The 10 Commandments of Decorating a Tiny Outdoor Space

The 10 Commandments of Decorating a Tiny Outdoor Space

Colleen Murphy
May 25, 2018
(Image credit: Mainstreet Stockholm)

It's officially patio season! We've finally shaken off the winter months and started dining alfresco and taking our morning coffee in the sunshine. Not all of us have big backyards or a wraparound porch, though, so these "musts" will help turn your petite patio or limited lawn into a stylish and functional hangout.

1. Let There be Light

No matter the size of your space, this advice from the founder (and namesake) of Sara Story Design is for you: "People often forget to add lighting when designing for the outdoors, but I find it really allows you to enjoy the space both day and night." Her suggestion for a small space? Incorporating fun lanterns or clusters of lights.

(Image credit: Amazon)

2. Throw Some Shade

Some of us prefer to be more sun-dappled than sun-soaked, and a small outdoor space may not offer a lot of versatility when it comes to sunlight. A shade sail is a great alternative to a bulky umbrella.

3. Get Vertical

Cassie Drake, of Architect Abroad, encourages the space-challenged to get vertical. "If you're tight on space, consider adding greenery along a wall in the form of a vine, climbing plant, or even potted plants on a shelf."

4. Think Versatility

A tiny space doesn't have to be single-use. Why not consider adding extra quirk with this space-saving Murphy Bar from Shades of Blue Interiors? It will instantly turn your outdoor reading nook into an open-air happy hour.

(Image credit: Alexis Buryk)

5. Do Your Homework

Mel Walter, Interior Designer and Owner of Cadisfly, emphasizes planning before purchasing. After you've found some inspiration images, "Use tape or newspapers to plot out how big the furniture is and where you will put it. Make sure there's enough room to walk around."

(Image credit: West Elm)

6. Add Some Color

When tackling exterior decorating, Story always injects some color. In smaller spaces, "Something as simple as an outdoor ceramic table or small accent piece adds whimsy," she says.

7. Have a Seat

In a small space, you have to get creative with seating. A bench seat with storage is a fantastic place to tuck away folding chairs, or you can opt for some plus-size pillows to offer extra guests a cushy seat.

8. Go Paper Thin

Sometimes you have to think two-dimensionally! Drake loves the idea of adding weatherproof wallpaper to a single wall in a small outdoor space.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy )

9. Bring Out the Indoors

Story often uses rugs to make a small outdoor space feel like an extension of the interior: "It's an unexpected choice but makes the space so comfortable."

(Image credit: Marcia Prentice)

10. Don't Overstuff!

Finally, keep it minimal in a small outdoor space. "It can start to feel crowded pretty easily," says Drake, "Put in some stand-out furniture pieces, perhaps with a pop of color, and a small but functional side table to place those summer cocktails on!"

Amen to that!

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