabric swatch
Putty Regimental


If you’re all in on the unique and want to make a statement:

Eye-catching and fun patterns include Beaufort Yellow/White or a solid in a bold color such as Pacific Blue or Logo Red

Yellow and white striped shade fabric swatchYellow and white striped shade fabric swatch
Beaufort Yellow/White
Royal blue shade fabric swatchRoyal blue shade fabric swatch
Pacific Blue
Bright red shade fabric swatchBright red shade fabric swatch
Logo Red


Virtually see and experiment with any of our Shade fabrics by visualizing an awning on your own home through the online Sunbrella Shade Studio visualizer. You can also order fabric samples on the Sunbrella website. 


Patio with sofa and lounge chairs shaded by an awningPatio with sofa and lounge chairs shaded by an awning
Shaded areas make your outdoor spaces much more enjoyable and comfortable.


Adding Shade to Your Space

Once you have a general idea of which type of shade and design style you are working toward, it’s important to find the right partner to make your vision come to life.


If you are interested in shade beyond an umbrella, you will need to identify an awning manufacturer or local fabricator. Visit our Where to Buy page to help find a fabricator for any shade application you are seeking. This vendor will be your partner in design and the creator of your shade structure, from fabric selection to determining the ideal functionality for your shade structure. They can also assist with installation or refer you to a trusted resource.  


Black and white striped shade fabric on an awning with multicolored tasselsBlack and white striped shade fabric on an awning with multicolored tassels
You can customize your shade structure to match your style!


Learn More about Sunbrella Shade

Discover more details about the benefits of shade and how to make your outdoor oasis come to life.