A small patio doesn’t have to be short on style or function. Even the tiniest patios can be livable areas that allow you to enjoy limited backyard space to the fullest, especially when you design it to complement your lifestyle. For instance, if you enjoy entertaining, make sure there’s seating. Even a teeny patio usually can accommodate a bistro table and two chairs for morning coffee or afternoon cocktails.
But before we get into all the decorating possibilities, a few landscaping essentials: First, you’ll want to consider your patio’s placement in relation to the sun. Shade should always be part of the design, either with an overhead structure, such as a pergola, or movable shading. A retractable awning or large umbrella is a less expensive way to provide a shady spot. Next up, you'll want to think about privacy. If you’re squished up against your neighbor in an urban setting, try strategically placed containers with vining plants to create a green wall (and flowering plants or herbs to make the space feel warm and welcoming!), or something like decorative panels so you don’t feel like you’re always on display when you’re outside enjoying your small patio.
So, are you ready to get inspired by some of our favorite small patios from designer spaces? Packed with stylish decorating ideas and clever space-saving solutions, they're outdoor spaces you'll want to re-create before summer arrives.
Focus on Scale
While petite, this patio—at a San Francisco home by design teams Regan Baker Design, Medium Plenty, and Terremoto—packs a punch. The seating, table, and fire pit are all properly sized to ensure the area doesn't feel overcrowded. Greenery, including a cherry laurel hedge that will grow over time, amplifies a sense of serenity.
Select Patterned Tiles
Add Bistro Seating
On a patio with brick pavers laid in a herringbone pattern, interior design firm Arent&Pyke placed a small bistro table with a speckled top. Backless green stools and bench seating make the area feel more open.
Make It Nature-Inspired
Surround your patio with various elements found in nature—from potted plants and large trees to irregularly shaped stone pavers and a stone fireplace. On this patio, Romanek Design Studio added black-and-white striped chairs for a modern pop.
Opt for Warm Tones
To warm up a bright white patio, Moniomi Design incorporated limestone flooring, travertine columns, and furniture in soft shades of terra-cotta. The result: a space that feels open and airy but also cozy and calming.
Play With Textures
Turn a small patio into a statement-making space with plenty of textures. This area by designers Leigh Anne Muse and Lili O'Brien is a prime example. The flooring is made of pavers and pebbles set in concrete for a smooth and textured look. Wicker furniture, patterned pillows, and a plush blanket complete the look.
Go for a Sophisticated Look
On a sleek, modern patio, designer Robson Rak let chic materials stand out. Seating wrapped in upbeat blue fabric and a nook filled with firewood add flair.
Avoid Bulky Furniture
On a patio by designer Summer Jensen of Hawk + Co, four metal chairs with white plush pillows offer comfy seating that isn't bulky. This makes the area feel less confined. Plus, the individual chairs allow everyone to enjoy their own dedicated space.
Create a Cobbled Effect
Give any outdoor area European charm by introducing cobblestone-inspired flooring, as designer Wendy Owen did here. Add climbing vines and loungers for a dreamy setup.
With floating sofas and hanging chairs, your patio will instantly feel more open and airy. This space by Arent&Pyke features an elevated sofa in navy fabrics paired with textured furniture and a warm rug—giving the patio a high-end feel.
Try an Archway
The ivy-covered archway—at a Palm Beach, Florida, home by Kemble Interiors and SMI Landscape Architecture—helps section off the patio area while ensuring it still feels open. Chaise seating by Celerie Kemble on mosaic tile flooring invites relaxation.
Use Canopied Furniture
Don't have room for a covered patio, pergola, or even an umbrella? No problem. Opt for furniture with built-in canopies for instant shade, like the seating on this patio by designer Sarah Gilbane.
Build a Path
Make the journey to get to your small patio a dreamy experience by creating a unique path. Here, landscape designer and Terremoto founder David Godshall added distinct stepping stones surrounded by lush beds of greenery.
Interior design firm ETC.etera made this outdoor area cozy and stylish with custom cushions on the fire pit and bench. For a similar hack, use floor cushions covered in outdoor fabric instead of chairs and benches to save space. When you're done using them, you can easily bring them inside.
Whether you're a fan of string lights or sconces, lighting can make or break your patio—especially if you tend to spend time on it at night. On this patio at a home by architect Elizabeth Roberts, sconces and a pendant ensure the small space is adequately lit come nightfall.
Design a "Living" Wall
Showcase greenery by designing a "living" wall. Don't worry, even this one doesn't use real greenery. Designer Alison Victoria used faux plants to create this version in a small backyard as an alternative to a garden. To create it, she removed the glass from an antique pier mirror and nailed faux-fir panels directly onto the fence. The best part is that it requires no maintenance.
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