Creative Ideas For Small Outdoor Spaces

Written by Connie Adair Posted On Friday, 31 March 2023 00:00
Creative Ideas For Small Outdoor Spaces Photo by Kevin Vanpassen

When spending so much time at home these days, it’s more important than ever to spruce up your outdoor living space so you have extra room to spread out.

And fixing up that space is worthwhile in more ways than one. In addition to extending your living space, it’s a way to put your creativity to work, both in designing the area and making or repurposing items to decorate it. It will help pass the time while working toward the goal of having a beautiful oasis in which to relax. And you can even be environmentally friendly about it, including recycled or upcycled items from your latest closet purge that were destined for the trash. It can also be done on a budget.

Whether your small outdoor space is a balcony or urban garden, start by measuring your space and sketch out a floor plan.

Small spaces have benefits – they feel cosy and that’s a good thing, says interior designer Sabrina Bitton of Toronto, who offers the following helpful tips and ideas to consider when creating an outdoor oasis.

“You need to feel cosy, especially during these times when people aren’t getting hugs. A cosy space feels like a hug,” she says.

Next is the fun part – deciding what to add. To create a Zen space, white, green, sand, cream and blue are colours that will create a calming effect. Think about feng shui principles and ways to incorporate wood, metal, earth, water and fire.  

There are a lot of ways to add those elements. Straw mats, mounted to a wall or backyard fence, add a touch of nature and soften the space, as do white canvas drapes. Both the mats and drapes can be placed strategically (on a common balcony wall or to create a partial wall along the balcony railing for example) to create privacy.

Trellises and wood slats are another way to add a touch of wood and they can also be strategically placed for privacy. Wood can be left untouched or white washed for a lighter feeling.

“In these times, people are home and have nothing to do but look in your windows. It’s important to create privacy,” she says.

Floors can be covered with carpets in soft colours (light blue can represent the water element) or a touch of wood can be added with square wood tiles that clip together.

Incorporate metal with accessories – planters, for example. Fill those pots with flowers in pale colours, such as baby pink and white for a fresh clean ambiance. Pair flowers in white or soft colours with a “spark of red” for energy, Bitton says.

A waterfall is always a welcome addition – the sound of water is soothing. If you can’t add a water feature, a clear bowl filled with soft blue sea glass will represent water. Or if you can paint or draw, she suggests adding a sketch or a painting of a waterfall.

Candles, even if they are just tea lights, are a great addition to a space. Again, the key is to use white or soft colours. However, bright colours will add energy to the space. For a touch of shabby chic, add soft lavenders and pinks. Put tea lights on vintage plates or a cup and saucer.

To add clarity, choose white candles or white washed pottery. Use statues, like a Buddha statue, to add a touch of serenity. Pillows and carpets provide seating on the ground or floor.

Sand or a rock garden in a bowl are other ways to add natural elements.

For pure joy, add a swing. Bitton says, “It will make you feel like you’re in a park.” Strings of LED lights are also magical.

Recycle elements by taking no-longer-wanted indoor items outdoors. Change their look by repainting them or use them for something other than what they were intended. Create signs of positivity by adding inspirational words, such as joy and happiness, to old pieces of wood, plates or rocks.

Upcycle old clothes into pillow covers. Decorate your pillows with fabric paint. Sew fringe onto a blanket for a boho touch. Use candle holders as planters. The list is limited only by your imagination. However, keep your space uncluttered.

Dollar stores are a great source of inexpensive decorating items, from rocks to marbles to lanterns and craft supplies. 

If you’re decorating an urban backyard, you have a little more space – if allowed, you may want to add a real fire pit. On the other hand, if your condo doesn’t have a balcony, create “outdoor” space in your solarium by following the same principles and adding lots of plants. If the space is too bright, add an inexpensive roller blind.

For those who prefer bright colours for a livelier space, Bitton says to combine them with white, cream and sand so there isn’t too much colour.

Neutral items can be painted in bright colours, or items such as cotton canvas drapes can be dyed. Those white drapes can be dyed green to add a feeling of nature for those who are allergic to plants.

During these times, creating a multi-functional Zen oasis is a great-feel good project from start to finish. “Your brain is ready to create,” Bitton says.

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