Design Ideas for a Small Outdoor Space

See how one New York couple enlarged their living space by turning a small underused patio into a beautiful lounge area.

With help from a professional interior designer, Sarah Raskin and husband John Kerl (not pictured) had the small, lackluster covered patio of their Brooklyn, N.Y., apartment turned into a colorful, relaxing outdoor living room for their newborn daughter, Orly; John's daughter, Emily; and rescue dog, Scout.

Prior to the redesign, Sarah and John’s colorless 9-by-10-foot covered patio lacked a true space plan and was consequently underutilized.

In its new state, Sarah and John’s 9-by-10-foot covered patio is a full-fledged outdoor living space thanks to colorful indoor-outdoor furnishings, including an L-shaped sectional sofa, a graphic area rug and a custom coffee table.

Although the L-shaped sectional has the look and feel of an interior sofa, it’s made of indoor-outdoor materials that can withstand the elements, including woven acrylic upholstery fabric, stainless steel legs and a woven acrylic base that has the look and feel of brown wicker.

One of the easiest ways to create a new color palette in an outdoor space is to introduce an indoor-outdoor area rug. Sarah and John’s new flooring is a transitional-style acrylic rug with shades of citrus green and deep blue.

To ensure comfortable lounging for baby girl Orly and rescue dog Scout, custom floor cushions were made in an indoor-outdoor fabric that coordinates well with the tones and pattern of the area rug. Most indoor-outdoor fabrics are made from acrylic, a mold-, mildew-, and fade-resistant material that is also engineered to detract bugs.

To bring life to the updated space and balance engineered materials with organic elements, woven sea-grass planter boxes were rail-mounted around the perimeter and filled with a mix of grasses and annuals.

To create a one-of-a-kind look with layered graphic impact, custom throw pillows featuring a Suzani-inspired print and a solid indigo basket weave were made from indoor-outdoor fabric and foam.

A custom 40-by-40-foot weather-resistant coffee table constructed from reclaimed barn wood provides space for snacks and drinks and a place to display greenery and fresh flowers. The organic piece also warms up the space, which is filled with engineered materials.

Sarah and John are completely maxed out of storage space in their apartment. So to add storage to the covered patio, a custom coffee table was created with integrated concealed storage. To remove the top, they simply stick their fingers through a hole that was made with a drill and a two-inch paddle bit.

A view of Lower Manhattan is the focal point from Sarah and John’s covered patio. To reflect the stellar view, a pair of rustic blue-gray painted mirrors was added to the exterior wall, allowing the view to be seen from all spots on the sectional sofa as well as several vantage points inside the apartment.

Sarah and John are renters and therefore unable to make any structural or electrical changes to their covered patio. To provide proper lighting, a plastic planter with integrated diffused lighting was added. The planter simply plugs into a nearby outlet, illuminating the space at night.

A set of folding chairs previously used inside were updated with outdoor cushions with lime green and white nautical stripes. When not being used as extra seating for guests, the chairs fold flat and can be stored inside the coffee table or up against the wall.

For additional serving space, a rustic table on casters was used as a side table. With three 24-by-24-inch shelves nearby, Sarah and John can use the table for drinks and serveware for guests.

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