Bringing Big Summer Style to a Small Outdoor Space

Get tips, tricks and inspiration on how to maximize your small outdoor area.

We all have at least one small space in our home that we don’t know how to utilize to its full potential. And if that area happens to be a square-foot challenged patio, sunroom or outdoor space, the possibility of making it into a quiet sanctuary during the weeknights and a spot for entertaining on the weekends, can seem next to impossible.

So we’ve turned to Apartment Therapy’s Big Book of Small, Cool Spaces by Maxwell Ryan, for a little advice. Although the Big Book of Small, Cool Spaces focuses on interior rooms, there are some golden guidelines that can be easily applied to a porch, patio, rooftop space, screened in porch, or that small yard that you don’t quite know what to do with. Here are some tips and tricks to taking that bland outdoor space and making it the only place in your home worthy of the summer months.


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Since you’re working with a smaller space, you may want to avoid larger scale patio couches, wide table sets or lounges, and opt for more flexible seating options. Wicker chairs are very comfortable substitutes for a couch, and adding an ottoman as a foot rest or drink table can also act as added storage for any outdoor items, or chair cushions that may need to be stowed away later. Multi-purpose pieces are always a great idea, as are stackable end tables, and built-in seating for those who have the resources.


Photo Credit: Pinterest


Built-in Seating

If your outdoor space is an indoor-outdoor porch or screened in porch, you could forgo buying furniture entirely, and invest in built-in bench seating along the interior wall, or all of the walls if you so choose, which can also serve as lift-up-top storage. While this may be an unconventional and more involved option, the room will benefit from the openness of the walled seating. With the addition of good lighting and an extendable table or an assortment of side tables, you’ve got yourself the coolest room in the house.


Bringing Big Summer Style to a Small Outdoor Space

Photo Credit: Pinterest


Construct a Space

If you’re working with a nondescript space like an exposed concrete patio or a small yard, a good way to create a visual room is to get a beautiful outdoor rug. Place your table, couch, or ottomans in an arrangement within or around the rug to create that entertainment space you didn’t know you had. Look for fun patterns and designs and don’t be afraid to go bold.


Photo Credit: Pinterest



Sconces are a wonderful choice if you have an outdoor porch, but an even better option—guaranteed to add new life and warmth to the center of your space during summer nights, are string lights (lanterns or spherical-shaped). If you have an open space, an on-trend option is to hang strings of exposed bulb lights either in parallel rows, or cross-hatched over your desired seating area. This not only provides you with lighting but it also creates a cozy and enclosed feeling to an otherwise open space. Just be careful not to hang the lights too low!


Bringing Big Summer Style to a Small Outdoor Space

Photo Credit: Ron Stik/iStock


Shade Options

Sure, an umbrella is an all-time favorite go-to for shading, but you could also take the pop-up gazebo route and transform your outdoor space into a cozy, comfortable place to rest in the shade. Be aware that choosing a pop-up gazebo canopy could leave you with a closed-off feel to your small space (since the four posts take up a lot of valuable real estate). A really creative option (if your landscape supports it or there’s an exterior wall nearby) is to hang a canvas tarp. With a few anchor hooks, rope, and a good strong piece of all-weather material, you get the benefit of shade, without the posts. Not to mention the fact that your shade tarp looks really cool “floating” above your space.


Photo Credit: Pinterest


Bright Accents

Summer is the time for bright colors, bold accents, mixing and matching prints, and getting funky pieces. An aluminum side table in electric blue, an Aztec outdoor rug in cherry red, or lime green lanterns you fell in love with at the store can all be brought together to create a fun and eccentric space. The key is to keep a theme, and not to over-clutter. Those bright, happy colors will be the perfect backdrop to your next outdoor gathering, so get out the cold drinks and enjoy.


Bringing Big Summer Style to a Small Outdoor Space

Photo Credit: Pinterest




Lead Photo Credit: Freer Law/iStock

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