I'm lucky enough to have a relatively good size rear garden, especially for a new build property in London that is. As developers try to maximise profits from every development, it's the gardens that seem to suffer.
According to the the Horticultural Trades Association, the average garden size here in the UK is 14m2.
However, it is believed that figure has shrunk by up to two square metres in the last decade or so. I feel spoilt with my vast 20m2, which to be fair is a bit of a mess at the moment after I ripped our decking up.
A recent report by the estate agent Foxtons even claimed that the typical Great British garden could now be as small as 4m2.
Doesn't sound like much of a garden to us? Definitely not enough room for one of our larger garden furniture sets.
One thing is for certain, we're definitely seeing a real decrease in the average size of gardens across Great Britain.
Especially in new build homes, and especially compared to many other countries around the world such as the USA and Germany.
And when outdoor space is limited, it is essential you get the design and layout perfect. You need to best maximise it’s potential. You want a space that delivers all your outdoor needs, regardless of the limited amount of space you have.
Designing a small garden or patio
In my opinion, they key to successful small garden and patio design is to trick the eye into making the area appear more spacious than it is.
Don’t think of it as just a garden or back yard. Try and think of it as a small room. Simply transfer the design ideas you’d utilise for a small room inside the home, and apply them outside.
The best designed small gardens and patios will maximise the amount of sunlight and space, and make cleaver use of weight, scale and colour.
And no matter how small your outdoor space. It should function. You should be able to use it. Not just look at from the kitchen window.
A little careful planning and you can use it for relaxation, a summer BBQ, anything you can do in a much larger space. OK, maybe not a game of volleyball, but you get the idea.
However, to achieve that level of functionality, you need garden furniture. So here are some of our favorite ways to get the outdoor seating you need, and make your garden feel more spacious, and most importantly, useable.
Small garden furniture ideas
Garden Furniture plays a key role in any garden. If you want to enjoy your garden, you need somewhere to sit. With the right type of garden furniture, you can still achieve this in a small space.
These small garden furniture ideas will hopefully help you find that balance between the visual and the functional when space is limited.
Built-in garden furniture
Exactly how built-in wardrobe will save space in a box room or ‘banquette’ bench style seating can saves space in a small kitchen, built-in garden seating is perfect for those with limited outdoor space.
You can design it to fit whatever space you have available, and it doesn’t require that additional space for chairs around a patio table.
Built-in pieces also blend into your outdoor space, they become part of the overall scheme, and will often appear smaller than a free-standing piece with the same dimensions.
They can be tailored to fit your specific needs too. So a built in timber bench for example, could combine storage or planting such as you see in the photo above from the Homehad.com blog.
But the obvious downside is you need a professional to custom design and build it, so for that I’m afraid you’ll pay a premium.
Space saving furniture arrangements
There’s a whole host different sets you can buy and ways you can arrange your furniture that will maximise space in a small garden or patio.
The best advice I was ever given by a stylist was to avoid leaving space behind your garden furniture. Place the seating and table along the perimeter of your garden or patio.
Leave enough free space in front of the seating so that you can move a small table into place when you decide you want to dine outdoors.
Even better, go for a folding table such as our Alessia set (pictured above). That’ll taken up even less space when moved to the side.
Small garden furniture for a small garden
A small bistro style table or side table paired with two of our garden benches is another great solution. It gives you options. It will save space but not sacrifice on that all important seating or comfort.
In fact you could even forget the table altogether if you don’t think you’ll need it. If space is that tight, just go for a couple of comfortable chairs or a garden bench.
If you don’t tend to dine outside, and let’s face it, it’s a rarity here in the UK, a smaller side table could be right for you?
Our BBQ table (pictured above) is the perfect example of using smaller pieces that work. Paired with two chairs it will fit neatly against the perimeter of our garden or patio. Minimal space, maximum function.
Choose furniture that looks small
Think about the visual weight of the garden furniture pieces you want to buy. And by that I mean if it looks heavy, then we will perceive it to be bigger than it actually is.
Look for garden furniture that is lightweight appearance. For example, a chunky, heavier looking timber bench will look like it takes up more space than a slimline cast aluminium piece such as our Chloe set (pictured below).
Colour plays a big part in this too. The mantra is simple… Lighter is better.
Sounds crazy, but we will look at a slimline modern white garden set and perceive it to be lighter than the same set in black. The white furniture pieces looks less ‘heavy’, and thus less likely to take up space.
Draw the eye upwards
This is the classic interior decorators trick but it works outside just as well.
Like any small room inside your home, a garden has vertical dimensions. Usually, a fence rather than walls and ceiling, but it makes sense to use it.
Decorate it. Hanging planters, vertical planters, garden shelving with plants on etc. Use tall vertical planting. Look for stylish ways to create height.
Trick the eye into thinking there is more space by drawing it upwards. Make it visually interesting and you’ll create the illusion of more space.
Add low level interest
Don’t just draw the eye upwards though, think about down below your feet too.
Small garden furniture ideas aren’t just about the pieces you can sit on or at, you can make your garden look bigger by breaking up the surface underneath that furniture.
Mix materials such as decking and slate, place an outdoor rug underneath a bistro set.
Breaking up the surface of your outdoor space is another interior decorators trick. It’ll give the impression that you have more space.
Small isn’t always best
And I think I’m contradicting myself a little here. Sort of anyway… Let me expand on this.
I know I’ve already said that slimline modern sets are a great way of tricking the eye into thinking a space looks bigger than it really is.
And that is definitely true.
However, whilst scaling down your garden furniture and accessories is one of the best small garden furniture ideas, you can go the other way too.
Sometimes one large, well-placed singular piece of garden furniture, such as a bench, works better in a small garden or on a small patio than a smaller set consisting of several pieces.
I suppose it’s a personal preference. How you want to use that space is the key.
If you think you need a table, then stick to the small lightweight looking set. If not then a good garden bench will simplify things a little, take up even less space maybe?
Think about shape
We have done a few articles in the past that go into this subject in much more detail than I want to today. However, the shape of your garden table can play a big part in maximising your outdoor space.
When space is limited, we will always advise our customers to go for a table that reflects the predominant shapes in their garden. For example, if they have a curved patio, then go for a round or oval table.
It will suit the lines better, work better with the space you have, creating a better flow. And by flow I mean, the usable space you have around the table for chairs etc.
Create more space with garden mirrors
And last but by no means least, if you’ve got a small plot, then garden mirrors are a great way to create the illusion of more space.
They will reflect light into the more shaded corners of your garden. Strategically placing a garden mirror will bring a new dimension to your garden, with the reflections creating a much greater sense of space and light.
Go to any good garden show and they are in many of the best show gardens. The top designers will often place garden mirrors in their designs in order to give their planting even greater depth.