Patio design considerations for small spaces

When you’re thinking about patio design, whether large or small, functionality is important. But when you’re working with small spaces, you need to be a bit more creative with what you’ve got to work with. Fear not. This kind of creativity can lead to a patio that’s both fun and functional.

Figuring it all out

Start by asking yourself some basic questions like what kind of exposure the space has and what kind of shade you’ll need. If it’s got a western exposure and you intend on spending much of your time on it in the late afternoon or early evening, you’ll have to take that into consideration. Will this patio design be primarily personal space for you or do you do a lot of entertaining? What is your budget? What kind of look and feel are you going for? Are you looking for something quaint, ornate, Zen like, or streamlined, and minimalistic? Is there already a deck or slab or will you need to create one of sorts? What do you want to accomplish, and how much of the work can you feasibly do yourself? These are all legitimate questions that you should answer before getting started.

The best laid plans

Starting with foundation, if you don’t have a preexisting finished seating area there are a variety of ways you can go besides pouring a slab or building a deck for small spaces. Take, for instance, flagstones or slate, paving stones or even large path stones. Any of these alternatives can be installed by you, but bear in mind there will be grading involved and layers of sand or gravel for proper drainage so the stones don’t sink. If this is beyond your skill or fitness level, hire a professional who guarantees their work.

If you choose any of these methods, leaving negative spacing between each stone leaves an excellent opportunity for planting a variety of mosses between the stones that will fill in eventually and create a border or framing effect that’s pleasing to the eye. Do-it-yourself path stones are easily made at home in a variety of colors and designs with a little ingenuity and easy-to-follow tutorials you can find online or at your local library.


Deciding how to lay out your patio design for optimal function is key to long-term happiness of your project. If you’re intent on providing a grilling or cooking area, make sure there is adequate spacing between your outdoor kitchen, as it were, and your home or any wooden fencing. Accidental house fires are quite common when this point is overlooked, and it’s the last thing you want.

If you’d like to include an outdoor sink to your patio design, the location should be established early on and the work for any plumbing lines needs to be completed before your deck or seating area is completed. Remember, “call before you dig” isn’t just a saying. Calling your local utility providers to determine the placement of underground electrical, telephone, or sewage lines can save you a lot of headaches and money in the long run.

Roofs and awnings

Shade for your new patio design can be accomplished in many ways. You may want to do this if you live in an area with a lot of rainfall, a western exposure, or lots of shedding trees. Remember, unless it’s a freestanding structure or retractable awning, you’ll likely need permits for this portion of your patio design if you attach it directly to your home. Manufacturers of retractable awnings and canopies are a great solution for small spaces and are very affordable.