Maximise your outdoor areas with these clever ideas for small spaces.
With more of us opting for inner-city urban living, our outdoor spaces seem to be shrinking - but that doesn’t mean you need to compromise on looks or comfort. Whether it’s a cosy balcony off an apartment, a compact courtyard behind your townhouse or a petite patio beside a house, use these smart tips to style it up to create a flexible and functional space, ready for lounging and entertaining.
Entertaining, relaxing, or both?
You might need to choose between a sofa and coffee table or a dining setting, depending on space. It’s better to have one good-sized sofa with a table for drinks and snacks than one tiny sofa and an awkwardly positioned table tucked in on the side. That said, if you have space to comfortably fit both, go for it!
Round & round
Circular tables and curved edges are best in a small space, preventing bumps and sharp corners in high traffic areas. Alternatively, in a really small patio, a square table or sofa will tuck efficiently into a corner, maximising your usable space around it.
Two is better than one
Choose multipurpose pieces to ensure flexibility at all times. A bench seat that doubles as storage or a display surface for plants is more useful in a compact space than several dining chairs. A coffee table with hidden storage or a built-in bench that hides a barbecue is ideal for busy families, while folding tables and stackable chairs are the perfect space savers for keen entertainers.
Use an expanding trellis or green wall as a room divider, privacy screen or shade, instantly transforming a cold brick-and-steel space into a leafy retreat. Artificial greenery will provide year-round vibrance and energy. You could also consider installing sheer curtains to provide extra privacy and create a dreamy vibe.
Even the smallest of outdoor zones will benefit from the addition of greenery. Mix up a selection of real and faux hanging plants with succulents, foliage, branches, cactuses, palms and ferns to create a lush, welcoming atmosphere. Artificial plants are the perfect option in spaces with both low sunlight and exposure to the harsh elements such as wind, sun, rain and frost, as well as any non-green-thumbed gardeners. Just remember to water the real ones occasionally, and dust the fake ones, too!
Furniture with hidden storage is your best bet, as you need everything to work double duty in a small space. Consider an outdoor console or side table with cupboards or drawers below to hide potting tools and gardening gear, as well as to display favourite plants on top. Maximise wall space by installing narrow shelves, a storage ladder and hanging lights or planters on hooks.
It’s important to avoid clutter in a small space, but a few decorative items will give your compact patio a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere. Mirrors will reflect light and visually expand your space, while an expansive rug will create a sense of flow and add cosiness. Cushions on the floor and sofa add instant luxury and the flicker of candlelight will create romance and depth.