Essential ways to make small patio ideas work for you

small paved patio with awning and garden furniture
(Image credit: Hilaries)

Working with small patio ideas might seem as though a lot of styles are out of reach for compact spaces, but that is simply not true. 

Even the tiniest of outdoor patios can be improved with simple tricks to make them welcoming and functional — as long as you're realistic about what can be achieved. 

Looking at similar sized and shaped patio ideas for inspiration is a great place to start, so we've gathered together our favourite designs so you can steal great styles and discover how to recreate them. 

1. Create a safe, level patio to start

rattan garden furniture on stone paver patio outside blue conservatory

(Image credit: Daro (Trading))

First things first, if you're using pavers, tiles or even decking for your small patio, make sure it is level and slip-resistant. As small spaces are more awkward to navigate, there is more chance of a trip or stubbed toe — fuelling resentment for the spatially-challenged area. 

When it comes to patio sizes, ensure too that this space doesn't simply accommodate the garden furniture you hope to include but there is sufficient circulation space around items, too.

2. Plan your budget for your patio

small outdoor patio area with planter

(Image credit: Mark Ashbee)

Don't be fooled into thinking that redesigning small patios will naturally be a budget affair. 

Planting, paving, lighting, furniture and labour (unless taking jobs on DIY) all increase patio costs so set a realistic budget for the project that you're comfortable with from the start. 

You can keep costs down by reusing as many materials as you can, either from your own garden, or from other people's using sites like Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor and Freecycle. Getting stuck into DIY will also keep finances to a minimum, but the finish might be a little more 'rustic' than if you hire a professional.

3. Make a priority list for a small patio

Unfortunately, your small patio won't be able to do everything. So, start by making a list of the essentials as well as the 'nice to haves' if space allows. This might include: 

  • Dining area for lunch/dinner
  • Fire pit for outdoor gatherings
  • Safe space for children to play
  • Container garden

Hone in on the most important to your lifestyle and curate the small patio around this key feature or features. This will impact the design of patio lighting ideas, the materials you use and the overall layout. 

4. Choose appropriately sized furniture

small patio area with table, chairs and dog

(Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

Large, sprawling outdoor sofas and huge dining tables look great in spaces that can accommodate them. For smaller outdoor areas, buy your furniture with the compact floorspace in mind. 

That doesn't mean you can't fit multiple people around a table for dinner, but perhaps the chairs may foldaway and the table can double up for pots and planters when not in use. 

Be careful to not eat away at valuable space with oversized garden furniture just because it is available — careful, conscious decisions always prevail in small spaces. 

5. Capture the sun at the front of a house

white rendered cottage with small front patio area

(Image credit: Cornish Gems)

While we all like the peace and privacy a rear garden offers us, a small patio at the front of the house is an unusual but interesting way to make the most of the morning or evening light.

It doesn't need to be anything particularly fancy, but a spot to enjoy and cup of tea or gin and tonic overlooking better views that a front elevation might enjoy is worth it. 

What's more, a small patio with seating is a front garden idea which can add visual interest and kerb appeal to your property.

6. Create a mini outdoor kitchen

traditional style small patio with table and pizza oven

(Image credit: Jody Stewart)

Small patios have to be enticing in order to be used. Boring, uninspiring places don't encourage homeowners to properly utilise the outdoor area.

Make a small patio feel special with a smart, yet petit, outdoor kitchen. This could be a bar area, pizza oven (as pictured) or an integrated barbecue. Planning a small space around something exciting will introduce an edge to your garden. 

7. Bring in some spring and summer colour

tiny gravel patio area with pink flower and garden seating

(Image credit: Hornby Whitefoot)

Bring in some blooms to your small patio to really feel like you're outdoors, rather than in a small paved box. 

Compact sun-traps are ideal for growing container gardens, or fill raised beds along the walls with climbers that will make the space feel like a private retreat. 

Here, a cost-effective garden has been produced in a minuscule area. The gravel means minimal maintenance while the patio planting ideas including perennial flowers will come back stronger years after year. 

Amy Reeves

Assistant Editor Amy began working for Homebuilding & Renovating in 2018. She has an interest in sustainable building methods and always has her eye on the latest design ideas. Amy has interviewed countless self builders, renovators and extenders about their experiences for Homebuilding & Renovating magazine. She is currently renovating a mid-century home, together with her partner, on a DIY basis, and has recently fitted her own kitchen.