Small Patio Decor Ideas

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Terrific that you have a patio but too bad it's a small one. Maximize your postage-stamp patio's utility by decorating for ambiance and personal stress-busting. A spot of shade, a blast of color, a hint of history, or a gamer's trappings will give that mini-patio a dose of personality and turn it into an inviting retreat.

A Color Drenched Space

  • Transform your stingy little bit of outdoor real estate into a slice of south-of-the-border with color. Paint the exterior walls of the house, the fence or the garage wall a dusky, chalk-pink or coral. Color all roof posts, eaves and beams, shutters and door trim New Mexico turquoise or intense teal, and paint the door itself a vivid red. Terra-cotta pavers land you right in Oaxaca or Santa Fe, or you can faux-brick a concrete patio slab with brick-colored paint and a small roller. Pile on the decor with Southwestern and Mexican artifacts, painted tin watering cans and beach pails hung as planters, weathered wicker furniture with bright woven textile cushions and a wrought-iron candle chandelier. Citronella tapers keep the bugs at bay while you enjoy a sundown margarita.

A Relaxing Soul Spa

  • A shade sail and a spiral the size of a giant snail underfoot turn a minuscule patch of backyard into a soul spa for relaxing, meditating or kicking back with the latest best-seller. Stretch a pre-made or homemade canvas shade sail over the patio space to shelter you from the noon sun or a light spring rain. You can tie the sail to convenient trees, hooks attached to the house or fence, or posts sunk into the ground. Start at the center of the area and set spirals of flat-topped stones and colored stone pavers circling outward to the boundaries of your patio. Alternating the bands of stones and flat pavers creates the visual image of a spiraling stream or a natural labyrinth. Keep furniture spare to underscore the simplicity of the scene, but do surround the paved spiral with huge pots of rustling bamboo and trellises for flowering vines and roses.

A Tiny Private Retreat

  • When there's just enough room for a table and chairs but you dream of a real terrace or spacious courtyard, use props to create illusion. Brick the patio; reclaimed vintage brick is faded and variegated with the soft patina of history. Place a tiny wrought-iron bistro table and chairs on the brick and install a tall stone or cast-concrete pedestal fountain and birdbath in one corner of your postage-stamp-size space. Border the brick floor with low green shrubs and the fountain with terra-cotta pots of flowers. Encourage prolific vines to cover the back fence for a green wall to enclose your private retreat. Ivy will remain evergreen; seasonal woody vines will lose their leaves but create a pattern of branches to decorate the fence. Weave strings of outdoor fairy lights through the branches to twinkle on winter nights.

An Interactive Game Board

  • Pave your mini-patio with alternating terra-cotta and slate tiles to make a checkerboard underfoot. Park giant resin chess pieces in all four corners -- you could supply enough pieces to actually play a game, but the idea is to evoke the game, so four chess figures will do. Paint or decorate garden statues to resemble a king, queen, bishop or knight. Decorate a round table to look like a checker token with paint or tile and make cushions for the round chair seats that look like red and black checkers. Spell out a welcoming message on the back fence or patio wall with a painted Scrabble board; if you like changing messages, create letter tiles backed by hanging hardware, and add hooks to the painted board.

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