Who wouldn’t love a patio with a built-in grill island and a sink? Or a bar and a dining area? Those are dream patio ideas.
Not everybody has the space for dream home designs. Maybe your house is too small. Or you live in a city where backyard space is at a premium. Or those patio concepts are just out of your price range.
Whatever your limitations, you can still have an amazing patio on a smaller scale. Get the most out of your outdoor living area with these space-saving ideas.
1. Fit the furniture to your space.
Round, rectangle or square, match the shape of your furniture and entertaining area to the shape of your patio. A mismatch between your patio and furniture wastes space and leaves little room for other features.
Space behind furniture or other furnishings is also a waste. Maximize space by placing furniture on the perimeter of your patio or aligning rectangular seating in a corner. Smart furniture arrangement will make a small patio feel larger and more open.
Furniture doesn’t have to take up precious space on your patio. It can be built into it. Patios are often built enclosed for more privacy, with railings for safety or use retaining walls on uneven landscapes. That enclosure can perform double duty as seating. Use smooth, wide seat wall caps on all or part of your stone wall to create a comfortable perch.
If your seat wall is higher — by code or by design — build a stone bench or tiered retaining wall for seating with a built-in backrest. Place a table in front of your bench or tiered wall to make a dining area that requires less space and furniture.
2. Turn your table into something more.
A dining table needs room underneath for chairs and legs, but a lounge area table can be many other things:
- Fire pit – You can buy a fire pit table or have one custom-made. These tables often have removable tabletops. Keep the top on for eating and drinking. Then take it off when you want to gather around the fire.
- Cooler – A table might not be the most convenient spot for a cooler. But when your patio is tight, it’s a great use of space. Cooler tables let you store drinks and ice in a decorative way. Some versions come with stands so that you can raise the tabletop to access the cooler and use the tabletop at the same time.
- Ottoman – Attach a cushion to your tabletop to create a more relaxing environment and a spot for everyone to put their feet up. You can simply set the cushion on when it’s needed or get a tabletop that has a flat surface on one side and flips to a cushion on the other.
- Storage – You may want more out of your table than fire and ice. The same concept can be applied to safely store anything else you need for outdoor entertaining, like blankets, games, dinnerware or utensils.
3. Get a grate to grill over the fire.
Your fire pit can function as a table, or more naturally, a grill. With a removable grate for grilling, you can cook your meals over an open fire and free up room once occupied by a charcoal or gas grill. A custom fire pit can be built a couple blocks higher to remove food from direct heat. And there are a variety of campfire cooking grates that work with nearly any fire pit.
SEE ALSO: How to Expand Your Living Space Into the Great Outdoors
4. Create an out-of-the-way canopy.
Canopies and overhangs can make a small patio feel closed off and claustrophobic. Table umbrellas are typically at head-height, creating a hazard for high traffic areas. Cantilever umbrellas can be set up in the corner or behind your furniture, reaching over to shade your entire entertaining space.
If you have trees or structures close to your patio, shade sails may add interest as well as coverage from the sun. They attach to your home and anything solid nearby to create a canopy. Linens could work the same way but aren’t as sturdy as sails.
5. Pick out the right patio door.
Patio doors can present a problem when decorating or arranging your layout. You can’t block the entrance into your home if you want a connected indoor-outdoor entertaining area. You also don’t want a door that opens outward and takes up valuable space on your patio.
Sliding patio doors typically have one fixed panel and one operable panel, creating a smaller entryway. You can place furniture or furnishings in front of the fixed panel without interrupting the flow. Hinged French patio doors can swing inward if you’d prefer a wider opening, but don’t want the doors to impede on the patio. Or make one door stationary like on a sliding door to give you more arrangement options outdoors.
6. Steal space from the surrounding landscaping.
When every inch of square footage is accounted for, take a few feet back from the landscaping or yard that borders your patio. Remove the furniture and put a bench in your landscaping hang to provide additional seating. Or line your landscaping with decorative, flat-top boulders. Instead of a stone wall, plant trees and foliage closely to the edge of the patio to provide privacy instead of a stone wall. In addition to saving space, you’ll have a more interesting backyard landscape.
While many dream designs may be out of reach, there are still plenty of big ideas to improve your small patio. With smart arrangements and multi-purpose features you’ll maximize the space and the possibilities on your patio.