All three experts were keen on the idea of vertical gardening. “Vertical elements like hanging planters, wall-mounted planters, trellises, and pedestals can draw the eye upwards, creating the illusion of more space. Plus these elements can also add privacy and serve as a focal point in your outdoor space,” Rubio says.
Make it an extension of your home
You don’t need a massive patio or garden for dreamy indoor-outdoor living. The key is continuity: Decorate your outdoor space just like you would your interiors. “Don’t overlook ambiance,” Morris says. “It’s not just important for visual impact, but for your nervous system and well-being too. Soft, warm-hued lighting; soothing sounds; lush greenery; textile layers such as outdoor rugs and upholstery; and privacy borders, from billowing curtains to trellises to folding screens, can all play a vital and impactful role in establishing a serene setting.”
“Lighting can make all the difference in how your space feels,” Rubio adds. “Adding some ambient lighting like string lights or lanterns can create a warm and inviting atmosphere. If you’re handy, task lighting—like spotlights or pendant lights—can also highlight specific areas or features.”
Rubio also advises keeping the design simple and pared back, if that’s your vibe. “When working with limited space, a minimalist approach to layout and design can make your space feel more spacious and relaxing,” he says. “Streamlined design elements, a simple color palette, and plenty of negative space can help create a visually appealing and calming outdoor oasis. Plus it makes maintenance a lot easier in the long run.”
To make sure your small outdoor space is one you’ll actually use, consider what will make the reimagined zone work best for you. “For example, if you get abundant rain, make sure to use weather-proof pieces and incorporate waterproof storage into your design features,” Morris offers. “If you entertain a great deal, keep not only your guests in mind but also their belongings. Where will everything be placed to avoid overcrowding when you host? If your outdoor area is exposed to ongoing direct sun, explore safe methods of blocking the sun through plants, umbrellas, or sail shades.”
For Greene, it’s all about growing what you can use. “Herbs, veggies, flowers…if you cook a lot or just enjoy the occasional bouquet on your table, save yourself money and reward yourself,” she says.
Meanwhile, Rubio recommends smart outdoor furniture: “In small outdoor spaces every inch counts, so incorporating multifunctional elements can be a game changer,” he says. “Benches with built-in storage or planters that double as seating can maximize your space and make your outdoor area more practical. Modular furniture is also a smart option, allowing you to easily rearrange and adapt your space as needed.”