Designating “zones” for different functions can actually make a small space seem larger—try separating a small backyard with a sitting area, a bar station, and even a tiny garden display. “This is all about maximizing square footage by creating zones whenever possible,” says interior designer Caitlin Murray of Black Lacquer Design. “For a tiny patio, I believe it’s better to have various smaller-scaled furniture that serves different purposes—so a bistro table for dining and a small outdoor loveseat for lounging, rather than choosing between a large sofa or a dining setup for six. You’re likely going to want the best of both worlds and splitting the difference somehow makes the space bigger.”
2 of 5James Wheeler
Invest In Multifunctional Pieces
With limited square footage, aim for furniture that can do double duty. “Look for small-scale multifunctional pieces that can also brighten up your space,” says Mia Jung, director of interiors at Ike Kligerman Barkley. “A small stool can hold your morning coffee when solo, or double as extra seating when you have friends over.” But you might want to ditch the bulky pieces: “Carefully select furniture for tiny patios,” says interior designer James Wheeler of J. Wheeler Designs. Use slipper chairs rather than traditional armchairs—the absence of arms keeps the area open.”
3 of 5Will Heap (c) Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images
Try a Vertical Hanging Garden
“When you have a small outdoor space, consider going vertical with your plants,” says Chris Lambton, professional landscaper and host of DIY Network’s Yard Crashers. “There are a number of DIY projects and products available to help you achieve a vertical garden. Fill the space with colorful flowers, vines, and herbs.” If you don’t have much of a green thumb, interior designer Kyle Schuneman has a solution: “I love hanging planters because it gives you greenery without taking up precious floor space.”
If you do have enough square footage to add a floor plant or two, or you have some surface area to display potted plants, experiment with scale and dimension. “Adding planters of varying height to a small patio or balcony gives the sense of a larger space by directing the eye in different directions and creating interest on different levels,” says interior designer Amanda Reynal of Amanda Reynal Interiors.
4 of 5Antoninapotapenko/Getty Images
Don’t Forget About Lighting
You don’t want to leave yourself (or your guests) in the dark. “I’ve always loved table lamps on porches,” says interior designer Dana Gibson. “Even on a small porch, a table lamp adds ambience and makes the space at night even more magical and cozy.” If you don’t have a spot to place a lamp, you can also opt for outdoor string lights, which still lend a dreamy effect and create the perfect atmosphere for enjoying that summer nighttime air.
5 of 5David Stark
Personalize your outdoor space with colorful and unique décor accents. “Adding a small outdoor rug can make the space feel like an extra room,” says Jung. “Add a small plant or two and you’re ready to enjoy summer!” And pile on the pillows: “I’m a big fan of comfy pillows for hard outdoor furniture, which can make your little slice of the outdoors an open-air living room,” says designer and event planner David Stark. “My trick? I cut up and sew inexpensive terry cloth bath and beach towels to create pillows. When the need arises, you can just throw the pillowcases in the washer and dryer.”
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