How to work with a confined outdoor layout

Design Tips for Small Outdoor Spaces

Though the world is slowly beginning to reopen, it seems as though much of Summer 2020 will be spent at home. For those of us with smaller outdoor spaces - balconies, porches, rooftops - creating a smart and personalized layout is key. We've reached out to a few pros who know a thing or two about curating a gorgeous exterior moment, no matter how small.

Even when space is at a premium, there’s no reason you can’t create an outdoor oasis you love.

Scrolling through Instagram, it is easy to grow envious of rolling greens and backyards that extend for acres, featuring pools, cabanas, tennis courts. Many of us, particularly in densely populated cities, do not have the luxury of spacious outdoor areas. City dwellers must make due with high-rise balconies, cozy front porches (sometimes, a stoop), or 5×5 rooftop patios. Designing a fully functional – yet fun and inspirational – small outdoor space requires as much planning as an intricate courtyard.

From conception to accessorizing, we tapped a few friends to gain insight on how to outfit every exterior nook and cranny.

Robin Gannon Interiors

Precision is Key

Before ordering cushions and trekking to the nursery for potting soil, MEASURE. “Especially in small spaces, measure, measure, measure!” says Massachusetts-based interior designer Robin Gannon. In smaller spaces, it’s even more important to ensure furniture and accessories will fit your layout before purchasing. No one wants to unbox a daybed only to find it’s two inches too long.

Make sure you do a floor plan first to make sure your furniture works!

In the design above, Gannon packs a punch in every corner of this balcony from the 2020 Kips Bay Palm Beach Show House. Using Perennials’ Jake Stripe alongside luscious textures like a sheepskin moment, Gannon creates excitement. Furniture like Sutherland’s Medium African Table and Louis Soleil Settee are ideal compact options for narrow spaces.

Think Functionality

After measuring and double checking those measurements, select furniture that can serve dual purposes. “When sprucing up your porch, prioritize functionality, durability, and comfort. Choose furniture pieces that will accommodate multiple uses, like lounging and dining,” advises Houston interior designer Marie Flanigan. Also, keep longevity in mind. “It’s important to utilize materials and textiles that will stand up to the elements and have staying power,” adds Flanigan.

Marie Flanigan Interiors

Durability and functionality are at the heart of Perennials. Flanigan mixed and matched fun patterns in the design above to create a space with intrigue and comfort. With Perennials’ 100% solution-dyed acrylic yarns, clients can opt for plushy upholstered pieces and soft cushions without worrying about weather or wine spills. Another plus? They are completely bleach-cleanable!

Layer with Rugs & Accessories

Once a general layout is finalized, elements like rugs and vases and lanterns can be added into the mix. This is also the time to choose a color story for the space. “Use colors found outside to blend a space into the outdoors… lots of blues, greens, and yellows are all great colors to use on furniture,” recommends Gannon.

MBPeyer Designs Daybed in Perennials Blanca

Make the space feel inviting by adding a soft outdoor rug underfoot, accent pillows, and throw blanket for chilly evenings.

Small flatwoven rugs from Perennials are a fabulous option for outdoor retreats. Whether a neutral tone-on-tone pattern or deep blue moment, a soft durable rug can anchor a space while adding a cozy element. Perennials’ Crescendo and Straight & Narrow rugs are client favorites for their ability to both blend into a space yet provide a layer of texture.

Flora Finishes

Complete a petite patio design with a scattering of potted and/or hanging plants. Realizing not every balcony, porch, or patio is created equal in regards to shade, do a bit a research on amenable plants for your space.

Robin Gannon Interiors

If shade is plentiful, Jason Craven, President and CEO of Southern Botanical, recommends the following: Autumn Fern, Horsetail Reed, and Cast Iron Plant. “If you want taller accent planting, I would suggest Taxus Yew, Japanese Maple, or Dwarf Palmetto. Some might not realize, but balconies are generally more exposed to the elements than on the ground. Whatever you install, the plant needs to be tried and true,” adds Craven.

Don’t be afraid to mix heights and textures when it comes to your plants. Ferns and flowers can add both color and dimension. “Different height plant materials add extra layers and visual interest,” says Gannon. Greenery also contributes to an oasis-like feel… an exotic home away from home.

Feeling ambitious? Layer plants, hanging lights, breezy sheers, lanterns and candles to create a serene and romantic place to chill out after dark. Another benefit? Once socializing is kosher again, it will be the ultimate entertaining space. Cheers!

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