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I love the long, warm days of summer. Waking up on a bright morning is the perfect energiser, encouraging me up and out. Fortunately, the temperatures have started rising and the waft of barbeques will soon fill the air. Being out in this good weather is great for our well-being, so I offer 5 tips to make the most of small outdoor spaces.

Alix Stoney picking brightly coloured dahlias.

Designing for Small Outdoor Spaces

Through the summer months, our outdoor spaces offer an extension to our home; the ideal place to socialise, dine, play or unwind after a busy day. Yet many modern properties only have a small patio area or garden. 


Like many new builds, my previous home had limited outdoor space. That meant we had to think creatively to ensure it worked for our needs. From this experience, I offer 5 tips on how to optimise this space and make it tempting to head outdoors.

A bright dahlia with a blurred green background.

1. Determine your Priorities 

With creative planning, you can transform a balcony, patio or courtyard into an inviting retreat. However, I believe that to make a small outdoor space work, you need to be selective. With this in mind, is it more important for you to have: 


  • A peaceful & private sanctuary 

  • Social space to entertain friends

  • An area for the children to play

  • A green haven to grow your own 


Also, consider your budget. Many of the suggestions I’ll make can be achieved without a big outlay. However, designing a small space can allow you to be indulgent!

A small courtyard garden full of white flowers and greenery.
Image created using AI

2. Use all Available Outdoor Space

To maximise small spaces, I recommend thinking vertically. Those walls and fences provide you with useful surfaces to work with! To give an example, vertical planters attached to the fence and hanging baskets are great. We used them to bring foliage, colourful blooms and edible crops into the garden, without taking up valuable ground area.


In a child-friendly space, attaching buckets to the fence or balcony railings can provide storage for toys – just drill a hole in the base to allow water to drain out. Wall space could also be fitted with climbing wall holds or a basketball hoop.

The balcony of a modern apartment with a living wall and contemporary black furniture.

Image created using AI

3. Opt for Adaptable Garden Furniture

It’s difficult to find garden furniture that fits into small outdoor spaces, so, it’s time to think creatively. How about a storage box for gardening equipment that doubles as a seating bench? All you need is a padded seat cushion for the top! 


Foldaway chairs offer a practical solution to provide sufficient seating when guests arrive, without cluttering the space at other times. You can often pick these up second-hand; simply sand down and repaint to achieve a cohesive finish. What’s more, when not in use, the chairs could be conveniently stored using hooks on the fence.


Another idea is a hinged tabletop, with a supporting leg, attached to the wall. This can unclip and drop down for an alfresco meal. Add a mirror to the underside, so that when packed away, it reflects light and makes the space feel bigger.

A cosy corner of a garden with banquette seating and graphic cushions.
Image created using AI

4. Make Outside As Cosy As Inside

As an extension of a home, it’s good to make outdoor space comfortable. As with interior design, soft furnishings are a great way to bring colour, texture and warmth to the setting. 


Have you come across those fantastic outdoor rugs, which are made from 100% recycled plastic? You can find these in many homeware stores or online from Weaver Green and Rug Guru. They feel surprisingly soft underfoot, yet are suitable for exterior use. As a further bonus, they are machine washable and quick to dry! 


In addition, open up a parasol, place cushions on chairs, add a table runner or bring out blankets for evenings watching the sunset. Depending on your priorities, you might choose to hang a hammock or drape fabric over a foldable timber framework to create a child’s den.

Bright dahlias with a blurred green background.

5. Light Up the Night

A few years ago, I stayed at an Airbnb with a small garden. The owners had installed a timber batten structure above the patio from which strings of lights were hung. In the evening, this provided beautiful illumination and added a cosy intimacy to the seating area. 


Varied lighting adds to the atmosphere of an evening spent outdoors. So, I’d suggest using wall lights, table lanterns, portable lamps and string lights to add luminosity at different levels. How about solar-powered lighting, which charges through the day and glows up in the evening?

A small garden at dusk with outdoor furniture and fairy lights.
Image created using AI

An Inviting Retreat

Natural light, fresh air and a closer connection to nature are all beneficial to our well-being. My 5 tips can help you optimise your small outdoor spaces and create an inviting retreat that makes it tempting to spend more time outside. Meanwhile, if you have a large plot, you may be interested in my garden renovation project.

Bright dahlias in a lush green garden.

If you would like to have a chat about your project please feel free to give me a call or click the button below.

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