In a perfect world, your home would have a sprawling backyard with designated spaces for a pool, an outdoor kitchen, and a lounge area. The reality for most of us (we’re looking at you, city dwellers)? A small deck or a diminutive patch of grass. But, if the homes in ELLE DECOR have taught us anything, it’s that big design opportunities can come in small packages—you just need to get a little creative.
Depending on where you live, your outdoor space might be a part-time setup that you furnish once sunny weather hits. Whether you treat your area as a seasonal retreat or a year-round hot spot for post dinner s’mores, it should be connected to the rest of your home decor. To help take your style outside, we’ve pored over the archives to find the small patio ideas that are big on style. From fire pits to fetching furniture, the spaces below make a case for embracing Mother Nature in all her glory.
1 ACCENTUATE YOUR ANGLES
Calling all minimalists: Pared-back furniture is the perfect way to bring some modernity to the great outdoors. When designers Christine and John Gachot revived Paul Rudolph’s former Manhattan home, they dressed the outdoor space in Blu Dot’s sleek table, a set of custom chairs, and a classic Charlotte Perriand stool. The result? A winning combination of hard and soft elements.
2 LOUNGE AWAY
For a small patio idea that looks as good as it operates, take a cue from Studio Schicketanz and add a set of matching chaise longues. The sleek style is fitting for this Silicon Valley home, while the Kerry Joyce performance fabric will keep stains and spots to a minimum.
3 STUN WITH SYMMETRY
Think of a symmetrical setup as the furniture equivalent to ASMR; one that could look good in all spaces and sizes. This Hamptons, New York, home nails the look with a coordinating conversation set and Paola Lenti’s patio table.
4 PACK ON THE PLANTS
Concerned your outdoor space will look good only during a few months of the year? This Malibu, California, home suggests otherwise. Here, a lone tree is planted in the center of this back patio, which will make a statement when paired with outdoor furniture or proudly standing solo. (Plus, ample foliage will look beautiful in seasonal environments.)
5 SPRING FOR SUSPENDED STYLE
Want to take your small patio decor to new heights? Add a hanging chair like Workshop/APD incorporated in this Pebble Beach, California, home. This design trick offers an awesome place to kick back and relax—all without taking up too much precious square footage.
6 MIX AND MATCH
Matching furniture might be an easy and efficient way to dress up your small patio, but it can be a tad boring. Instead, shake things up by piecing your outdoor set together one by one. This Palm Beach home designed by Caroline Rafferty offers plenty of visual intrigue—thanks to a Room & Board sofa and two matching Sam Son chairs, which Konstantin Grcic designed for Magis.
7 TRY THE TACTILE TREATMENT
Want to make your small patio equal parts cozy and chic? Juxtapose different materials in one confined space. For this idyllic French property, designer Patrick Frey played up the home’s weathered stone facade with wood furniture, custom cushions, and a wrought-iron chandelier.
8 GET YOUR GLOW ON
Never underestimate the power of layered lighting–yes, even on your small patio. In this Austin, Texas, abode, designer Paul Lamb deftly accessorized an outdoor fireplace with small lanterns. Rounding out the look is a simple-yet-chic outdoor set from RH, Restoration Hardware.
9 CREATE A POP OF COLOR
Avid maximalists will find a lot to love about this bold space by Atelier Davis, which offsets a neutral table from RH, Restoration Hardware with bright chairs from Petite Friture. The citrus hue makes a statement and pairs nicely with the Bay Area home’s lush surroundings.
10 BRING THE INSIDE OUT
According to Cliff Fong, the key to decorating any outdoor space is treating it just like your home’s interior. The Los Angeles–based designer brought his impeccable eye to his backyard with a Van Keppel-Green table, assortment of Mathieu Matégot chairs, and a striking pendant, courtesy of Louis Poulsen.
11 THINK BEACH-Y KEEN
Eucalyptus poles cover this beachside patio designed by the late architect Mario Connio at his one time vacation retreat on the coast of Uruguay. A sitting area with sofas and a table is perfect for shaded gatherings, while others can sit in lounge chairs to take in the ocean view.
12 ROUND IT OUT
This patio outside a Santa Monica, California, family home designed by Natasha Baradaran features overgrown greenery above a small pergola. The outdoor lounge chairs are by Dedon, and the cocktail table is by Baradaran.
13 FOSTER FIRESIDE CHATS
Catch up with your family and closest friends around a fire pit, much like in this intimate setup in the courtyard of a Marin County, California, cottage designed by Nicole Hollis.