Decorating and Design Ideas for Small Patios and Terraces
With the right approach and mindset, you can transform your small patio into an outdoor living oasis.
A small patio can be made more dynamic by installing a fireplace or other permanent feature, which may require bringing in a professional.(Getty Images)
Decorating any part of a home, especially outdoor space, lets you tap into the creative side of your brain.
But when the space is a small terrace or patio, too much creativity can be a bad thing. Terraces can easily become less enjoyable when you've overindulged in green plants, or added furniture that has no rhyme nor reason. You don’t need lots of physical space to be able to enjoy your outdoor areas, just the right approach and mindset.
Here are seven steps for decorating your small patio or terrace area:
- Find professionals.
- Fit the budget.
- Remember care and maintenance.
- Keep in mind that less is more.
- Keep it clean.
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This is not the time to grab a shopping cart and run through the aisles at your favorite gardening center or Home Depot’s Garden Shop picking up whatever greenery, furnishing or accessory that catches your fancy. Working off a conceptual plan and, ideally, one that is sketched out with a detailed purchase list, will ensure that what you have in your mind becomes reality. In order to develop a plan, start by writing down how you want to use the space, what you would love to have and do in the space and which details are priorities, in case you can’t fit everything based on space or budget.
Pinterest is one of the sources that can inspire and educate as you begin to think about transforming your outdoor space. Take your priorities list and go through Pinterest, saving ideas that might work for your patio.
3. Find Professionals
A space planner, landscape architect, interior designer or architect are all sources for bringing your outdoor living area goals to life. It’s a small investment in time and money and can save you from costly mistakes.
4. Fit the Budget
You may be initially dismayed to see how quickly costs mount up to bring your patio plan to life. Don’t rush the process and be thorough in your research. You may be surprised to see what you can find through end-of-summer sales at retail shops or online. Take a look at consignment furniture options as well, through Chairish, Sotheby's Home, The Local Vault and, of course, local consignment stores.
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5. Remember Care and Maintenance
Plants and furniture don’t take care of themselves. Once you install your outside terrace, don’t forget to water the greenery, wipe down the furniture and protect anything that weather can damage.
6. Keep In Mind That Less Is More
When working with small spaces, watch the number of legs. Too many tables and chairs can make a space look like it’s all legs and make it appear busy and crowded. L-shaped seating for a small space helps avoid this problem. For many, this may be counter-intuitive as sectionals seem like they need a large space to work. Remember, not every sectional is monster-sized. Have the seating laid out in a floor plan, and here's where a design professional can be helpful: He or she will know right away if the furniture fits.
7. Keep It Clean
Keeping furniture – and particularly soft goods like cushions and pillows – clean in an outdoor space is a challenge. Sending seat cushions and other fabric items to a dry cleaner for yearly maintenance helps, though it is costly and doesn’t always mean your things will come back looking new. Mildew and soot are nearly impossible to fully remove, particularly if the fabric is white. Invest in cushion covers or bring your soft good items inside at night to deter soiling. Periodic cleaning, either by a professional or with good old soap, water and elbow grease can minimize the accumulation of soiling.
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If you're looking for some decorating inspiration for your small patio or terrace, consider these ideas:
Seating and Such
Take your time with this one and don’t try to save a penny and throw away a pound. Outdoor furniture that is not well made won’t hold up. Buying outdoor furniture that is somewhat ugly but cheap is not a good decision either.
For items that offer the look and longevity, Restoration Hardware is a popular choice for outdoor anything, but particularly planters. For a notch up, Janus et Cie has interesting pieces.
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
Since lighting isn’t always easy or costly to install, go for the next best thing with lanterns or solar-powered path lights. Check out Home Depot’s Pure Garden silver outdoor lights for a fairly inexpensive, but effective, option.
Such a small thing, but wind chimes set a tone, a mood and add magic.
While a terrace may seem like it does not require the same thoughtful approach as interior rooms do, it is another living space – just one without a roof over its head. The more you think about how you use it or would like to use it, and bring together those with the expertise to help you turn your vision into reality, the more pleased you will be with the results.