Looking for small outdoor space ideas to optimize your backyard? With the right design and décor, small outdoor spaces can have just as much design impact and be just as functional as larger spaces. It all boils down to keeping things simple and optimizing the area with space-maximizing choices.
Tips for Designing Small Outdoor Spaces
Plan your deck design and décor around its main function. Do you often have lots of friends and family over or are you more interested in an intimate space for you and your loved ones?
Choose furniture and décor proportional to the space to keep it from feeling cluttered or crowded. Using portable, or modular pieces gives you the versatility to arrange pieces as needed.
Choose multi-functional furniture and décor to maximize your space’s functionality. Examples include storage containers that double as benches, ottomans, or even coffee tables.
Small Outdoor Space Ideas: Get Inspired
Whether your outdoor living space is extra cozy or just big enough for a modest gathering, these small outdoor space ideas will give you the inspiration you need for your project. Be sure to keep the above tips in mind while exploring these small outdoor spaces to help you determine which ideas best suit your available space and design vision.
1.) Build a Custom Deck
A list of small outdoor space ideas wouldn’t be complete without a deck — but for smaller spaces, it’s important to get your deck design just right. Enter custom deck designs.
A custom deck is a uniquely designed structure that meets your specific needs and design preferences. It often features customizations like eye-catching borders, Multi-Width Decking, or unique shapes. Working with a contractor for a custom-built deck ensures your deck is built to the right specifications for lasting performance. Get a sense of what a custom deck can give you with these examples.
Custom Deck Inspiration
NARROW PLATFORM, WIDE STAIRS
A small deck with a narrow rectangular shape can still manage to feel spacious with the right design choices. Wide, deep stairs create a smooth, open transition to your patio while a stainless steel cable railing allows clear sightlines for an airy feel with its sleek design.
CUSTOM SHAPE TO FIT YOUR HOME
Nestling your deck into a recessed section of your home helps to optimize the surface area of your deck without taking up valuable yard space. Plus, the recessed section makes for a cozy corner to retreat to.
CUSTOM COVERED DECK
When it comes to small outdoor spaces, building up is better than out. Adding a height feature such as a pergola to your deck will not only elevate its appearance, but also provide greater functionality with some shade protection.
2.) Keep Floorspace Open
Small outdoor space ideas should help you maximize the use of your space without causing it to feel busy or cluttered. One way to achieve this? Keep the center of your space open by arranging furniture and décor around the perimeter and in the corners of your space. Being intentional about open and occupied space will prevent your space from feeling crowded while still allowing you optimal functionality.
3.) Create Separate Spaces
If your space is large enough, you can consider small outdoor space ideas that involve creating separate spaces for different functions. Clear divisions created by your deck design, landscaping, or furniture placement can help the space feel functional without feeling crowded.
Use Splice Boards
Splice boards are those that run at an angle (often perpendicular) to the rest of your deck surface. They’re an ideal way to create attractive dimension and demarcation.
Positioning décor and furniture on each side of the splice boards reinforces the division while giving you intentional spaces with different functions.
4.) Embrace Minimalism
When it comes to small outdoor space ideas, less is more. Minimalism lends itself well to small outdoor spaces thanks to its emphasis on clean, open areas, simplicity in form and function, and little to no ornamentation.
Bring Minimalism Into Your Design
Embrace clean, defined lines by sticking to simple shapes such as squares and rectangles. For furniture and décor, choose pieces with simple forms, natural materials, and neutral colors for a clean, sleek look.
5.) Opt for Modular Furniture & Décor
For maximum versatility and a totally curated space, opt modular furniture and décor. Modular pieces can be easily rearranged and sometimes nest inside each other for optimal flexibility and functionality. So, whether you’re hosting a small intimate gathering or a big family get-together, your space can accommodate your needs.
6.) Add a Privacy Screen
Embrace the cozy, intimate feel of small outdoor spaces with a privacy screen. Privacy screens come in many forms from lush, tall plants to solid privacy walls. Explore small outdoor space ideas featuring privacy screens to get a sense of which is best for your space.
Privacy Screen Ideas
Lush, thick foliage like hedges or arborvitaes (tall, evergreen-like trees) provide ample coverage for your deck perimeter while also adding color and texture to your space.
A privacy fence can either offer full coverage with no gaps between panels, or partial coverage, depending on your preferences or the design of the fence. Try to match your privacy fence color and style to your deck railing design for a cohesive feel.*
Trellises come in many styles, from loose designs to tight latticework. For greater privacy — and to bring inviting texture and color to your space — train a climbing plant like ivy to crawl up the frame.
7.) Save Space With Built-In Deck Features
Built-in deck features give small outdoor spaces greater functionality without encroaching on the limited available space. Two popular built-in deck features include benches, which help you accommodate your guests, and planters, which give you a designated place to incorporate color and texture into your space.
Choose built-in benches for your deck design to ensure everyone has a place to sit. Place benches around your deck’s perimeter to optimize floorspace while still providing plenty of seating.
8.) Add Ambiance With Lighting
Small outdoor spaces are already intimate and romantic by nature, so why not increase the ambiance with outdoor lighting? Outdoor lighting can either be temporary, such as lanterns or string lights, or more permanent, such as built-in deck lighting in your deck surface, stairs, or railing.
Outdoor Lighting Ideas
Bring a gentle, flickering glow to your space with candles in lanterns. Draw your guests into gathering spaces by placing lanterns on any dining or coffee tables, or even on the deck floor near furniture pieces to draw people in. Just make sure to never leave open flames unattended.
Hang string lights above your deck for soft, romantic overhead illumination. String lights can be strung through the roof of a pergola or roof extension, or even along your railing for an inviting twinkle. Just double check that your preferred luminaries are graded for outdoor use; some string lights are indoor only.
Prefer a more permanent lighting solution? Opt for in-deck lighting in your deck surface or stair risers to increase visibility along transition points — as well as add an irresistible ambiance.
Create a ring of soft lighting around your deck with railing lighting in your posts, post caps, and even under the rails. The result is a radiant perimeter that draws guests in by adding sophisticated charm to your space.
Small Outdoor Space Ideas: Bring Your Ideas to Life
Now that you’re thinking through all the ways you can optimize small outdoor spaces, you’re ready to start planning for your own project. Bring your small outdoor living space ideas to life in our 3D Deck Designer tool to help you visualize what works for your space. You’ll be able to customize your deck shape and design, as well as play around with the placement of furniture and décor to see how everything fits together.