7 Small Patio Ideas That Will Maximize Your Outdoor Space

Katy Willis
Written by Katy Willis
Updated December 22, 2021
cozy patio with black floor and walls, tan and black furniture, and plants
Melinda Nagy - stock.adobe.com

No matter the size of your outdoor space, you can improve it with these small patio ideas

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Hanging out on the patio can be lots of fun, but when you have limited space, it may feel like you have to limit your home decor ideas too. But luckily, that’s not the case. 

To help you breathe new life into your outdoor space, we’ve got some small patio ideas that make a big impact without taking up too much room.

1. Use Foldable Furniture to Free Up Space

Using foldable furniture is a smart way to maximize your space when you have a small patio. If you use plastic folding chairs or seats and a foldable wood table, you can pull these furniture pieces out as you need them and put them back when you don't. One of the best benefits of folding furniture is that you can set up exactly what you need without additional pieces taking up room.

Another piece of folding furniture you should consider is an umbrella. Perfect for opening up when the sun gets too bright, a folding umbrella will make your seating area a more pleasant space when you're enjoying a meal or catching up with friends.

2. Pick Furniture That Goes Upward Rather Than Outward

If you don’t want to move furniture around, you can still make better use of your small space by choosing pieces that are taller rather than wider. Instead of outfitting your patio with a large outdoor sectional, choose something like a pub table and stools. 

If you need more space, choose a longer table or situate square ones side by side. To really maximize your square footage and make for easy storage, look for stools that hide neatly under your table when not in use.

3. Invest in Furniture That Pulls Double Duty

Another smart move is to look for pieces that serve more than one function. For example, consider tables with space underneath for candles, bug spray, bottle openers, and other outdoor essentials, or pick club chairs and benches with storage built under the seat so you can hide your grilling tools or extra pillows.

Can’t find exactly what you want? Although chairs are harder to build yourself, tables are relatively simple DIY projects that are easy to customize. With some lumber (or pallets if you like to recycle), you can create a table that has multiple levels for storage or built-in planters so you can incorporate a little greenier into your small space. Or, if you want to really get fancy, hire a custom furniture builder to create the exact pieces you want for your patio.

4. Make a Statement With Splashes of Color

You can still maximize space while furnishing your patio in fun and creative ways. Use pillows to add a bit of personality to your small space. When you create a spot that’s warm and inviting, no one will care about how small it is. The sky’s the limit when it comes to colors and patterns, so choose something that makes you happy. If you’re not sure what direction to go in, consider bright florals that contrast beautifully with dark furniture or earthy tones that blend with the outdoors while still acting as a bit of eye candy.

Want even more color? Outdoor rugs make a lovely addition and help create a more cohesive look. Place one under your seating area to help define the space and allow you and your guests to go barefoot without worrying about burning your toes on hot concrete. As with pillows, you can buy a brightly colored rug that beckons friends forward or choose something more subdued to create a relaxing atmosphere.

small patio with round coffee table and chair, with string lights hanging from ceiling
FotoHelin - stock.adobe.com

5. Install a Vertical Garden to Bring Nature Closer

Love plants but worry that your small space might get too crowded with flower pots? If you have a wall nearby, you can build a vertical garden to display small plants. Not only will your herbs, succulents, and other greenery look like functional art and attract pollinators, they’ll also be out of the way so there are no accidents.

If you’re not a fan of plants, you can still use a wall to create some extra storage. Hang painted cans of the same or varying sizes, and you’ll have perfect little spots to store BBQ tools and gardening essentials. These containers are so convenient, you might even find yourself using them as cup holders.

6. Hang String Lighting for Big Lights With a Small Footprint

You need to keep things off the ground when working with a small patio to allow everyone to move around easily and safely. In that spirit, consider hanging string lights to give your space a warm glow into the night. Use patio string lights with larger bulbs for more concentrated spots of light, or save money by snagging a few extra sets of holiday lights at the end of the year. 

Either way, you can control the intensity of your glow by adding more light sets. Best of all, because your lighting is hanging above you, there are no cords or lamp bases to trip over.

7. Add a Sunshade for Protection Without the Fuss

A patio is an excellent way to extend your living space from the indoors to the outdoors, but if it's hot and sunny out, it may not be long before you're seeking the refuge of air conditioning. An easy, affordable, and practical way to beat the heat is to hang a sunshade.

You can hang most shades within an hour, and they can stay outside throughout the seasons. In addition to keeping the sun out of your eyes, a sunshade can also protect you from light rain.

If you're trying to really rejuvenate a tired, worn old patio, a local patio repair company may be able to help. Then, once you've got a nice, stable, long-lasting patio base, you can work on enhancing it with furniture, plants, and accessories to create the perfect small outdoor space.

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