5 design tricks to maximize space on your patio, according to the experts

Transform your patio into a cozy, welcoming space with these simple solutions

compact outdoor dining set with table and stools
(Image credit: Kettler)

If your patio is on the small side or you simply want to create a more cozy outdoor area, there are plenty of easy design tips and tricks to maximize the potential of your space. 

Whether you opt for space-saving furniture, create different zones to enhance the feeling of space or use clever storage and multi-functional designs, a few simple tweaks can completely transform how you use and enjoy your patio.

With that in mind, we've asked five garden and design experts for their advice on how to make the most of your patio ideas this summer. 

1. Create a zoned patio area

outdoor living space on a contemporary patio space

(Image credit: Fishpools)

Patios naturally lend themselves to being a zoned area in your garden, and a few clever design ideas can instantly create a more private haven where you can enjoy relaxing outdoors. 

‘If you want to enjoy a dedicated seating or dining space in your small garden, you can create separate sections,' says Kerry Laird, Interior Designer at Fishpools. 'This can be achieved by adding subtle barriers, such as bamboo divides, trellis, archways, blocks of foliage or even different flooring types.

'Remember that the rule of three should still apply to small garden ideas though. Don’t use more than three different flooring materials, for example. Also, try to stick to three colors in your garden palette to create coherence and consistency outdoors.

'Another great idea when creating different sections is to ensure you stay organized, so it doesn’t end up feeling cluttered. Garden accessories like an outdoor storage box can be great for stowing cushions and items out of sight when not in use.’

2. Choose modular designs for small spaces

compact outdoor dining set on a patio

(Image credit: Kettler)

Modular furniture should definitely be on your radar for small patio spaces as it enables you to create furniture combinations that work best for your plot. Sofas with built-in storage or seating that can be neatly tucked underneath the table are all practical options for the best garden furniture

‘When designing the perfect space for smaller patio areas, it’s worth considering furniture which is multifunctional,' says Paul Bevington, Managing Director at Kettler. 'It’s important to remember that there’s no such thing as one size fits all when it comes to finding the ideal furniture and storage solution, but with a wide range of styles and materials now on the market, there is something to suit every taste, budget and requirement.

'Modular furniture is extremely flexible. For example, footstools can also offer additional seating for guests, extra storage and can even be used as a coffee table for drinks and nibbles where there isn’t room for a larger dining table.’

3. Get your proportions right

outdoor bar and kitchen area with high bar stools

(Image credit: Danetti)

‘For everyday living, it's important to think about what you really need from your space,' says Jess Contomichalos, Stylist at Danetti. 'How many people do you want to seat around your table? Is it formal dining you’re after, or is it somewhere to perch with a drink and a chat?’ 

‘If you entertain a lot, then ensure your table is big enough, and consider a table with an ice bucket incorporated to keep your guests drinks cold and ready to go. If you’re short on garden space, look at a glass table top as this will visually create space and won’t encroach on the view of your garden. A solid tabletop is great if you have a large space, but could look cumbersome on a small patio.’

You'll find more garden table ideas over in our feature. 

4. Look out for practical storage solutions

decked patio with shade sail, furniture and green metal storage

(Image credit: Ikea)

'Limited space shouldn’t be a hindrance when creating your personal oasis,’ says Rosheen Forbes, Commercial Activity and Events Leader at Ikea. ‘Playing with storage solutions with different heights will help maximize what you have available. 

'For example, the KOLBJÖRN shelving unit from Ikea is sturdy and lightweight. Simply stack pots of different sizes and fill them with your favorite herbs, flowers and plants to create a lush, zen spot. Combine storage with style by attaching the VAJERT rail and hooks beside or above the shelving unit for extra storage. You can ensure your gardening tools or watering can are easy to reach, or that rarely used items are kept tucked out of the way to save space.’

Check out our garden storage ideas for lots more ways to clear the garden clutter. 

5. Invest in clever integrated pieces

modern corner sofa set with built in gas fire pit in the table

(Image credit: Cox & Cox)

It’s always worth investing in pieces that have multiple uses to ensure you make the most of your space. Instead of having separate lounging and dining areas on your patio (which can end up making everything feel cramped), why not combine both outdoor activities in one design? Height-adjustable tables mean you can switch between a low coffee table and sofa set-up to a dining area with high table in an instant. 

 ‘All-in-one solutions such as sofa sets with a built-in fire pit are really exciting too,' says Dani Taylor, Product and Creative Director at Cox & Cox. 'They provide a real luxe feel to your garden and are super practical, meaning you get the best of both worlds from your garden furniture – providing somewhere for you to lounge in the daytime and dine with friends and family as the night draws in.’

Discover more advice on how to make a small garden feel bigger in our guide. 

Sophie Warren-Smith
Sophie Warren-Smith

Sophie has been an interior stylist and journalist for over 20 years and has worked for many of the main interior magazines during that time, both in-house and as a freelancer. On the side, as well as being the News Editor for indie magazine, 91, she trained to be a florist last year and recently launched The Prettiest Posy where she curates beautiful flowers for weddings and events.