Ah, the patio. Sometimes it's called a veranda or a terrace. And down south, it's called a lanai. Whatever your preference, we like to think of the patio as a headquarters for outdoor activities.
The good news: You don't need a huge setup to enjoy your backyard. You might have a small patio for a variety of reasons. Maybe you live in an urban area, or only a portion of your yard is usable. Either way, a gorgeous outdoor living space can be yours with a few stylish upgrades that will maximize your space and add a welcome dose of personality. Ready to get started? Scroll on for 15 small patio design ideas that will help you create the outdoor oasis of your dreams.
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1. Treat the patio as you would any other small living room.
A patio can act as a small living room for your yard. If you adhere to a certain design style indoors, such as farmhouse or bohemian, harness that same aesthetic outdoors as well. Kristin of Hunted Interior has created an artful patio design — punctuated with vintage-inspired decor and a black and white color palette — that could easily transfer to one of the spaces inside her home.
2. Deck out a corner nook.
Even if you don't have a huge, expansive area to put all of your favorite decorating ideas into action, we're guessing you at least have a cozy nook or two that would look charming with the right accents. For instance, Sarah Sherman Samuel crafted this sweet patio nook using a modern white chair, a cool throw pillow, and plenty of greenery.
3. Maximize the area on the side of your house.
Maybe you only have room on the side of your house for a straightforward cinder block patio — that's definitely okay! Just look at this outdoor space styled by Elizabeth of College Housewife — the patio furniture may be close together with little room to play with landscaping, but the design is totally cozy, especially with the string lights overhead.
4. Add tons of texture.
A lot of the same principles that work indoors can apply to a smaller space outdoors. For example, we're always a fan of layering textures in any space, and the patio is no exception. Even a small outdoor design can handle a lot of texture. This petite patio, belonging to Manda of The Merrythought, is a study in the art of layering textures, complete with faux fur, stacked outdoor rugs, tasseled pillows, and woven baskets.
5. Narrow down your party.
You may be tempted to turn the patio into an all-purpose space, but depending on your setup, it might work better if you design an area that's just meant for one or two people. If you have a teeny pergola, like Kimberly of Swoon Worthy, hang some paper lanterns that add a whimsical and carefree note. You can also incorporate bright punches of color to echo the nearby blooms.
6. Use color to define the space.
Contrary to popular belief, using tons of color in your design won't work against you — it will actually help make your space feel well-rounded. For instance, we can't get enough of the sunny colors in this cheerful patio designed by Dabito of Old Brand New. The green paint on the fence adds definition while complementing the vibrant pillows and throws, resulting in a bohemian paradise.
7. Search for petite furniture options.
With a small backyard patio, you might think that you won't be able to fit much of anything. However, if you choose the right outdoor furniture pieces, your small outdoor space won't be cramped at all. Instead of a full-size table, follow the lead of homeowners Robert and Christina of New Darlings and opt for a bistro set with just two chairs instead. They even had enough room left over for two modern lounge chairs and a sleek side table.
8. Stay neutral.
If you're on a budget, or just completely overwhelmed by options, keeping your decor ideas monochromatic and simple will make your small space feel stylized (and, in some cases, larger). This patio setup by Molly of Almost Makes Perfect is airy with lots of room to move and savor an al fresco dinner.
9. Make it a conversational area.
One of the nice things about a small patio is that it encourages intimate, cozy conversations with friends and family. To create a seating area, like this one belonging to Olivia of LivvyLand, be sure to include two armchairs and a small couch — ideal for deep conversations late into the evening. And last but not least, don't forget a coffee table so you don't have to hold your glass of vino and plate of hors d'oeuvres all night long.
10. Include a practical spot for your potted plants.
Dreaming of a potting area and a patio? Bring them together and create some verdant ambiance in the process. A nearby cart can serve as a dedicated spot to prepare potted plants, or any other outdoor DIY project you'd like to take on. It's an approach that Victoria of SF Girl by Bay perfected here.
11. Get streamlined with seating.
Is your patio so teeny-tiny that you can barely fit outdoor furniture? In this case, get creative and install seating that'll tuck right into a surrounding wall or privacy screen. Don't forget accessories like vibrant throw pillows and a rustic table to complete the look — which Jessie of Sweet Thing captured for Lark & Linen.
12. Incorporate soft lighting with string lights and candles.
Lighting is a key ingredient for any outdoor space, and that includes a scaled-down patio. Although you might have room for just about any fixture you desire, from sconces to a small chandelier, we're fans of tried-and-true string lights and LED candles to add an inviting atmosphere. Megan of Fresh Exchange shows us how it's done in her backyard escape.
13. Combine your patio and your garden.
When you're short on square footage, it's time to combine your spaces. Consider merging your small patio with your garden. That's what Ashley of The Gold Hive did in her backyard and we wholeheartedly approve. No space for a traditional garden? Think outside of the box and go vertical instead so you can still enjoy your favorite blooms and greenery.
14. Make it cozy.
As a rule, small spaces do tend to feel a lot cozier as witnessed by this small patio belonging to Therese Knutsen. She brought in faux fur, upholstered chairs, rustic logs, and candles to lend a hygge vibe to the space. For your outdoor area, consider adding a fire pit for maximum coziness, or even a soft hammock for impromptu naps. Include even more ambiance with an outdoor speaker system that'll play soothing tunes as you bask in the warmth of the sun or gaze up at the stars.
15. Craft an outdoor dining room.
Sometimes, there's an awkward space between your home and the garage that serves no real purpose. Instead of letting it go to waste, treat it as a private dining room like Emily Rone Home. Complete the artful setup with a table and mismatched chairs to craft the perfect spot for sharing a meal with family and friends.