40 Ways to Dress Up Your Apartment Deck or Patio

Small space, picky landlord, limited budget — no problem! Creating a private, stylish and inviting outdoor space is easy with these designer-worthy decorating tips.

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June 19, 2020

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Get Outside

Live large in your small outdoor space this summer with our top tips for turning your apartment deck or patio into an oasis. Here, twinkling string lights illuminate beautiful hammock chairs, a durable teak table and a colorful outdoor rug, creating a cozy, stylish spot to hang out on a lower-level deck.

LEARN MORE: Your Outdoor Furniture Buying Guide: Top Tips on Lifespan, Maintenance + More

Less Is More

Tight on space? Skip the multiple plantings, patterned outdoor rug, lighting and full-blown furniture plan. Instead, pick out one statement-making piece to serve as the star of your outdoor design. This white, wood-framed daybed fits the bill. Surrounded by a collection of lush potted plants, the pillow-packed bed provides a plush spot to enjoy the view without monopolizing precious floor space in the process.

Small Space, Big Color

This pigment-packed patio proves small spaces call for big color. A pair of turquoise Adirondack lounge chairs make a statement at the center of the patio, surrounded by a sea of potted blooms, ceramic garden stools and a (convenient!) booze-clad bar cart. Bubblegum-pink and navy-blue throw pillows add softness to the chairs and a blue, quatrefoil outdoor rug adds personality underfoot.

LEARN MORE: Patio, Perfected: 11 Amazing Amazon Finds for a Shady Outdoor Oasis

Walls That Wow

When designing your dream outdoor space, don’t forget to dress up your walls. Gold metal palm fronds accentuate the tall stone wall on this luxe balcony and bring a touch of tropical glamour to the design.

Statement Seating

Swap basic patio seating for something a bit more fun. Designer Tiffany Brooks shows how it’s done, using a pair of modern swing chairs to add flair and free-spirited function in a small outdoor space. A small garden stool serves as a space-saving side table and a pair of black and white throw pillows echoes the color scheme featured throughout the interior of the home.

See More Photos: Downstairs Patio + Pergola Pictures From HGTV Smart Home 2020

Party on Wheels

Bring the party to your patio with a fully stocked and stylish bar cart. Most bar carts are compact and mobile, making them the perfect vehicle to bring fun to your outdoor space. Bonus? Carts come in countless colors, styles and price points so there’s something for everyone. Use yours to keep appetizer platters within reach and cocktails flowing all night at your next gathering.

See More Photos: 16 Essentials for a Summer-Ready Bar Cart

Go Vertical

When you’re dreaming of green acres but living with the reality of a small terrace, consider transforming vertical spaces like walls or railings into a thriving garden. Here, a multi-pocket fabric wall planter makes a beautiful, living backdrop to this urban patio's seating area. Irrigation holes in each pocket allow excess water to drain away, ensuring plants stay moist but not overly wet.

See More Photos: 16 Ways to Squeeze a Garden Onto Your Deck or Patio

Outdoor Living Room

Not only do outdoor curtains provide much-needed privacy from nosy neighbors, but they can also transform your open-air space into a cozy second living area. Surrounding a plush wicker couch, the red-and-white-striped curtains on this modern Americana-inspired porch match the oversized rug perfectly, creating a warm, cohesive outdoor escape.

Pull Up a Stool

Save on space without skimping on style by using ceramic garden stools in lieu of traditional outdoor accent tables. The circular stools will ensure cocktails are always within reach, provide a place to prop your feet and offer extra seating when needed.

Pack in a Pool

This small outdoor space doesn't take no for an answer with its chic, matte black pool and succulent container garden. If your rental agreement allows, a stock tank pool is an inexpensive yet ultra-stylish way to cool down during those hot summer months. Learn how designer Bri Moysa created hers here.

LEARN MORE: Stock Tank Pools Are Your New BFF This Summer

From: Bri Moysa

Hedge Your Bets

No place to hang curtains? Manufacture much-needed privacy with a lush hedge wall made from faux boxwood panels. This "living" wall requires zero maintenance and is UV protected to withstand outdoor conditions. The best part? You can break it down and take it with you when you move. Here, this pretty privacy hedge serves as a chic backdrop to a midcentury-inspired outdoor dining area that features a teak table and Palm Springs-inspired armchairs.

BUY IT: Overstock, $116.99

Soften the Space

The secret to creating a cozy spot for two on your patio? Use an outdoor rug to anchor your furniture, enhance your furnishings and bring warmth to your overall design. The texture-rich rug on this contemporary patio ensures that the modern, faux rattan chairs, potted plant and sleek accent stool shine in the space and adds softness to the concrete flooring underfoot.

LEARN MORE: 20 Stylish Outdoor Rugs on Sale Right Now

(Almost) Free Plant Stands

Love the look of chic, modern plant stands, but can't stomach the price? Turn old (or new — they're extremely cheap) tomato cages into chic gold risers for your plant babes. Snag the step-by-step instructions below.

GET THE HOW-TO: 3 Fun Ways to Take a Tomato Cage From Practical to Pretty

Gorgeous Grass

The grass is greener in this urban patio living space. To recreate the look at home, line the perimeter of your apartment deck or patio with rectangular planters filled with ornamental grasses. These planters will create a sleek privacy barrier between shared outdoor spaces and enliven your cityscape with lush, natural color. Feeling extra crafty? Fake a trellis on an empty wall by hanging faux boxwood garland in a large diamond pattern.

See More Photos: The Prettiest Ornamental Grasses for Sun and Shade

Breezy Barrier

Use gauzy, white curtains to create a breezy barrier wall separating your outdoor space from neighboring apartments. This renter-friendly solution is inexpensive, easy to remove and allows you to escape the eyes of nosy neighbors.

See More Photos: 15 Ways to Transform a Small Patio Into a Relaxing Retreat

Family-Friendly Escape

Make lifelong memories and enjoy family time in the fresh air this summer with an outdoor dining area. An umbrella-topped table provides a perfect spot for hosting meals, playing board games or relaxing with a glass of vino. Pull the look together with a set of oversized wicker chairs, a plethora of potted plants and a colorful printed rug underfoot.

Urban Oasis

In the backyard of this luxurious garden apartment, designer Elizabeth S. Vaughan worked to add personality, using items that are easy to take along in a move. “Clients love when we add garden oddities like the bronze rabbit lantern on the steps,” she says. Note also the varied container plantings and color-coordinated chair cushions and umbrella.

Stenciled Screen

Turn a wooden privacy wall into a vibrant focal point by painting a pretty geometric pattern. Recreate the same look at home using our free, printable stencil and paint colors that match your outdoor furnishings.

GET THE HOW-TO: Update Your Fence With a Colorful Mural

Artsy Appeal

An oversized abstract painting and a bistro table with mismatched dining chairs create whimsical-yet-sophisticated appeal on this flagstone patio. Put your spray bottles to use to make a similar abstract painting for your apartment deck or patio.

GET THE HOW-TO: DIY Spray Bottle Art

Hang Around

This boho-style patio proves that even a tiny outdoor space can be an enviable escape. Fringe-trimmed macrame swing chairs instantly dial up the fun factor and, because they’re suspended above the floor, can help make a small space feel larger.

See More Photos: 20 Outdoor Hammock Ideas We're Loving

City Serenity

“To create this peaceful retreat above bustling Center City Philadelphia, we selected natural materials and finishes to bring softness and comfort to what had been a barren rooftop,” says designer Barbara Eberlein. “Teak furniture does not need to be stored indoors during the winter,” she notes, "and direct sunlight is mitigated with enormous cantilever umbrellas.” Get the same effect in your own city sanctuary with a single umbrella and a cushy all-weather armchair.

Pretty Paper Lanterns

Turn your patio into a pretty party spot by hanging inexpensive paper lanterns of various sizes above your sitting area. After dusk, these lights cast a warm, festive glow that can be enjoyed year-round.

BUY IT: Amazon, $13.75, Pack of 20

Make a Bench + Planter

Tired of disposable, expensive outdoor furniture? Spend less, and create a bench that will last a lifetime instead of just a summer. Bonus: It doubles as a planter.

GET THE HOW-TO: Talk About a Block Party: DIY Cinderblock Bench

Craft a Tabletop Firepit

Conversation and drinks by the firelight — it doesn't get much better than that, right? Well, this might get a little better, since this DIY doubles as a centerpiece and can be put together in under 15 minutes. Plus, it's compact enough to sit on a table, making it ideal for a small-space deck or patio.

GET THE HOW-TO: Make a Tabletop Fireplace for Your Party in 15 Minutes

Reach New Heights

One foolproof way to elevate your outdoor space? A tall potted tree. Not only will the statuesque branches bring privacy and shade to your deck or patio, but the height will provide a heavy splash of style and drama to your space. Pro Tip: Be sure to research the types of trees that will thrive in your specific climate and sunlight before purchasing.

LEARN MORE: 12 Great Patio Trees

Floors With Flair

Wood paneling and sleek gray planter boxes surround this Brooklyn townhouse patio, which is grounded by patterned gray-and-white tiles. Achieve the same look on your covered apartment patio or deck floors by using peel-and-stick mosaic tiles. Not only are peel-and-stick tiles quick and easy to install, but they're offered in endless color and pattern combinations to fit your personal style. Another great option? Try stenciling a pretty pattern with exterior paint — check out our step-by-step guide below.

GET THE HOW-TO: How to Stain & Stencil a Concrete Patio

Fly Some Flags

Add a splash of fun color to your deck by pairing your string lights with a whimsical party banner. Go one step further and pull from the banner's bold hues to accessorize the rest of the space with poufs, pillows and more in pretty primary shades.

See More Photos: This Atlanta Designer's Party-Ready Deck Is So Picturesque

Relax With a DIY Water Feature

Make a splash in your outdoor space, even if you live 15 stories above Manhattan, with this wee water feature made from stacked ceramic pots.

GET THE HOW-TO: Dress Up Any Outdoor Space With a DIY Fountain

Container Garden

Escape the city with a container garden as vibrant as your bustling surroundings. Follow the lead of this urban balcony where an artful array of colorful plantings burst from vessels large and small, creating a peaceful spot to relax in the midst of the city. Use plants varied in texture, color and height to achieve a dynamic and interesting display you'll enjoy caring for every day.

MORE IDEAS: Small Space Gardening Tips for Apartment Dwellers + Urbanites

Light Up the Night

No fire pit? No problem. Light up the night (safely) with a cluster of DIY lanterns made from upcycled tin cans. Use faux votive candles for a flame-free, all-night glow.

GET THE HOW-TO: How to Make Tin Can Lanterns

Table for Two

Love to dine alfresco but have a tight space? Bistro tables are the perfect solution. This folding table provides seating for two and can be easily tucked away.

Make Some Shade

Transform a too-hot, over-exposed patio or deck into a shady, relaxation zone with this sophisticated DIY sail shade. Just a few thoughtful details can take this project from looking strictly functional to stylishly designed.

GET THE HOW-TO: Beat the Heat and Add Privacy With an Embellished Shade Sail

Plant Some Privacy

Add privacy to your patio and green-up those city views with a pair of pretty trellis planters. Try your hand at growing hearty trailing plants like Chinese wisteria, clematis or classic ivy for gorgeous, year-round color.

See More Photos: 13 Flowering Vines for Year-Round Color

Play With Pattern

Who says outdoor furniture has to be boring? Go bold and pack your alfresco living area with eye-catching patterned fabrics and vibrant, colorful accents. On this deck, a black-and-white striped outdoor sofa, live-edge coffee table and sunny round rug are a playful continuation of the trendy interior design.

Lounge in Luxury

You don’t need a lot of space to create a multifunctional outdoor living area. Here, designer Lisa Aiken packed a pair of lounge chairs with quick-dry seats, and a high-top bistro table with stool seating for four onto a compact rooftop terrace. “The high table lets diners overlook the beach,” Aiken says.

Play Up the Perimeter

Take advantage of a privacy wall and play-up the perimeter of your outdoor space by installing a space-saving banquette. Accessorize with colorful hanging lanterns, dried architectural grass and an eye-catching outdoor rug to anchor the look.

Bring the Indoors Out

Bring your interior style to your deck or patio to create a seamless, indoor-outdoor living space. Designer Abbe Fenimore transformed this apartment balcony into a sophisticated outdoor living room complete with a substantial chaise longue and weighty stone coffee table. Bold textures and bright blue hues enliven the open-air lounge and mimic the color scheme featured throughout the interior of the city home.

TOUR THE SPACE: Bold Dallas Bachelor Pad With a Masculine Vibe

Secret Garden

Who wouldn’t want to hide away from the stresses of the day in this cozy corner lounge? Lush potted plants surround the space for a tucked-in feel — the perfect spot to curl up with a good book and a glass of wine. Stylish folding chairs positioned around the outdoor wicker table offer occasional seating for intimate gatherings but can be easily stored when not in use.

See More Photos: Small Space Gardening Tips for Apartment Dwellers + Urbanites

Unexpected Lighting

Looking for a subtle, inexpensive way to light up those long summer nights? LED rope lighting is versatile, safe, easy to install and comes in a variety of lengths, tones and colors. Many versions are also waterproof thanks to the PVC tubing. To install this low-maintenance light source in your outdoor space, screw simple cup hooks into the underside of a railing, decking or furniture, then feed the rope lights through.

BUY IT: Amazon, $28.99

Zen Zone

Featuring a wood pergola, a small Zen garden and a dedicated dining area, this rooftop terrace is a peaceful escape in the middle of the bustling city.

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