Choosing Outdoor Furniture For Small Spaces
The outdoor area of your home, whether you’re working with a balcony, courtyard, deck or even a patch of grass, is packed full of styling potential. But, it can often feel like a pretty daunting task to purchase furniture for – let alone style – a small, cramped space.
Thankfully, as time goes on and outdoor furniture options grow exponentially, there are so many ways to counteract the small space problem, and to create an outdoor area that you love and really want to spend time in. With a little help from our expert stylists, we’ve compiled a go-to guide for understanding your small space, finding the right furniture, and styling things up so they satisfy your interior aesthetic. Whether it’s just you, a small family, or a big household comprised of kids, pets or housemates, there are so many ways to design your small outdoor area so it feels beautiful, functional, and like your own little piece of paradise.
Determining your needs
Let’s start with the basics – what do you want out of your outdoor area? Just like any other room in the home, this process should begin with an assessment of your household’s needs so that you can best determine which furniture pieces fit, and which ones shouldn’t take up space at your place. Outdoor furniture should be function-first, with aesthetics coming in at a close second, so try to think initially about what you’d like to use your courtyard, deck or backyard for.
If you love to host dinner parties, and want things to seamlessly sprawl outside in the summertime, you’ll have your eyes on outdoor dining furniture like a table and chairs. On the other hand, if your entertaining – or just your day-to-day life – is all about chilling out with a beverage in hand and no shoes on, outdoor lounge furniture will be right up your alley (just don’t skimp on the bugspray). Chances are, if you’re working with a small space, you won’t be able to have both – so, compromise is key. If an outdoor furniture set is a dream of yours, it’ll need to serve as the hero of the space with little to no other furniture crowding up the area.
When you’re mapping out what you need from an outdoor area, don’t forget to consider the climate of where you live. If you’re located in an area that gets lots of rain, sleet or even snow, you’ll want to be prepared, either with a heavy-duty umbrella, or for the more extreme weather patterns, some kind of structure or system for stowing your furniture. Other considerations you might want to make are storage, space for cooking utensils like a barbecue, and any entertainment needs (e.g. a bar fridge, an outdoor television, room for outdoor games).
Estimating your walkability
Once you’ve completed that first step, you’ll hopefully have a pretty solid idea of the type of furniture you’d like to put in your outdoor space. But, you won’t know for sure until you measure up. Just like any good interior styling project, measurements are crucial, and should be made as exact as possible so you can confidently shop for pieces that fit (both figuratively and literally). Even if you’re working with a super small space, your measurements will help guide the types of furniture you can buy – you never know how small or large you’ll need to go.
If you can, draw out a rough plan of the outdoor area and sketch out the types of furniture you’re eyeing off. Don’t forget to leave room for people to comfortably use the space – for instance, chairs will need a couple of centimetres of wiggle room either side so that you can still navigate the area freely when people are sitting in different positions.
This sketch will then give you a good idea of the space’s walkability – that is, how easy or difficult it is to move around freely without needing to rearrange furniture, catch yourself from tripping over, or narrowly miss colliding with your mates! Each piece should have ample room on all sides to walk around comfortably. A good rule is ten centimetres between each furniture piece, but you may even like to go bigger. If you’re keen on estimating this a little more accurately, use boxes or tape to mark out where your furniture items could possibly live once you know rough dimensions of your favourite pieces.
Selecting the right pieces
So, what items are worthy of taking up your precious outdoor space? With a solid clue of what you want and approximately where it’ll go, the fun part – and the spendy part – begins. Finding the right pieces for your outdoor space is central to how you’ll enjoy using the area when it’s all decked out, so take your time, and consider a few key things during the process.
The material of your outdoor furniture pieces is perhaps one of the most critical considerations you’ll need to make, as it can affect so many things. Here are a few questions about material to ask yourself when you’re sourcing furniture pieces:
- How comfortable is this material to sit on/use?
- Is this material durable?
- Can it withstand the typical weather events in the local area, or will other things need to be put in place to ensure it stays in good condition?
- Is it easy to clean? How do you clean it?
- Is this material expensive to purchase?
There are a number of materials that are commonly used for outdoor furniture pieces, including iron, glass, other metals, and most popularly, wood of many variations. A go-to if you’re looking for durability is iron, as it’ll last forever if you take good care of it – but on the flip side, to prevent rusting, you’ll need to dedicate some time and effort to your upkeep process. Another fan favourite is wicker outdoor furniture. It creates a gorgeous coastal look, is comfy to sit on with the right cushions, and is relatively durable. But, if you get lots of direct sunlight or extreme weather like snow, you’ll be moving it around pretty regularly to avoid damage. Many other types of wood are similar, with great lasting power but a more involved maintenance routine (e.g. waxing teak) to keep your purchase looking spiffy.
Whatever material you choose, always be sure to ask these questions and suss out what is most important to you. Where some mightn’t bat an eyelid at quarterly maintenance sessions, others may prefer to compromise on comfort, and bring that piece up to speed with cushions.
By now, we’re all aware that a small space should mean less furniture – or a more curated selection, if you will. But, what about the actual size of your items? Finding the perfect outdoor furniture for small spaces is no easy feat, but the process will be ten times easier if you’re open to a variety of sizes and can play with different configurations to accommodate your favourite pieces.
‘Small’ outdoor furniture, although relative, will have a lower profile with a thinner, lighter frame. You might opt for an end table rather than a coffee table, and two armchairs as opposed to a three-seater sofa. This is the best way to squish things in a bit more without compromising movability and comfort, like we’ve already established are key. Try Scandinavian-style furniture that’s inherently small to bend your design ideas to the needs of your small space. On the other hand, it is possible to include bigger pieces – just with a little sacrifice.
The outdoors, for most of us, is a pretty clean slate. With the exterior of your home and nature its only backdrops, your courtyard, patio, backyard or deck doesn’t have a whole lot in the way of features to consider before you start shopping. So, when it comes to colour, you’ve almost got free rein.
However, that doesn’t mean that certain colours don’t trump others. If bold and bright is your thing, by all means, splash it all over your deck – but traditionally, earthen, neutral tones work best and really amplify the natural surroundings in the space. Hues such as brown, white, black, tan, olive green and rust work wonders outdoors, establishing a calm and serene presence that stands out just enough against the beautiful scenery of the great outdoors, wherever that may be for you. If you want to blend in, brown tones will be your best bet, but you could also opt to stand out a little with an ochre, white, khaki or even dusty blue shade.
Small outdoor furniture trends
With these tips and tricks up your sleeve, you’re almost ready to design your ideal outdoor area, complete with whatever creature comforts will suit your household’s needs. The final piece of the puzzle, however, is style. We got the lowdown from our stylists – here are some of the top trends for small outdoor furniture, complete with advice for recreating them in your own space.
Mediterranean coastal luxe
Make your outdoor area, no matter how small it is, feel like a tiny piece of the paradise that is the Italian coast with the Amalfi range. Constructed in durable mid-brown acacia wood, these pieces feature overstuffed cushioning that’s upholstered in the most gorgeous olive green linen look fabric. The woven rope detailing on the back of the chairs adds a little flair without going over the top – understated yet full of personality. In a small space, pair the Amalfi Outdoor Coffee Table with two Amalfi Outdoor Armchairs.
Industrial and opulent
It’s rare that these two words are seen together – but this aesthetic is actually completely doable in the right outdoor space. On-trend items like the Syracuse Indoor / Outdoor Coffee Table and the Aldo Indoor / Outdoor Side Table are geometric, chic and uber-modern, but are ready to take the wear and tear of living outside. Made out of Glass Fibre Reinforced Cement (GFC), which simulates stone in a lightweight way, these pieces don’t require a huge amount of upkeep, and are cool enough to be dragged inside for your next function without looking out of place. Add to the modern vibes with minimal chairs in similar tones of black, white and grey.
Materials like rattan woven into the wicker style will never be passé in an outdoor space. They’re functional, look beautiful, and will last a lifetime if looked after correctly. Explore the Nelayan and Ubud ranges to be transported to a sunny island, right in your very own, small backyard. White frames are juxtaposed by earthy wicker in furniture pieces such as the Ubud Outdoor Dining Chairs, the perfect petite seat, and the Nelayan Malibu 6 Seater Outdoor Dining Set. If you’ve got the space, the latter will set you up for everything from entertaining outdoors to relaxed nights with the family, craft projects, board games and whatever’s in between.
Styling your outdoor space
When all your beautiful new furniture pieces are in place, and things are coming together, the final step is to style your outdoor area. Here are a few things to consider adding into the space to create a cohesive design that’s warm, welcoming and truly feels like home.
- Plants: A complete non-negotiable in an outdoor space (even if you live in an apartment building!) is a little greenery. Plants liven up the area, and add visual excitement and a pop of colour. Select varieties that you know you’ll be able to take care of, and depending on how much space and the furniture items you’ve selected, opt for a range of sizes. Some of our favourites include string of pearls, ZZ plants, monsteras, ferns and even the often-fickle fiddle leaf fig.
- Flowers and vases: If you’ve opted for a dining table or outdoor dining set, style without taking up too much space by grabbing a gorgeous vase and adding in flowers of your choice. Simple yet bright and beautiful, an eye-catching vase in glass or ceramics will look great at all times, but especially when populated with your favourite blooms.
- Durable cushions: For an outdoor sofa or lounge set, cushions are a must! Depending on how much shelter is over your space, select a durable material, and tie in the colour and pattern of your throw pillows with the upholstery on your furniture. This is your chance to get creative, show off your style, and perhaps even bring some of the inside out by selecting a colour from your living room scheme.
Get started on your styling journey today by exploring our wide range of durable, high-quality and chic outdoor furniture. Here at Brosa, all of our pieces are expertly constructed to last and with your comfort in mind. If you still need a little help with your outdoor space, our team of stylists will be happy to help, in person at our Sydney and Melbourne studio spaces or virtually.