18 Small Patio Ideas to Maximize Your Outdoor Space

Turn your small patio into a cozy area that's perfect for lounging or entertaining.

Photo: Lisa Romerein

Make the most of your small patio by transforming it into a comforting oasis. Despite its size, there are a number of ways to refresh your space with the help of both subtle and eye-catching décor elements.

Come up with natural ways to give your patio a more complete look. Not only does planting trees and shrubs add intrigue to your space, but it's also an easy way to shade your patio from the sun and make the area feel more private.

Looking for a project that doesn't require a green thumb? Quickly elevate the ambience of your patio by hanging up string lights or lining your space with pathway lights. Another simple way to enhance your space is by looking to the ground for inspiration. Change up the area by painting the floor, or simply introduce a colorful weather-resistant rug to add warmth.

From small design fixes to versatile outdoor furniture solutions, it doesn't take much to make your small patio space look instantly more inviting.

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Hang String Lights

women have dinner party at house yard
Getty / M_a_y_a

You'll use your small patio both day and night when it has proper lighting. "A great way to incorporate lighting into a small patio space is through string lights, which are very versatile and can be strung a number of ways," says Kerrie Kelly, creative director of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab. If you are dealing with a balcony as your patio space, Kelly recommends hanging the lights on your railing.

02 of 18

Create a Bar Area

backyard patio white outdoor furniture with tropical decor
Getty / Johner Images

If you enjoy entertaining, make room on your patio for a bar. "This can hold an ice bucket with beverages, cups, plates, utensils, and even a portable grill," Kelly says. If you don't have room for a bar cart or console, Kelly says a tray that can hold snacks and cocktails is the perfect versatile serving solution; simply position it on a table when you're hosting.

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Set up a Café Table

small black table brown chairs patio outside
Courtesy of Room&Board

Pull a small table in between a loveseat or between two chairs, and you'll create a casual dining spot for one or two. "When not being used for working or dining, it serves as a casual side table to place a cup of coffee and your book in the morning, or a glass of wine at the end of the day," says interior designer Liz MacPhail. "Also, consider adding a couple plants to it when not in-use, to round out the greenery and add to the collected, lived-in feel of the space."

Shop Now: Room & Board "Sabrina" Chair, $199, roomandboard.com; Room & Board "Maris" Table, $549, roomandboard.com.

04 of 18

Paint Your Floors

patio floor paint
ChristopherBernard / Getty Images

Tie your entire space together by painting or staining the floors an accent color—or try a pattern. "Concrete, wood, and even ugly tile can all be painted. It's important to apply the appropriate prep and paint product for each specific surface to add an individualized touch to your patio," says MacPhail.

05 of 18

Arrange Cut Flowers

cut flowers outdoors
Тодорчук Екатерина / Getty Images

One simple way to add color to your small patio area is by using flowers to dress tables and stools. Kerry recommends adding cut flowers to your favorite vase; it's a small detail that will make a huge impact to the overall look and feel of the space.

06 of 18

Put Down an Outdoor Rug

outdoor patio space with fireplace and rug
Courtesy of Pottery Barn

Incorporating details underfoot makes any space feel cozy without taking up coveted foot paths. "An outdoor area rug is a great way to define a space," Kelly says. "If you have a little room to play with, consider adding an area rug under your seating area, giving the illusion of more breathing room within your footprint."

Shop Now: Pottery Barn "Oden" Recycled Material Indoor/Outdoor Rug in Blue, from $99, potterybarn.com.

07 of 18

Arrange Outdoor Chairs

patio chairs
franckreporter / Getty Images

Being thoughtful about your seating is a way to effectively save space on your outdoor patio. "When looking for more lounge type seating, consider outdoor dining head chairs that provide cushion and arms for comfort but aren't as big as lounge chairs," Kerry says.

08 of 18

Opt for a Small Stool

Courtesy of Terrain

A small, compact stool doubles as a surface to hold your magazines and favorite beverages, while also serving as a seat when needed.

Shop Now: Terrain Woven Teak Stool, $148.50, terrain.com.

09 of 18

Use a Mix of Patterns

patterned outdoor patio furniture
Joe Schmelzer

An array of bright colors and patterns can easily make a small patio feel twice the size. Opt for color coordinating designs in both subtle and more robust hues to make your décor pop.

10 of 18

Arrange Potted Plants

container plants grevillea plicatilis portulacaria afra
Caitlin Atkinson

A lot can be done with potted plants—especially when you use a variety of colors, heights, sizes, and styles. MacPhail says this will add a collected, eclectic vibe to your space. "Or, if you're looking for cozy, but minimal, try adding a series of the same plant in the same pot for a uniform look," she says.

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Add Pillows

Siraphol Siricharattakul / Getty Images

Pillows are a great way to give your space a homey vibe—whether you're inside or out. "Creating a cozier feel comes mainly from adding in soft pieces," Kerry says. To do this, she recommends adding plenty of throw pillows to your furniture for comfortable lounging.

12 of 18

Light a Fire

fire bowl outdoor patio
Deb Perry / Getty Images

As long as you're not limited by a ceiling—like a screened-in patio might be—fire bowls are a surefire way to add ambience to your backyard space. "The warmth created by the fire will allow you to enjoy your backyard even during the cooler months," Kerry says.

13 of 18

Storage Box Turned Seating Area

storage box
Courtesy of Canberra

An outdoor storage box can double as a seat for your small patio if you add cushions to the top.

Shop Now: One Kings Lane "Adelaide" Outdoor Storage Box, $269.50, onekingslane.com.

14 of 18

Illuminate Your Patio

pathway lights
bruev / Getty Images

Lights and candles are ideal for low, ambient lighting. Use the former to line the walkway of your patio or place the latter throughout your backyard on small tables and near pots and planters. "Step it up a notch by placing the candles in lanterns," Kelly says.

15 of 18

Go for a Built-In Bench

patio bench
Nathalie Dupont / Getty Images

Add more seating while still saving space by incorporating a built-in bench. "A bench will allow the seating to be up against the wall or flexible enough to bring in a dining or coffee space," Kerry says. "Put a couple of freestanding chairs opposite the table and voila—a multi-functional seating and eating area is instantly created."

16 of 18

Plant Tall Shrubs or Trees

tall plants shade for patio
kkong5 / Getty Images

Protect your patio from the sun while simultaneously ramping up its aesthetic by planting tall shrubs or trees around your space. MacPhail says this will provide the shade you need during the afternoon, when patios are most frequently utilized. She also notes that these plants will provide privacy.

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Game Table

Games table outdoors
Maskot / Getty Images

Another way to incorporate an entertaining element into your small patio space is by adding a table that's big enough to play games on. "We are big believers that every house needs a small game table. If your home doesn't have the space, consider adding it to your patio," MacPhail says.

18 of 18

Living Plant Wall

plant wall
krblokhin / Getty Images

Incorporate greenery into your patio without taking up too much room by creating a plant wall with succulents, which Kerry says is the perfect low-maintenance solution. Additionally, if you have a trellis or pergola in your patio space, Kerry recommends wrapping it with floral vines to add color and conserve space.

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