10 Decor Tips to Make Your Small Patio Feel Bigger

C.E. Larusso
Written by C.E. Larusso
Updated December 13, 2021
friends hanging out in patio by the fire
Photo: rh2010 / adobe Stock

The right design can have a big effect

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Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better. Even with limited square footage, your petite patio can still be a place for you to make many memories: dining al fresco with friends and family, reading a great book, or simply starting the day by watching the hummingbirds enjoy your foxglove plants. 

The key to designing the perfect patio is to make it yours, to create a personal touch with exciting details and functional furniture. Here are 10 tips to get you started. 

1. Consider What You’ll Use Your Patio For

grey patio furniture with ottoman
Photo: Photographee.eu / Adobe Stock

Before you rush out and start buying a bunch of furniture and accessories, figure out how you want to use your patio so you can shop strategically. Will it be used for entertaining and need a dining table and seating? Or will it be your personal lounge area, outfitted with whatever you need to chill out, read, and nap? 

If you have enough space, consider designating “zones” intended for different purposes—something as simple as a rug under a small coffee table and bench can establish an area discrete from the rest of the patio.

2. Buy Foldable Furniture

patio with folding chairs and  umbrella
Photo: Iriana Shiyan / Adobe Stock

Folding umbrellas, chairs, and tables can easily be tucked away when not in use or when you want to add or remove seating. You should also consider other space-saving items, like nesting tables or benches with storage.

3. DIY When Necessary

patio furniture against fence
Photo: rawpixel.com / Adobe Stock

Sometimes, you won’t find the perfect furniture for your petite space. Look for ways to build furniture to suit your needs—like a daybed that fits flush against the fence—using items like repurposed pallets and decorative cushions.

4. Create a Secret Garden

small patio garden
Photo: tapui / Adobe Stock

If you have a small patio in a big concrete city, add lots of plants to give it the feel of a secret oasis. Pot a few container plants and, if you’re short on floor space, consider installing some lattice panels with built-in planters to allow climbing flowers, like wisteria or bougainvillea, to grow. Another option is to place some small wall planters on your fence or another vertical surface. 

Unsure which plants are best and how to place them? Contact a local landscaper for assistance

5. Give It Personality

bright and colorful patio décor
Photo: Photographee.eu / Adobe Stock

A small space doesn’t have to be boring. Give your patio its own personality with vivid colors and patterns in unexpected places, such as seat cushions and outdoor rugs or even a repurposed garden stool used to elevate your favorite plant. Paint is an inexpensive, fun way to brighten up the space, too: Paint the wood flooring, the lattice panels, or even simple wood seating.

6. Add a Mirror

grey panel with mirror in patio
Photo: Iriana Shiyan / Adobe Stock

Mirrors reflect light and make any space look larger, so install one on a wall in your patio area. It will have the added bonus of giving your patio a chill den or living room vibe.

7. Hang Lights

string lights hanging in patio at night
Photo: Olesia Bilkei / Adobe Stock

String or hanging twinkle lights will create the cozy, inviting atmosphere you want in your outdoor space, no matter how big (or small!) it is. They’ll let all your guests see their finger foods while keeping things dim enough for the perfect Instagram selfies.

8. Hang Curtains

wood patio lounge with curtains
Photo: lukszczepanski / Adobe Stock

Light, breezy curtains can help delineate zones—one for socializing, one for dining—as well as offer privacy and prevent pesky mosquitoes from biting.

9. Consider Comfort

neutral patio furniture set
Photo: Photographee.eu / Adobe Stock

Embrace the small, cozy nature of your patio and layer it with blankets and pillows. The result will be a cushy outdoor space you never want to leave. Just make sure whatever you buy is made for outdoor use so you don’t run into an issue with mildew.

10. Cover It Up

patio area with shade and heat lamp
Photo: Iriana Shiyan / Adobe Stock

To protect your newly decorated patio, you might consider covering up the roof using a pergola and polycarbonate plastic. Pergola covers work, too, though they won’t be as protective against the element as plastic will. If you want to cover your furniture only, and also offer the area some protection from the sun, buy a shade sail or invest in an awning.

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