So, you’ve got a petite patio, a diminutive deck, a cramped courtyard. The good news is that you have outdoor space! The bad(ish) news is that it’s going to take a tiny bit of creativity to make it a functional, enjoyable and multipurpose space that can serve you, your family and maybe even a few guests year-round. But don’t worry. It’s totally doable with a little bit of vision and creativity, and you might even find that your small space looks big and roomy when you exercise your design eye.
The rules for decorating compact outdoor spaces are the same as those for decorating particularly constrained interiors—pick furniture and outdoor lighting that serve several purposes simultaneously while making sure to scale down on plants, seating and décor. It’s also extremely important that you pick a general design style that you love and integrate it into every element of the space. In other words, don’t compromise your personal tastes because you have limited space to work with!
Here are some more great ideas for decorating small outdoor living areas:
- Use a Round Dining Table—If your goal is to pack more people into your small space comfortably, then consider going for the round outdoor dining set. While it may seem like you’ll get more room with square or rectangular tables, consider that rounded tables allow more people to squeeze in closer together because they don’t have sharp corners or legs getting in the way. The corners on your dining, coffee or accent tables can also be a bit of a risk factor in small spaces, so go round to avoid getting poked.
- Create Double-Duty Seating—Is it a coffee table, a storage chest or a bench? With the right furniture scouting skills, you can find items that serve as all of these pieces, not to mention bring a decorative and cozy angle to your conversation area! Small spaces work best when they’re populated by furniture that serves multiple purposes—benches with built-in storage, garden carts that double as bars and ottomans that turn into chairs. You can even choose outdoor lights that are both decorative and functional to achieve better style and flow.
- Integrate Sleek Lighting—Speaking of lighting…decorative is good, but make sure it’s unobtrusive and streamlined in your petite patio. You definitely don’t want to overtake a space with post lamps or long ceiling lights that get in everyone’s way. On the other hand, you can integrate lights in a more subdued manner, such as with outdoor flush mounts that don’t cut into the overhead space. Outdoor ceiling fans also come in low-profile styles. For pure functionality without taking up any room, you can even install exterior recessed lights or track lights in the ceiling or canopy.
- Focus on Intimate Nooks—Small spaces are best-suited to intimate gatherings. As tempting as it is to cram your entire space with chairs and seating to accommodate larger groups, resist the urge! The best small spaces are those that are beautifully arranged and comfortable for the right amount of guests. Therefore, you might consider choosing small furniture designed for two or three people, such as mini outdoor sofas, loveseats, benches and settees, rather than sprawling sectionals or overstuffed sofas. A small table for two makes a great place for cozy coffee and cocktails, too!
- Decorate with Warm, Neutral Tones—They say that certain colors can make a space feel bigger, especially shades of navy, beige and gray. But, according to Trulia, you can still use bright or saturated colors, just treat them as accents rather than focal points. Of course, you usually can’t just slather a coat of paint around your patio to expand its virtual walls. But you can still use these color principles in your furniture, upholstery, pillows and accents. It may also help guide your wooden furniture and fences—perhaps light, natural and unfinished wood is the way to go in confined spaces?
- Focus on Soft Textures and Patterns—You want to make sure that your finishes follow the same practical design approach, sticking to airy, earthy and natural tones and textures. For example, you might opt for a more subdued, light-colored linen or tweed upholstery over a bright floral print to ensure that the small space isn’t overwhelmed by too much color and excitement. Keep it somewhere in the middle with a fun yet relaxed stripe or dotted design in your pillows, linens and cushions.
- Scale Down Wherever Possible—When you’re focusing on interior design in your small space, it’s relatively simple: just scale down with “apartment-sized” sofas and chairs. It’s not quite as straightforward with outdoor furniture, especially since it varies significantly in size compared with indoor furniture. But the most popular makers are creating smaller collections to accommodate tight balconies and backyards. Just be sure that you properly measure and consider using a furniture or design mockup app to make sure that your furniture won’t crowd your walking space. Make sure to choose smaller versions of everything, including plants and décor.
- Choose Seating that Suits the Space—The most difficult-to-attain goal of any small space design is finding a way to comfortably host a group. It’s no fun for your guests if they have to stand around for hours, so finding smart seating is key. The approach here should be to allow your exterior space to guide your seating. If you have built-in walls or fences, consider creating custom, elongated bench seating around the perimeter. If your space skews circular, pick out rounded sofas and chairs that don’t compromise the flow. Remember: Experimentation is key with seating, so try to buy from retailers that offer a trial period or a money-back guarantee!
Finding a Good Balance
You shouldn’t feel like you have to compromise because you have a small space. With the right amount of creativity and experimentation, you can create a breezy, accommodating patio that’s welcoming to a crowd. Following basic interior design principles for small rooms can help you nail your petite patio design for year-round enjoyment!
In case you’re looking for more inspiration for outdoor kitchens, check out this helpful article from our friends at Seriously Smoked: