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10 Design Ideas for Small Decks

With a little planning, small decks and patios can provide the same entertaining value as larger outdoor spaces. See our simple ideas to maximize the space of your small deck.

Small Decks Tria Giovan/GAP Interiors

Whether you have a limited budget or a little more money to spend, making the most of a small outdoor space takes some clever planning and design know-how. Thankfully, we’ve rounded up all the best tips, tricks, and decorating ideas to maximize your petite retreat so that you can create the outdoor oasis you’ve always wanted, no matter the size.

10 Simple Design Ideas for Your Small Deck

Lighten Up

Small Decks, Deck Lighting iStock

When it comes to outdoor design, big or small, nothing packs a more powerful punch than installing outdoor lighting. Outdoor lights not only instantly create an inviting atmosphere, but they are the cheapest way to upgrade your outdoor space. For as little as $9, lighting will quickly transform dark and dreary decks and patios into dramatic, yet cozy, settings.

The advantage of string lights is that they can be secured overhead without taking up a single square foot of precious real estate. Other smart, space-saving lighting ideas include attaching solar-powered lights to deck posts and rails—these will help define and illuminate the area. Avoid floor-based lighting like glass-paned lanterns and candles—the tighter the spot, the more likely they’ll get knocked over, causing a hazard.

Keep Decor Minimal

No one likes to have to navigate around multiple garden statues or planters (or have a rogue ivy tendril creeping over their shoulder). Too much clutter will make your small patio feel claustrophobic. To make it feel as spacious as possible, keep the decorative items to a minimum and the floor as clear as possible.

Build It into the Design

Freestanding furniture can take up a lot of real estate, so opt for built-ins wherever you can. A built-in bench along the edge of your deck provides seating and can act as a railing, and Jacuzzis can be sunken into the deck to make the area appear more seamless. Built-in border planters can provide a safety edge where you can plant greenery without taking up additional floor space with pots and containers.

Go Smaller in Scale

Smaller-scale furniture, rather than oversized, boxy pieces, will save you crucial inches. Instead of a square or rectangular table, choose a round-shaped one to save even more space.

Look for streamlined furniture with straight or tapered legs rather than ones that flare out. And choose armless chairs which can be placed closer to each other without looking crowded.

Define the Space

Small Deck, Outdoor Rug Robin Stubbert/GAP Interiors

An outdoor rug will help make your entertaining area feel intentional rather than an afterthought. Thankfully, there are so many options to choose from—pick one that helps define your patio’s decorating style—through color, pattern, and texture. Ones made of synthetic materials are water and mold resistant and will last longer than ones made of natural fibers like sisal or bamboo.

Whichever material you choose, treat stains immediately, and about once a month, rinse down your rug with your garden hose—letting it thoroughly dry before putting it back in place. To increase the longevity of your outdoor rug, bring it indoors during the winter or during long bouts of inclement weather.

Double-Duty

Make your furniture and decor work both smarter and harder by choosing pieces that have double-duty functions. Rather than one large coffee table, choose smaller tables that can act as side tables or impromptu seating when needed.

If you want to add a bench buy one that also provides storage for cushions or other handy items. Want a fire pit? Look for one that has a table or border shelf built in so you and your guests will have a place to rest glasses and small dishes.

On the Move

Somedays you need more seating, somedays you don’t. To solve this dilemma, choose foldaway chairs and tables that can be easily stowed when not in use, and brought out at a moment’s notice. For larger pieces that can’t be stored away, look for ones with wheels (or add your own) that can be moved out of the way when necessary.

Clear Views

Railings can be visually busy and distracting. Maximize your view by installing glass panels rather than wood or iron balusters. Glass panels will allow you and your guests to take in those gorgeous backyard views and make your terrace feel more spacious and open.

Go Vertical

Small Deck, Pergola Costas Picadas/GAP Photos

Any designer will tell you one of the best space-saving ideas is to station things off the floor. By affixing planters to a wall, rather than amassing a collection of pots or plant stands on the ground, you’ll have enough room for furniture and still have a dedicated spot for your plants.

Does your outdoor space have an overhang, pergola, or overhead beams? In addition to hanging plants or lights from above, consider hanging a chair—the floaty area around it will make your outdoor sanctuary feel much bigger than it is.

Commit to a Style

When it comes to decorating small spaces, choose one style and stick to it. Mixing and matching a variety of styles will make your small area feel cluttered and chaotic. If you want to channel the French countryside grow plants you would find in the region, like lavender, sunflowers, roses, artichokes, and boxwoods.

Bring in a small wrought iron table and chairs along with a couple of striped cushions to complete the look.

Block Bad Views

A great way to create privacy or screen off an unsightly view is to build a DIY panel. You can incorporate lights, shelves to hold plants, and wheels for easy maneuvering if your screening needs change.

Another option that’s relatively inexpensive is to plant a privacy hedge. Choose a low-maintenance evergreen that doesn’t require a lot of pruning so you can spend your time enjoying your outdoor oasis.