It can be difficult to know how best to lay out a smaller outdoor space in order to maximize its use and style possibilities. More often than not, it’s easier for items to just sort of end up there in a kind of hodge-podge, but this can create a feeling of clutter, amplified by the smaller area, making it less comfortable and inviting. A smaller outdoor space is an opportunity to pull out all the stops, and because you’re working with less ground and wall to cover, you can do so without breaking the bank.
Keeping Things in Proportion
The biggest (no pun intended) mistake people make when designing a smaller space, be it indoors or out, is to go with furniture that is too large. There should always be room to easily maneuver around furnishings, otherwise the area feels congested, which triggers a subconscious internal stress reaction. Proportional furniture can and will function comfortably and as needed, and with this in mind, designers have made many appealing styles and options to suit outdoor spaces of all sizes. This rule even extends to barbecues—you should see the adorable (and even colourful!) smaller grills now available.
An outdoor piece that I absolutely love the look of? A drink cart. Whether it’s holding pitchers of fresh lemonade or sangria, or you’re using it to display flower pots, a colourful drink cart is small, easy to move around, and instantly gives a designer look to your little slice of the outdoors.
A Plan for Greatness
While that effortlessly chic look is always enough to elicit the covetous “oohs and aahs” from your guests, the truth is that it does always take some behind-the-scenes magic to achieve. It sounds unnecessary, but drawing a little sketch of your space then laying out the furniture, planters and other larger pieces will really help you create a beautiful outdoor area.
You want to keep traffic flow in mind. It should be easy to get around, and the layout should make sense. For example, if you’re going to have a container grouping, it should be in the best position for the right amount of shade and sunlight, and you can then plan your seating area accordingly. This step will save you a ton of work when it comes to physically putting things in their places, and the smarter your layout, the easier it will be to enjoy your little outdoor escape.
We often forget that an outdoor area is just as much an extension of your home as, say, your living room, as long as you use it. What will inspire you to use it? Making it a cozy, appealing place to be. Having a colour scheme will go a long way in having it feel like a part of your home. The beauty of using a colour palette in your outdoor space is that it can be easily achieved, especially in a smaller one, and, (this is ideal for anyone renting), it can be created via easily moveable items, such as outdoor mats, cushions, furniture, artwork, and planters.
The colour scheme comes down to your personal choice as well as what suits the exterior of your home, but I have to admit I tend to look to blues. They have a knack for making a space feel airy and bright, and though timeless, blues always have this funny way of feeling trendy too. There are so many hues, and they tend to go with just about any other colour.
Why not channel your nautical side with a rich royal blue, wide stripes, and dashes of red? An outdoor lantern, a piece of art, red flowers—these are all easy and fun ways to make a real style statement. For a more refreshing, soft feel, go with a paler blue, maybe paired with a buttered yellow and spring green for a lovely country feel, or perhaps with whites for a very relaxing, seaside vibe.
A relatively new product that I have to admit is already a personal favourite, are outdoor canvases. They look like the stretched canvas art you’d hang in your home (and can definitely be used as such) but they’re treated to withstand being outside. That means they can handle rain, direct sunlight, and all the other fun things summer can throw at us.
These pieces will need to be stored indoors during the winter, but another added bonus to canvases is that they can easily lean against a garage or basement wall without taking up much room. You can even hang it on an interior wall during the snowy months!
Available in an ever-growing array of colours, subject matter, and styles, outdoor canvases allow you to go upwards with your design plans. With a wide selection of temporary and permanent hanging options, you can easily add some artwork to an exterior wall or fence to make the space more homey and personal, whether you rent or own.
Right Back at You
Just as with smaller rooms inside, a mirror is perfect for making an outdoor space feel larger. The elements can be a bit harder on mirrors, so I strongly recommend picking up one that will look good as it weathers. This can be a great opportunity to scout out local flea markets and garage sales for an inexpensive mirror that will add a major wow factor and brighten your outdoor escape by reflecting light. Depending on what the frame of the mirror is, it may not be immune to rain—I would recommend choosing one that is since those light summer showers can easily pop up while you’re not home.
Now that wall space has been added to the outdoor design mix, the ground level décor doesn’t need to carry all the load, but it’s still those finishing touches which take style to the next level. When working
with limited space, avoid overcrowding with too many cute but space-consuming knick-knacks that add whimsy to a garden. Because the stage is smaller, go with fewer pieces, and remember the rule of proportion
still applies. Perhaps you have one larger statue or piece, and a few smaller finishing touches, just be sure to keep them to a minimum—this allows each piece to have a say without dominating the conversation.
Having an outdoor mat and a couple of cushions instantly adds your own stamp without creating clutter. I would recommend going more with finishing touches like these, versus décor items that serve no function beyond optics.
You Can Have It All
Don’t think that a shortage of space translates to a shortage of options. If anything, having a smaller outdoor space makes it easier to create a big impact with less. Don’t be afraid to get creative, and think of it as another room in your home—this removes that funny block many of us have which tells us we can’t design the outdoors the way we would the interior. Make it a space you want to spend time in, and you will! And really, what’s better than unwinding after work in a little outdoor oasis in your very own backyard?
Originally Published by The Chronicle Herald
Alexandra Kelter is a social media specialist with Central Home Improvements. Her column covers many aspects of home improvement, both indoor and outdoor, and will combine trending styles with practical applications all within realistic budgets. Kelter is also passionate about fashion, travel, living by the ocean and her bulldog.