How to make a small patio look bigger - design tricks to give the illusion of a larger space

Fake it till you make it

Slate paving
(Image credit: Future PLC/Clare Lloyd Davies)

A small patio can easily become overcrowded, making it harder to enjoy the space, but there are a few design tricks that can make your patio feel bigger. Working in some patio ideas and focusing on what you use the area for can help create a more relaxed, enjoyable outdoor space.

A patio can easily become cluttered with furniture so choosing the right pieces is key. 'When optimising space in (and decluttering) a small patio, a great idea is to use multipurpose furniture like a storage ottoman or daybed. Not only can you store items, but it's easier to plan efficiently with modular furniture that has a smaller footprint,' explains Nicolene Mausenbaum, director of Dezyna Interiors.

Planting is another small patio idea that can help make the space feel bigger. By using plants to hide fencing and create a more natural setting, a patio can feel less cramped and much more inviting.

How to make a small patio look bigger

Making your patio look bigger doesn't have to cost the earth, a few simple design tricks can be all it needs, but if you have a bigger budget there are lots of other ways to improve the space.

1. Use mirrors to create the illusion of space

Garden wall with mirror

(Image credit: Future PLC/Lizzie Orme)

Mirrors are often used indoors when we want to make a room feel bigger and it's an idea that also works outdoors. 'Incorporating mirrors is a clever way to achieve this illusion,' says Suzi Samaddar, room styling expert at

'Using mirrors in a space, particularly opposite to each other, can create the illusion of depth and openness – it's a classic interior hack, but it works just as effectively outdoors too. Place mirrors on walls, fences or other outdoor structures to instantly make your patio seem larger.'

2. Choose multipurpose furniture

white garden storage box

(Image credit: Future PLC/Jonathan Jones)

Being clever with your furniture choices can help to make the most of the space. 'To maximise space, prioritise functionality and organisation,' explains Jeannette Hudson, furniture expert at Online Sofa Shop. 'Opt for furniture that serves multiple purposes, such as storage benches or coffee tables with built-in compartments.' 

The fewer pieces of furniture on your patio, the less cluttered it will feel. Deciding what you will mainly use your patio for can help with furniture choices too. If you like to eat outside a lot then an outdoor dining table might be the best option, but if you only use it as a chill out space then a lounging set could be better. 

3. Try vertical planting

Vertical planting

(Image credit: elho)

In smaller spaces, you might feel confined by fences or walls, so using vertical planting can help it feel less closed in. 'Small gardens, patios and balconies can still be overflowing with greenery – the secret is to grow vertically,' explains Patty Willems, PR manager of sustainable plant pot creator elho

'By bringing your walls to life with pots of pretty plants, you can take a boring and dull small space, and turn it into a thriving and lively green oasis.'

4. Use the same tiles inside and out

Indoor outdoor paving

(Image credit: Quorn Stone)

When embarking on a bigger patio project, laying the same tiles inside and outside can help blur the boundaries and make your patio feel bigger. 'An ever-popular patio flooring trend for stone pavers and tiles, is to choose the same matching stone from a kitchen through to a garden,' advises Isabel Fernandez at Quorn Stone

'This makes an inspiring indoor, outdoor living space, with many limestone and porcelain tiles being suitable for interiors and exteriors, creating a seamless look.' 

5. Keep the space clutter-free

Modern patio

(Image credit: Future PLC/Alasdair McIntosh)

If you're tripping over plant pots, garden tools and kids toys every time you go out in the garden, you might find that all you need to make your patio feel bigger is a big declutter and some smart garden storage ideas.

'A small patio needs regular maintenance and decluttering to look and feel spacious,' explains Jane Dobbs, from the gardening team at Allan's Gardeners. 'Keep furniture surfaces clean by sweeping away leaves, removing debris and wiping them down. Invest in storage solutions so you can keep your outdoor space organised.' 

Spring is a good time for a clear out, so your patio is clear and ready to use come summer.

6. Use planting to hide boundaries

Slate paving

(Image credit: Future PLC/Lizzie Orme)

Narrow patio spaces can feel a little claustrophobic, so using planting is key to making your space feel more open.

 'Evergreen planting is essential as a base in a small space,' explains Harriet Worsley of Worsley Design & Consultancy. 'Green, silver or even almost fluorescent green-yellow evergreen leaves will mean that the garden looks fresh throughout the year. Then the flowering perennials or even annuals can drift up and down and through the evergreen foliage, to add the element of surprise and interest with the seasons.' 

Planting is a great way to hide fences and walls and make you feel more immersed in nature. This is a great all-round small garden idea whether you have a patio or not.

7. Install fencing with horizontal panels

Modern patio with horizontal slat fence panel

(Image credit: Future PLC/Still Pictures)

If you want to keep your fencing on show, you can use it to direct your attention further up the garden, which can make a patio feel bigger.  

'The lines within your garden can impact the illusion of space,' explains Leigh Barnes, garden expert at Jacksons Fencing. 'Paying attention to the direction of the paving slabs or decking and the lines within the fence panel or the decking can impact the size. Installing these in a certain direction or shape can trick the eye by drawing it along the length of the garden no matter how short, giving the illusion of a larger garden.'

8. Think about the type of pavers

Beige outdoor tiles from Tile Mountain

(Image credit: Tile Mountain)

When you create a patio area, the direction you lay your pavers is key to how big the space will feel. 

'Longer, plank-like tiles can give smaller spaces an illusion of expansiveness, so consider wood effect outdoor tiles or those with rectangular form-factors,' explains Colin Lincoln-Evans, buyer at Tile Mountain. 'Similarly, larger tiles with rectified edges will minimise the intrusiveness of grout joints – the bigger the tiles, the fewer you’ll use and the fewer grout joints you’ll have.'

9. Choose stackable furniture

Bridgman garden furniture

(Image credit: Bridgman)

If you use your patio for lots of different activities, using the best garden furniture that can be stacked when not in use or folded away, can help prevent the space from feeling cramped.

'Steer clear of cluttering up a petite patio area with furniture that sits unused most of the year,' explains Caron Grant, brand manager at Bridgman. 'Think smart with stylish and space-saving flexible furniture. Choose stackable chairs, bar stools and even loungers that can be stacked on top of each other and stored away when not in use. Pair with a foldable table for a set you can effortlessly move to one side whenever you need.'

10. Play with lighter colours

Light and bright patio

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Keeping things light and bright is another way to make a patio feel spacious. 'The right colour scheme can significantly impact the perceived size of your patio,' explains Jeannette. 

'Lighter hues such as whites, creams and pastels, can make the space feel airy and open. Consider painting walls and fences in pale colours and using light coloured furniture and accessories to enhance this effect.'


How do I maximise space on a small patio?

'If you try to fit lots of furniture into a small patio space it will be too cramped, so pick your seating and other pieces carefully,' explains Fiona Jenkins, garden design expert at

'Go for small-framed seats with tall, narrow legs to maximise the sense of space. Pick multifunctional items, such as a fire pit with a cooking shelf and cover. This enables it to be used as a coffee table as well as for outdoor cooking and evening warmth.'

Nicolene Mausenbaum
Nicolene Mausenbaum

Nicolene Mausenbaum, director of Dezyna Interiors has worked for many years as an interior designer on both commercial and residential projects.

How do you beautify a small patio?

'To brighten up a small patio, paint the walls or incorporate elements in light, cool colours and accessorise with a few bright pops of colours,' explains Nicolene. 

'You can also include a metallic element with a mirror, planters, or even a water feature to reflect natural and artificial light. Illuminate the areas in layers by opting for uplights on the walls, tabletop lamps, and string or fairy light to create a cosy ambience.' 

Amy Hodge

Amy Hodge has been working on interiors magazines for over 11 years. She's a freelance writer and sub editor who has worked for some of the UK's leading interiors magazines including Ideal Home, Style at Home and Country Homes & Interiors. She started at Style at Home just after it launched as food editor and is now chief sub editor for Ideal Home, Style at Home and Country Homes & Interiors.