Before and After: 10 of the Best Small-Space Outdoor Makeovers We’ve Ever Seen

published Mar 25, 2023
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About this before & after
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Before: Bare patio area

With days growing longer, weather growing warmer, and hints of green starting to emerge, you might be feeling the itch to get outdoors. Those with big yards have it relatively easy when it comes to creating comfortable al fresco hubs — with all of that square footage, it’s easy to fit in a dining area, a spot to prepare food, a garden, and more. But even if you just have a small outdoor space to call your own, you can still make it a relaxing and welcoming hangout. 

Need proof? Check out these 10 small-but-mighty outdoor makeovers, which all feature fun solutions for packing lots of style into a teeny area. Read on to learn how they did it, and see what you can recreate for yourself in time for summer. 

1. A Bare Balcony with an Italian Courtyard-Inspired Makeover

Apartment dwellers Sierra and Evan loved using their outdoor space for everything from eating meals together to taking work calls, but the bare balcony wasn’t exactly a showstopper. “It was like a plain bagel,” says their friend Elizabeth Van Lierde, a food and lifestyle blogger. “It had a nice base but lacked a lot of character and functionality.” So Elizabeth helped the couple design an outdoor escape that would actually have the charm they craved. She used lots of neutral colors and natural textures — like wood furniture and woven baskets used as pendants — to create an ambiance that felt like stepping into a vacation. “Sierra and Evan love to be outside and they spent way too much time on this patio for it not to feel beautiful,” Elizabeth says. And with her changes, now it does!

Credit: Beth Pateman
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2. A Hawaiian Patio’s Plant-Filled Redo 

Honolulu resident Beth Pateman had a picture-perfect view from the patio of her apartment, but the actual perch didn’t have much to offer. To make it a more welcoming place to spend time, she bought a set of sleek, black patio chairs from Design Within Reach and a table from Target. But what makes it truly feel fully styled are the 20-plus potted plants scattered throughout. “We’ve gone from a mostly unused space to having a new outdoor room to enjoy,” Beth says. “I can’t believe I waited so long to make this part of our living space.”

3. An L-Shaped Patio’s Zone-Focused Makeover

Naveen Shakir of The Design Souk has a friend who was desperately in need of help designing her awkwardly shaped outdoor space. “Kristina’s L-shaped, 180-square-foot patio is part of a very small rental home built in the 1980s,” Naveen says. “So, every little bit of inside and outside living space counts big time!” Since Kristina is renting and didn’t want to break the bank, every change Naveen made had to be reversible and budget-friendly. Naveen furnished one side as a dining area, and the other side as a living area. A black-painted wood pergola across the entire patio makes it feel luxe and offers a bit of shade, too.

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4. An Unused Patio Turned Welcoming Hangout

Blogger Laura loves decorating, but her patio sat neglected for years. It’s in the front of her home, facing the whole neighborhood, so Laura felt like it needed a little TLC to reach its full potential. “Not only was it bad curb appeal, but we were also missing out on fully enjoying our new home,” she says. Laura bought a patio set she loved, then added cozy touches like an outdoor rug, a simple lantern, and potted plants. “Once I found seating that would fit in the space, everything else was easy,” Laura says. In just two weeks, she turned her patio into an actual hangout spot. “Every spring and summer, you will find us out there!” she says. 

Credit: Saima Sharoff
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5. An Odd-Shaped Patio Transformed with Paint

Saima Sharoff and her husband hired a contractor to renovate the inside of their 640-square-foot fixer upper, but left the backyard untouched and unused. “It was just a small, wooden back porch from the 1930s that felt old and rickety,” Saima says. Because she and her husband didn’t have any other outdoor space on their property, they decided to take advantage of this one. The couple started by painting the siding door a rich navy blue, then they built a new deck over the old patio and furnished it with a mix of vintage finds and pieces they already owned. “I love that we have a private place to spend time outside whenever we want,” Saima says. 

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6. A Brooklyn Brownstone’s Cozy and Private Refresh

Bev Wilson (of Room Sauce) and her fiancé were able to score the top two floors of a Brooklyn brownstone that featured a beautiful, modern balcony. Even though an outdoor space like this was a huge bonus, its position facing a busy street made it less appealing as a hangout for the couple. Their quick and renter-friendly solution to this problem was to surround it with bamboo fences and faux greenery, which only took a couple of days to do. Then they paired the new backdrop with comfy furniture. “This simple project completely transformed our patio,” Bev says. “Blocking the view of the busy street made our outdoor space much more serene and it now feels very private.”

7. A Plant-Filled Patio “Getaway” 

Jessica Elyse shared her apartment with three roommates, so turning the patio into a usable area that could increase their living space was especially important. Before, the small patio was pretty empty, but it was clean and the location was good, so there was loads of potential. Jessica decorated the patio with blue metal furniture and that paired perfectly with a striped blue rug. Lush plants hanging from the ceiling make the patio feel tropical and relaxing. “Having so many plants makes the space feel private and natural,” Jessica says. “And I love having a comfortable place outside to eat breakfast in the morning and enjoy some wine at the end of the night.”

8. A Balcony Warmed up with Faux Turf 

Sabrina Sosa (@sabrinalsosadesigns) lives in a modern apartment in downtown Vancouver with a small balcony she says was “dark and dull” and “only used to dry clothes.” Even as a renter, Sabrina was determined to create a relaxing retreat. She did so with a few small projects. First, Sabrina rolled out removable turf to create a cozy, welcoming foundation. Then, she furnished the balcony with small furniture including two chairs and a table, plus a few potted plants and flowers. “Even if you are doubting making changes to your rental, have in mind that there are a lot of small details that you can add to create your perfect spot without making permanent changes,” Sabrina says.

9. A Dingy Balcony Refreshed with DIYs 

Shannon Bowen (@themodernspeakeasy) says her balcony was “a drab, dingy, dirty space that was forgotten and avoided.” So she and her partner took a month and $500 to give the balcony a much-needed makeover. Once the floors and walls were clean, Shannon painted every surface white, then stenciled a blue-gray pattern over the floor to mimic the look of tile for a lot less. “The end result was so chic,” she says. Shannon also created floating flower boxes out of recycled wine crates and painted metal furniture a bright shade of blue. “The final touches were to add pots of varying heights, plant stands, and decorative tables to bring the space to life,” she says. “Now, I wake up each day to my lush oasis bursting with color right outside my balcony door.”

10. A Charming Balcony Redo 

Liz Ferguson says the previous owners of her home considered the balcony “an afterthought,” but she was ready for it to get some attention. Liz created a three-piece dining setup with furniture from Target and ordered comfy rocking chairs from Amazon, all of which turned the balcony space into a true fresh-air living room. The string lights that Liz hung provide some cozy romantic vibes, too. “It feels pretty special to step outside into this little oasis,” Liz says.