Living Large on Small Patios

Even when it’s humble, a patio’s where you’ll want to spend as much time as possible in nice weather. We’ll show you how top designers make even the smallest patios special.



Potted Foliage

Terra cotta pots filled with citrus trees, roses, lavender and decorative foliage turned this little patio into a veritable plantation. “If you want trees” says landscape designer Deborah Gliksman, “look for specimens that will stay small. There is a wide selection of patio trees – everything from Japanese Maples to Crape Myrtles. Just be sure to check the label for mature growing size before you buy.”

Scaled Furnishings

“It’s important to keep your plants and furniture scaled down if your space is small,” says Gliksman, “but that doesn’t mean that everything has to be puny. Sometimes a well-placed piece of larger furniture can set the mood.” The floral-upholstered chair in this little patio was found in an alley. When not in use, it’s covered by a tarp to keep it dry.
Photo By:  Katrine Mardini , courtesy of Steve Warner from Outhouse Design 

Maximize Space

When space is as tight as it is on this 11-foot-wide terrace created by Outhouse Design, attaching benches to a wall is a great way to maximize space. An array of pillows adds color and comfort, and metal art on the back wall adds visual interest to the long, narrow space.

Unique Look

A reclaimed door, installed over a standard issue portal, adds visual interest to this urban patio by Jeffery Erb Landscape Design. Salvage yards, architectural-antiques dealers and eBay are good sources for vintage pieces like these to add distinction to your own space.
Photo By: Patrick Barta 

Built-In Fire

You don’t need a vast space for a fire feature. Architect Kimberly Goforth, AIA, simply had a hole cut in the concrete slab flooring of this small patio to create a wood-burning fire pit – the perfect place to warm up or roast marshmallows on a chilly evening.


Photo By: Chris Martinez 


Burst of Color

The bright orange back wall adds distinction to this space at the far end of a garden designed by Mark Haynes, Allied ASID. When choosing paint colors for outdoors, consider what the garden will look like in all four seasons, and make sure the hue you select will complement nature’s palette all year long.
Photo By: Maggie Cole Architectural Photography, courtesy of Warren Architecture , LLC  

Modern Space

Chair cushions in the same shade of green as the surrounding trees help this small patio by Patricia Warren of Warren Architecture, LLC, feel like an integral part of nature. Strong geometry, seen in the limestone paver pattern, the openings at the top of the newly-installed wall, and in the muntins of the French doors, make it feel fresh and modern.


Photo By: Rick Lew 

Double Impact

Visually doubling a space with a mirror isn’t an indoors-only trick, as designer Michael Tavano proved on this small patio in New York City. If you’re thinking of mirroring your own outdoor space to create the illusion of greater depth, be sure the mirror’s frame is weatherproof, and that the wall you’re hanging it on is strong enough to support it.
Photo By: Ryan Ford 

Alone at Last

No matter how small your patio is, you can turn it into a relaxing haven. A cedar screen and plants offer privacy in the outdoor space garden created by designer B. Jane. A sinuous lounge chair provides the perfect perch for reading and relaxing. And don’t forget, says Jane, “side-tables are just as important outside as they are inside for easy access to your beverage, book or tablet.”
Photo By: Minh Phan

Funky and Fresh

If you can’t go grand, go funky. Designer Melissa Mascara used a vintage tub as a planter on this teeny-tiny (120 square feet) patio in Venice, Calif. Succulents and spiky plants lend a Dr. Seuss-like vibe.

Information Courtesy of Susan Kleinman

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