outdoor patio deck bbq

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:

  • Plan.
  • Research.
  • Find professionals.
  • Fit the budget.
  • Remember care and maintenance.
  • Keep in mind that less is more.
  • Keep it clean.

[See: 10 Interior Design Trends for 2020]

1. Plan

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.

2. Research

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.

[See: 10 Home Renovations Under $5,000.]

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.

[See: The Best Free Interior Design Apps]

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.

Wind Chimes

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.


8 Outdoor Patio Decorating Ideas

Take your design aesthetic outside.

New design villa patio with comfortable rattan furniture and pattern carpet

(Getty Images)

Whether it's a small courtyard or an expansive backyard, you probably don’t spend as much time on your outdoor patio as you’d like. But with a bit more effort put into the design, you may find you’re reaping the benefits of spending more time outdoors. “People more than ever … are really coming to the awareness that you need to be connected to nature, and you need to be connected socially for your health and well-being,” says Joe Raboine, an outdoor living and design expert with landscape design company and hardscape manufacturer Belgard. Read on for some simple decorating ideas that will help draw you and your family and friends out to your patio.

Make it comfortable.

Make it comfortable.

Cozy terrace in the garden with flowers

(Getty Images)

It’s all too easy to forgo an evening in your backyard when the living room couch is just too comfortable. Rather than make excuses, why not design your patio to be just as comfortable? “It’s an additional living space,” says Debbie Howes, a Realtor with Re/Max Performance in the Colorado Springs, Colorado, area. Make sure any seating outside has weather-resistant cushions, and consider adding side tables to keep drinks or a plate of snacks within arms’ reach as you lounge.

Don't forget color.

Don't forget color.

shot of outdoor furnitures

(Getty Images)

Just like in your indoor living room, furniture can feel a bit bare if you don’t add accents like pillows or tabletop decor. For these welcoming additions, don’t be afraid to go bold with pops of color. In real estate information company Zillow’s 2019 Outdoor Living Trends Report, popular colors for patio and porch space this year include bright oranges, reds, yellows and pinks. Plus, by adding pops of color with outdoor throw pillows or cushions, you can keep your more neutral patio furniture as-is without having to change it when new trends come around.

Create a place for conversation.

Create a place for conversation.

(Getty Images)

For small patios, purchasing a bench or outdoor couch may seem like a simple, cost-effective solution to provide seating for two or three people at a time. But to make the patio more comfortable for lounging and spending extended periods of time, consider including separate seats that can be positioned to face each other. Furniture marketplaces like Ikea and Wayfair sell patio sets including love seats, couches, chairs and coffee tables at a bundled price. You can also combine unrelated pieces of furniture that complement each other – which the Zillow report notes is in style for 2019.

Consider swinging seating.

Consider swinging seating.

Happy young woman sitting in hanging chair

(Getty Images)

A freestanding hammock is an old classic, but online furniture marketplaces like Wayfair and Hayneedle offer a wide variety of swinging chairs that take up less space and offer plenty of styles to fit your design plan. Modern, circular swinging chairs and beachy chair hammocks range from $30 to over $600 on Wayfair, for example. If your patio features an overhang, consider attaching a porch swing or even a swinging bed to add more space for people to relax. These pieces are available in multiple styles for less than $350 through Hayneedle.

Create more than one space.

Create more than one space.

Looking down on a cozy outdoor living patio.

(Getty Images)

A simple way to make your patio space appear more luxurious is to designate areas for different purposes. A table and chairs are standard for eating dinner on the patio, but consider adding a bench close to your garden, or a fire pit area that encourages you and your guests to use the patio for activities beyond eating a meal. Patio bar furniture, small bistro tables and lounge chairs can help create an additional space for spending more time outside.

Build in an activity.

Build in an activity.

Family relaxing around fire pit outdoors

(Getty Images)

A spot to eat or sit and talk helps draw you out to the patio, but to keep family and guests outside even longer, incorporate an activity into your design, such as cooking on the grill or playing card games at a table. Zillow’s 2019 Outdoor Living Trends Report notes that fire features and outdoor kitchens are particularly popular options. In addition to serving as a spot to make s’mores, a fire pit or outdoor fireplace can help extend your patio’s usability into the colder months.

Don't forget lighting.

Don't forget lighting.

outdoor string lights hanging on a line in backyard

(Getty Images)

Traditionally, backyard lighting was limited to the light just outside the back door. But to truly embrace outdoor living – and make the space look more like a living room – invest in additional lighting for your outdoor space. Floor and table lamps designed for the outdoors are weatherproof, and in many cases solar-powered, which cuts down on your need to use electricity or have cords creating a tripping hazard. Outdoor lamps are available at places like Lowe’s, Walmart and Plow and Hearth, which offer enough variety to match a minimalist or traditional design aesthetic – or anything in between.

Make your own wind.

Make your own wind.

Sunny Backyard Patio With Pergola

(Getty Images)

You may not be able to handle stifling heat, or you may get eaten by mosquitoes when you sit outside – but a little man-made wind can help keep the heat and bugs away from your patio space. An outdoor ceiling fan installed on an overhang is a common solution, or you can bring a freestanding fan outside while you sit. To help keep you even cooler, consider investing in a misting fan, many of which are freestanding and simply need to be hooked up to a hose. Large misting fans designed to cover an entire patio space tend to cost more, however – Mistcooling or Dynamic Collections brands offer models for $430 and $240, respectively.

Here are eight ways to decorate your outdoor patio:

Here are eight ways to decorate your outdoor patio:

Trendy friends having barbecue party on top of the roof - Happy people doing bbq dinner outdoor - Main focus on woman with yellow t-shirt - Fun, summer, city lifestyle and friendship concept

(Getty Images)

  • Make it comfortable.
  • Create more than one space.
  • Don’t forget color.
  • Create a place for conversation.
  • Consider swinging seating.
  • Build in an activity.
  • Don’t forget lighting.
  • Make your own wind.

Read More

Tags: real estate, renting, home improvements


Robin Kencel is a founding agent of Compass’s Greenwich, Connecticut, office and one of the top 10 agents in the Greenwich market. She has been ranked in the top 1% of all agent teams across the United States by the Wall Street Journal/Real Trends and cofounded several top producer agent teams. She is listed in Who’s Who In Luxury Real Estate and is a member of the Compass Sports & Entertainment Division. Her team, the Robin Kencel Group, concentrates in Greenwich, Connecticut, and has a vibrant network of premier agents in other Connecticut and U.S. luxury towns.

Kencel's deep roots in the worlds of interior design and historic preservation give her a unique perspective on every home, whether preparing their homes for sale or evaluating the strength of a home under consideration.

As a six-time national ballroom champion, Kencel is chair of the Greenwich Historical Society’s Landmark Recognition Program, a member of the First Selectman’s Economic Advisory Council, and board member of the Town’s public relations campaign, Think Greenwich.

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