What garden furniture is best for a small patio?

Lazy Susan often receives emails asking what garden furniture is best for a small patio, so we’ve pulled a few tips together to help you decide.

Choosing garden furniture for a small patio or balcony can be a tricky task. The Lazy Susan customer service team often receive emails and calls asking what garden furniture is best for a small patio.

Many think to go as small as you can but this isn’t always the best solution in terms of scale and function. Others will try to accommodate the largest set they can fit onto the patios free space, but again, this can create issues with scale and function/flow. 

You want the space to function, to be a garden, a place you can enjoy, somewhere to sit, to eat some food or enjoy a drink or two, relax with a good book when the sun shines. That takes a combination of planting and outdoor living elements such as garden furniture. 

However, to make it look good and work, design factors such as scale, proportion, balance, flow, unity, simplicity, variety, emphasis, sequence, colour, etc need to be carefully considered.

If space is limited, then incorporating the necessary elements without it feeling cramped creates a challenge. Not an impossible one but a challenge where you need to think a little more about what layouts/designs schemes will best fit (and what compromises might have to be made).

Garden furniture is often one of the critical elements. 9 times out of 10 it is the most used element. In a small space, it can be the focal point and the rest of the space can ‘work’ around it. 

And whilst the challenge is often a lack of square footage to fit in all the bits you want, in a strange way that lack of space can also help to create a more focussed and cohesive design scheme. Plus, the bigger the space the more it costs to create that ‘look’.

Big or small patio/garden, the basic design principles are the same. The key when deciding what garden furniture is best for a small patio is to choose pieces or sets that fit the space. Keep it simple. Try not to squeeze too much on the patio. 

The point we would always stress is that even those with a small balcony, you can always create an outdoor spot you can enjoy. Even if that means a small 60cm Bistro Table, 2 x Chairs and a few planters, it will still give you the space to enjoy the sunshine and unwind. 

How to work out what garden furniture might best fit your small garden, patio or balcony

If you have a small patio, then this article will help you not only get the design and layout working for you, but also establish what garden furniture is best for the space you have available.

And the best way for us to do that is to run through the fundamentals of good small garden design, the how what and why. The Lazy team have compiled 15 tips that will help you decide what garden furniture is best for your small patio…

1. Determine your need

The first thing you need to do when planning the layout for a small garden, patio or balcony is to establish how you use it and what you need in it to best use it. From there you can make a wish list and start formulating your plan.

2. Measure the space carefully

The next step is to carefully measure the space to see exactly what you can fit in the space. Important when it comes to garden furniture is to ensure that when it is in place, you can use it and safely move around it. Our article The Lazy Susan Guide to Patio Furniture is a great starting point, it has a full section on how to measure your patio space with dimensions for all our garden furniture sets.

3. Make a plan and put it on paper (or software/app)

Once you’ve established how you want to use your garden and measured how much space you have to play with, develop the design on paper before you spend. There are a number of free apps etc you use, but call us old fashioned, we think graph paper and pencil is the way to go. You can draw the plot to scale and then using the dimensions we provide for each of our garden furniture sets, you can add it in to see how it will fit, function and (you can check for that all-important) flow with other items and the rest of your outdoor space.

4. Pick a focal point

A trick I learned from my time in interior/kitchen design that I’ve since used across a number of small garden designs is to pick a focal point such as your garden table and position the other elements around it or facing it so that you always maintain a clear view of the table. The table then becomes the centre of your patio and from this point, you work out with other elements such as the chairs, planters, BBQ, etc.

5. Symmetrical or asymmetrical layout

If space is limited, then the garden furniture you choose must not only fit but also complement the space. You can work with the space or create contrast. If the space features sharp lines then the symmetrical look will create uniformity. The finished scheme will give you a clean modern look. If this isn’t the look for you then you can work against it with an asymmetrical layout. Pick items that soften the edges and a layout that works against the shape of the patio or balcony. 

6. Think about placement

If you have a small outdoor space, then the strategic placement of your garden furniture is the critical element. Nowhere to sit, and it just becomes a window box. Of course, garden furniture isn’t the only element that’s important to place in the right spot. However, it will usually be the biggest item, so as we said earlier it makes sense to get that right and then work outwards.

7. Think about profile and shape

We touched on this in our intro but scale and proportion are important, no matter what size garden. Too big and it will be difficult to use, too small and it can get lost. When designing a small garden, patio or balcony, then start with the most important item; the garden furniture. It will make or break the space, so getting the right set/piece is critical.

The common mistake most people make is too big. They measure the chairs and/or table but don’t take into account the space needed to pull them out, sit comfortable, move around. Chairs end up pushed against walls or, my pet hate, overhanging the patio area. However, just as important to get that balance of scale and proportion as the size/footprint of the furniture is the profile.

Go for pieces/sets that are visually light in your outdoor space. And by that I mean you don’t want chunky looking rattan style seating for example. Thin legs, delicate intricate pattern-work, fluid lines, etc will create the feeling of more air and space. Which, let’s be honest, pretty much describes our Garden Furniture Collection to a tee. In a small garden, furniture with soft flowing lines will stop them from getting stuck in one place. This is basically landscaper/garden designer-speak for “keeping it simple”.

8. Make it multipurpose

Whilst we might get a big tick for the box above, multipurpose is not something we currently do. However, there are pieces out there such as seating with storage, tables with a BBQ built-in for example that are designed to save space. When space is lacking, such as on a balcony, then it could be the best option. 

9. Make it look bigger

If your outdoor space is severely lacking, then sometimes the best way to create more, is to fake it. There are a number of design techniques that can be deployed to make it look and feel bigger than it is. For example, you could: 

  1. Paint any walls a pale or light colour
  2. Use different layers and textures to create visual interest 
  3. Use a lighter coloured tile, stone or timber on the patio surface
  4. Make use of reflective finishes, accessories
  5. Hang/install an outdoor mirror
  6. Keep planting vibrant, bright and simple
  7. Add instant interest with different levels such as steps and sunken seating areas
  8. Blur the boundary with a green wall and/or borrow from any views beyond 
  9. Keep the space clutter-free and as tidy as possible
  10. Blur the lines between inside and out so the space becomes one bigger space

10. Draw the eye up

We were going to list this one above but we were all in agreement it stands on its own, and it can be achieved with many of the above techniques. If outdoor space is on the small side, and floor space is needed for garden furniture, then you can create balance by drawing the eye up and tricking the brain into thinking there’s more of it. In this instance, tall planting is the key.

11. Play with scale

Which leads us on nicely... The temptation with a small patio or balcony is to fill it with small things but this will actually create the opposite of what you want. For example, lots of small planters in a small garden will create the feeling of a small space. So think big, it will have the opposite effect and create the feeling of more space.

Don't be afraid of making a big statement in a small garden or on a small patio/balcony. There is a difference between being overcluttered and making a statement with a dramatic design piece.

12. Float your furniture

Another common mistake many make with small gardens is to push all of the garden furniture up against the walls/patio doors leading onto the space. Adding a little space behind the furniture will actually help to make the space feel bigger than it is.

13. Keep the colours simple

When you don’t have the square foot to play with but you want to bring some much-needed colour into your garden, then our advice is again to keep it simple. Start with a neutral colour and introduce one or two pops of colour in the planting. It will help to create a greater feeling of space and you can play within that palette with different textures and finishes without making everything feel too busy.

14. Look for inspiration

If you’re unsure do a little research. Online, books and magazines can help you find that creative spark. Look at our Customer Photographs to see real examples of how our furniture fits in real gardens. Don’t be afraid to borrow ideas. Social Media is another great source. During the COVID lockdowns, we all craved that little bit of outdoors and our gardens became our escape. There was a boom in hashtags like #balconygarden, #smallgarden and #smallgardendesign so have a look and see how others have tackled it.

15. Break the rules

Don’t be afraid to break the rules. Add your own wow factor. That small outdoor space has to work for you. If you want it busy and full of stuff, then make it busy. If you want an outdoor sofa or 4 seater garden table that fills the space, then fill it up. Whatever helps you maximise use and enjoyment. Whilst larger pieces of furniture might overwhelm the garden, patio or balcony, you’ll have a space that seats family and friends and is both welcoming and (moat importantly) a joy to spend time in.

Now of course we are biased, we would say that Lazy Susan Garden Furniture is best for a small patio. But all joking aside, it does tick many of the boxes. Our 2 Seater Bistro Sets and 4 Seater Garden Sets provide the perfect footprint. However, even if you don’t buy from us, hopefully, this article has got you thinking about ways you can make your small outdoor space work best for you. And finally, if you have any further questions about what garden furniture is best for a small patio, then please don’t hesitate to Contact Us.

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