Alanna Hale;William Abranowicz
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 postdinner 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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Take Vintage to the Max
In a wildly colorful Mumbai apartment owned by designer Srila Chatterjee and filmmaker Mahesh Mathai, a canopied outdoor dining area fits in seamlessly with a wide array of vintage goods and flea-market finds.
Bring It Under the Lights
A mix of piled-on pillows in fabric sourced from Peru, brass pendant lamps from Tazi Designs, and vintage statuettes create a cozy eclectic vibe on this Holly Kopman–designed porch.
To give his Alabama patio a Moroccan theme, artist William McLure paired a low, long table with a seating bench he transformed from an existing planter. To finish the look, he added inexpensive cushions from Ikea.
Romantic scrollwork is the perfect backdrop for a vintage slipper chair paired with a petite table from Artisans du Liban et d’Orient at the chic Beit Trad guesthouse in Lebanon.
Bring It Back to the Ranch
The equipal-style table and chairs from the Jalisco region of Mexico draped with handmade Rebozo shawls create an intimate dining area at this Mexican ranch house.
A lush garden wall designed by Arne Maynard Garden Design surrounding a long wood table from Bloom with chairs from Design Within Reach anchored by flamed Portuguese limestone transform this London patio into an oasis.
Create a Wall of Plants
A wall of plants brings a bit of nature to this West Village, New York, patio while the custom sofa adds comfort. The chic coffee tables are Sedgwick & Brattle by Thom Filicia.
Swap a Sunshade for Verdant Vines
A carved-wood daybed surrounded by bougainvillea brings Mediterranean vibes to this Miami poolside patio.
The covered terrace furnished with soft seating is a cozy space for watching TV or enjoying the flicker of the fireplace at this high-end Hudson Valley, New York, home.
Enjoy the ocean views over breakfast from this Miami Beach patio. The white dining table and chairs from RH, Restoration Hardware, make it a breeze.
A sofa from RH, Restoration Hardware and lounge chairs by the Teak Warehouse create a cozy space for observing the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay from this Jay Jeffers–designed apartment.
Layer on the Accessories
A table covered in a cloth by Pierre Frey and antique garden chairs from Provence, France, furnish a cozy brick patio outside a home in Normandy.
Mix Classical and Modern
A London homeowner salvaged a marble fireplace that was originally from the drawing room and placed it outside in the small patio area. The lamps above the fireplace are by José Ignacio Ballester, and the flooring is Belgian bluestone.
Layer on Rustic Accessories
Select Weathered Wood Furnishings
Wood furniture adds character to a patio in an 18th-century row house in the French city of Perpignan. For a personal touch, window grilles and a keystone feature the monogram of the previous owners, the family behind JOB-brand cigarette papers.
Choose a Slinky Blackened Steel Set
Simple black mid-20th-century steel furniture and a sculpture by Odile de Frayssinet sit in a backyard patio, leading to a beautiful green garden in a home in Paris.
Kathryn M. Ireland’s Santa Monica, California, outdoor area is a lesson in bohemian-inspired decor. Along with a built-in stucco sectional, featuring cushions in a custom Kathryn M. Ireland striped fabric, the inviting space includes wicker pendants, a table from her French Finds collection, and chairs by Consort.
Furniture designer Kelly Behun’s Southampton, New York, beach house features a stucco-walled patio, designed by the architecture firm Sawyer Berson. A low teak table and chairs by Bonetti Kozerski Studio set off a wall adorned with staghorn ferns and baskets made in Zambia. The floor is limestone, and the rug is from Morocco.
Create a Petite Dining Area
Beside the pool of a historic Long Island, New York, farmhouse, the awning is made of salvaged corrugated-and-wired glass, and the custom outdoor furniture is topped with cushions covered in a Perennials fabric. The pool surround and patio are of Kota stone, and the topiaries are boxwood.
Vintage Michael Taylor wicker chairs with cushions that are covered in a striped Perennials fabric sit on a small patio in a Bel-Air, California, home. The 19th-century cast-iron table is American, and the floor is antique limestone pavers.
For the terrace of historic Libbey Ranch (a secluded seven-acre family retreat in Ojai, California, owned by actress Reese Witherspoon) designer Kristen Buckingham surrounded a wood-topped dining table with vintage iron and wicker chairs and an antique lantern.
A cedar slat screen and planters of boxwood, English ivy, and magnolia provide shade and privacy on this New York City terrace. The aluminum table and bench are by Harbour Outdoor, and the lanterns are by RH, Restoration Hardware.
Create a Seamless Indoor/Outdoor Experience
The cocktail table, chairs, and sectional by Munder-Skiles turn the covered patio of this Massachusetts home into a cozy cocktail area. The cushions are covered in a Perennials fabric.
The garden patio of this Oakland, California, home features sleek chairs from Design Within Reach, the bench is in the style of Lutyens, the windows are by Sierra Pacific Windows, and the exterior is painted in Benjamin Moore’s Jet Black.
Let the Setting Do the Talking
At a rustic Los Angeles abode, the guest room patio features a midcentury cocktail table and daybed (which has cushions covered in a Holland & Sherry fabric) by John Good.
Don’t Forget Your Light Fixtures
In the garden pavilion of a historic upstate New York home, a vintage garden table from Finch, in Hudson, is surrounded by dining chairs and illuminated by a pendant light from RH, Restoration Hardware. The tropical-root table is from Mecox, and the rug is from West Elm.
Make a Weatherproof Oasis
At a Montana getaway designed by Ken Fulk, the outdoor fireplace is flanked by a pair of sheepskin-covered moose-antler chairs. The table is made from an antique snowshoe, and the rug is buffalo hide.
Hang Out (with a View)
The back patio of a Uruguayan country home—one of four on the property—has a view of a lake. The iron chairs came from a castle in the south of France, and the table was made by Ghesquière. The hammock makes the most of the limited space, creating the perfect place to nap and read while enjoying the scenery.
In Rachel Lee Hovnanian’s Greenwich Village, New York, townhouse, a spiral staircase leads to a pleasant, quaint patio. A black floral sculpture by Donald Baechler stands out against a white wall.
On the veranda of this rustic Long Island, New York, home, the teak table is by Barlow Tyrie, the wicker chairs are by RH, Restoration Hardware, and the antique wood chairs are from Ruby Beets. The pergola supports a wisteria vine and is surrounded by boxwood topiaries.
A sofa, cocktail table, and chairs by Gandia Blasco sit on a patio in a Palm Beach house overlooking the Atlantic. The cushions are upholstered in a Link Outdoor fabric, the rug is by Stark, and the landscape design is by Peggy Brazzeal.
See Things in Black and White
An antique pendant light hangs above a Chippendale-style cocktail table on a bluestone patio at a Long Island, New York, estate. The table is surrounded by Horchow furniture with cushions covered in Sunbrella fabrics.
A custom sofa with cushions covered in a Pierre Frey fabric sits on the patio of a Monte Carlo home. The vintage chair is by Jean Royère, and the cocktail table is by Pierre Frey.
A sophisticated backyard patio in London is furnished with blue sofas, which were reupholstered in a Perennials fabric, and custom-designed marble-and-brass tables.
Create a Pretty Pergola
A pergola covered in white wisteria shades a small patio area in a Southampton, New York, home. The reclaimed teak table is surrounded by rattan chairs with Sunbrella cushions from Bloom and a French iron chair.
Layer Bright Patterns onto a White Backdrop
Argentine designer Luis Galliussi decorated this small patio for model Eugenia Silva’s Portugal home, where he included a banquette covered in African textiles found in Ibiza, Spain, an urn found in a nearby village, floor cushions that are covered in remnants of antique Moroccan kilims and a Moroccan rug.
A backyard patio is filled with unexpected furnishings: The wicker seating is painted in Farrow & Ball’s Off-Black from Beall & Bell, the pillows are covered in a stripped design fabric by Jennifer Shorto, and the folding chairs and painting hanging on the exterior of the house were both found at a Paris flea market.
Decorate in Monochrome
The homeowners of this Moroccan abode make the most of a narrow patio by incorporating canvas-covered poufs by maisonLAB, a white wing chair by Ikea, and white dining chairs by Fermob.
Landscape with Topiaries
Tucked in Capri, an island off of Naples, Italy, is a small charming patio decorated with sleek white armchairs and a table by Gervasoni.
Create a Secret Garden
Nestled outside a home in Marrakech, Morocco, is a small patio designed for peace and tranquility. The swing by the garden and the table were designed by Samuel Dowe-Sandes, founder of Popham Design, and the vintage chairs with red cushions are by Harry Bertoia.
Designer Sig Bergamin designed his poolside patio with comfort in mind by including a seating area paired with upholstered cushions (of his own design) mixed with other blue-and-white striped fabrics.
A custom-made seating area is covered in cushions encased in a darkPerennials fabric on a patio at a home in Alys Beach, Florida. The teak lounge chairs are by Henry Hall Designs, and the Spanish hanging lanterns were found in Belgium.
Amp Up Simple Aluminum Seating
A small wooden patio in Paris is a lunchtime getaway decorated with lanterns by Casamidy, a table covered with a fabric brought back from Tanzania and chairs by Alinea.
Pots of thyme and rosemary and a pomegranate tree sit on a small brick patio outside a Roman house with a view of St. Peter’s Basilica. The wicker chaise longue and chair are by Manutti.
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