When we moved to our house in the suburbs, it was a dream to have a sprawling backyard with a small deck already built, which we later converted into a larger deck
But before that, we lived in a downtown condo. And while the balcony was pretty sizable, when it comes to outdoor living spaces, it wasn’t a backyard. Even in our home now, the front porch is just the right size to house a couple of chairs and a table for people watching or enjoying a relaxing hot cocoa and conversation at night.
Bottom line: just because you have a small outdoor space doesn’t mean you can’t use it for socializing, relaxing, and just generally enjoying the outdoors, where it’s the cool breeze on a spring day or rays of sunshine in the summer.
Find the right outdoor seating
The perfect way to enhance a small outdoor space is with furniture. Even if all you can fit is a small sectional or table with chairs, it instantly transforms the spot into a comfortable oasis. There are tons of patio sets to choose from, but look for something like a small sectional, usually called conversation sets, that can nicely wrap around a corner balcony. Or, consider a bistro set with a small table and a couple of chairs that are perfect for seating two people and holding a couple glasses of lemonade or a good book. Depending on the dimensions, you might even be able to grab a larger 5 or 6-piece set and divide it to keep the chair and table on the porch, for example, and the longer sofa in the back.
Another option is to go straight to patio chairs versus entire sets. If your priority is working on a tan, a simple lounge chair is a great way to enjoy comfort on a small deck or even in a tiny backyard with a small patch of grass or concrete.
A convertible sofa daybed is a great addition to an apartment balcony, so you can entertain friends when it’s nice out or stretch out and relax while you take the home office outside for a few hours or to binge watch shows on your tablet under the stars.
If space is really at a minimum, consider folding picnic chairs that can fold up and be put away in the garage or closet when you don’t need them and pulled out when you do. The added benefit with these is that you can take them with you, popping them into the trunk for a barbecue at a friend’s house or for seating on a car camping trip.
A loveseat is also a good option for a small outdoor space. Big enough for two people to sit or one person to stretch out, one would look great on a porch, back deck, or balcony. You can take the cushions inside when the weather isn’t favourable and leave the frame itself outside all year ’round (though it’s recommended to get a cover for any type of patio furniture to extend its life.)
There are great patio lounge chairs that are perfect for people watching on the porch or on the back deck that recline and are adjustable so you can go from sitting up to having an afternoon siesta. You can also pull one out of the garage when you want to enjoy the good weather, plop it on the front lawn, and relax for a few hours, then put it back away when you’re done. Some even fold up easily and are on wheels so they are easy to move around.
Finally, when it comes to living in Canada, you can’t go wrong with a traditional Adirondack chair, which folks in Ontario refer to as Muskoka chairs, after the popular cottage area in that province. Made of wood (though you can find other materials), they have a signature design that helps you sink back into comfort while relaxing with a beer or watching the kids play. Speaking of kids, you can find kid-sized ones, too. If you find these aren’t comfortable enough, consider a rocking chair, ideal for the porch as a soothing way to relax in the cool breeze as you decompress from a busy day.
Facilitate outdoor activities
Just because you have a small outdoor living space doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the things people with larger outdoor back and front yards enjoy. And one of the most popular activities is barbecuing. If your space simply can’t accommodate a full-sized barbecue, there are portable barbecues that might fit the bill. These aren’t just tabletop ones but also ones that come with frames on wheels so you can pull them out when ready to use and store them away when the season is over. They’re usually still large enough to cook 2-4 burgers and sides at once, or enough food to feed a small family or group of friends.
The one thing most Canadians have to contend with is unpredictable weather and a short summer, which means that being able to enjoy your outdoor living space, small or otherwise, requires some modifications. A patio heater might not be possible in a small space but a small wood-burning fireplace might work, as long as it’s safe to use and adheres to all safety guidelines with regards to your home and province. You not only get the benefit of added heat during cooler nights but can also use them to cook, make s’mores, and more.
There are also hanging patio heaters that are perfect for spaces like balconies and porches. They provide heat while staying out of the way so you keep warm without having to sacrifice valuable space.
A patio table is great for having to spot to put down drinks, your computer, or to play cards while enjoying the outdoors. There are actually adjustable hanging tables designed specifically for use on balconies. You could also opt for a small folding patio table that can be propped up against a wall or stored away when not in use and brought out only when you need it.
Set the perfect ambiance for outdoor living
When you think about décor and ambiance, music likely comes to mind. We have speakers throughout our home, including backyard speakers that are always playing when we’re outside, whether it’s soothing music during the workday, or upbeat music while barbecuing or my son is playing. You can consider installing an outdoor speaker, including ones that mount on the exterior of the house so they are out of the way, but a simple portable Bluetooth speaker with immersive sound is perfect for bringing your favourite playlists with you anywhere, whether it’s on the porch, balcony, or back deck. As long as it offers ample battery life and good sound, and is rugged and weatherproof, it will suffice for a small space. And the bonus is that you can use it indoors, too.
Outdoor lighting is also another important aspect of outdoor living, especially for a small outdoor space that might not otherwise be well lit. Light strings or strips are a good option worth considering in this case since they stick to or wrap around the sides of the house, deck, or porch, keeping completely out of your way while being able to light up an entire area. You can even look into app-controlled lighting so you can adjust the lighting to illuminate in tune with the music or just choose colors based on your mood or activity.
An outdoor oasis is possible even in small spaces
While you might think you can’t do much with a small outdoor space, you’d be amazed at what you can fit with a bit of creative thinking. Take measurements, have a game plan in mind, then look for outdoor living items that make sense for the space. Whether you want to entertain or just use it as an extra “room” of the home to enjoy downtime or set up your computer to work, anything is possible.
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