10 Ways to Make the Most of Your Outdoor Space

A Guide to Getting More From Your Balcony, Porch, or Yard!

a woman relaxing on the porch of her home

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The warmth of summer coupled with the unprecedented ability for many people to work from home has everyone searching for ways to make the most of a quarantined, socially distanced summer. Taking advantage of your own outdoor spaces is a great way to get outside--be it for work or play.

Most people have access to some sort of outdoor space, whether it’s a balcony or yard. No matter how small the space, as long as you have somewhere outdoors you have the opportunity to create a truly special addition to your home.

Having an outdoor space of your own, especially if you live in a city, is a privilege that should not go unappreciated. Don’t let your space go to waste, especially now when staying close to home has obvious health benefits for many. Start crafting the outdoor space of your dreams and bask in the benefits of spending time outside.

Enjoy coffee, a dinner with friends, a quiet night with a book, or even a nice nap in your carefully curated outdoor space. Here are the ten ways you can make the most of your outdoor space. While some of these tips are more applicable to larger areas, aspects of these tips can be incorporated into any size space.

  • Display your style
  • Add lots of seating
  • Convert your area into an outdoor dining space
  • Add lots of lighting
  • Incorporate a heating element
  • Make the space seem larger
  • Add a focal element
  • Use plants
  • Create different sections
Chairs grouped around a table overlooking a lawn
Urban, chic, rustic, and more are aesthetics for prospective designers to familiarize themselves with. Once you have a clear idea of what your specific style is, it’ll be much easier to find the right furniture and decor to bring your vision to life.

Display your style 

Continue your home’s aesthetic out into the great outdoors by using your color scheme (if you have one) to influence your choice in outdoor furniture, rugs, throw pillows, and decor. 

Display your unique style through colors and textures--add an outdoor rug and decorative hanging planters for complementary bursts of color. An outdoor rug helps set the tone of the space, making it a continuation of your house. Just make sure you have the washing machine capacity for it!

In addition to rugs, throw pillows and other decor shouldn’t be confined to the indoors. A variety of outdoor pillows will ensure that the space is comfortable and that guests won’t be clamoring to get back inside.

When choosing rugs and pillows, keep your space constraints in mind. Not only do you want your rug to fit and your pillows to each have a proper place, but if you’re working with a small space you also want to keep in mind that it’s very easy to overwhelm the eyes with vibrant colors and bold patterns. A more minimal and neutral color palate will help make the space feel less cluttered, even if it’s bursting with pillows and cushions.

Two women on outdoor couches, one playing guitar
Seating has always been important, but now more than ever if you can fit six feet of space between your seats you should probably consider doing so. 

Add lots of seating for guests

It’s important to have somewhere to put all of your fun decorative pillows--not to mention your guests need places to sit. Again, space constraints may limit your ability to create seating for hundreds, but with a little creativity you can fit some fancy seating arrangements onto balconies and narrow porches as well as expansive yards.

Space saving outdoor furniture includes individual chairs, folding chairs, and cleverly disguised benches that may double as a resting place for plants. Your seating capacity will dictate how many people you can comfortably accommodate--keep this in mind when picking your furniture and planning your layout. If you want to be able to seat five people in a limited space, don’t go for bulky seating. 

If you have the luxury of working with a larger patio or yard, your seating is an opportunity to direct your guests’ attention. If you have a beautiful garden that you want everyone to admire, consider adding some benches or lounge chairs nearby. 

Outdoor dining area
Your outdoor dining doesn’t have to mimic an indoor dining experience--use benches and mismatched chairs for an eclectic twist. Just make sure your seats are comfortable, as outdoor cushions have a tendency to be on the firmer side.

Convert your area into an al fresco dining experience

Eating outside--if the weather is nice--can feel liberating and luxurious. With the sky as a backdrop, flowers blooming, and summer smells perfuming the air you can set the stage for a wonderful dinner party or solo dining experience. 

Once you’ve established seating, looking to incorporate dining surfaces is a natural progression. Remember, outdoor dining doesn’t have to be a permanent fixture of your outdoor space--with folding tables you can have a mobile dining set up that doesn’t constantly take up space.

String lights
Lights, cameras, action! Turn your outdoor space into the perfect photo op by adding aesthetic lighting. 

Add plenty of lighting

Strategically placed lighting can transform a space. Battery operated lanterns placed on tables and benches, twinkle lights wrapped around railings, and solar powered bulbs softly glowing in corners can add warmth and depth to your space.

Making the most of your outdoor space means ensuring you can enjoy it well into the evening. Good lighting makes outdoor dinners possible even when the night begins to creep up earlier and earlier. 

Good lighting doesn’t have to break the bank. Affordable options for lighting abound--and those with smaller spaces have the advantage here, requiring less lights to achieve the same effect. 

A bonfire
It’s a universally acknowledged fact that those with fire pits in their backyards are the subject of much envy from neighbors. Who doesn’t want to be able to roast marshmallows and host campfire get-togethers in their backyard?

Incorporate a heating element for colder weather

Versatility is key here. Cold winters can lead to cabin fever, a good cure for which is spending time outside. A heating element in your outdoor space makes chilly days less likely to deter you from sitting in the sun. 

Small space heaters that can do double duty in bedrooms as well as on balconies are perfect for any scenario. Those with more room may find it necessary to upgrade to a patio heater, a standing heating unit that will keep you toasty even in the dead of winter.

For those with the space, a fire pit table is the perfect focal point for a seating area and a great source of warmth and light. As a table, heater, and light source it’s an incredibly versatile piece of equipment--and who doesn’t love being able to make s’mores on demand?

Woman typing on laptop on a balcony
Hanging baskets with big, bright blossoms will liven up your space without taking up too much room. 

Make the space seem larger

If you tend towards claustrophobia, making small spaces seem larger is key to being able to enjoy your space. Working within the constraints of a balcony can be a challenge, but there are plenty of techniques to getting more from the area.

Neutral colors, as mentioned earlier, tend to work better in confined spaces, but if you’re a dedicated maximalist with a liking for loud patterns and bright colors, don’t be deterred. While plenty of designers consider white the go-to color for small spaces, this is ultimately an opinion, one that you’re free to disagree with. 

Painting your small space is a way to incorporate your taste and aesthetic without introducing more space-taking objects. Any claustrophobia induced by bright colors can be easily counterbalanced by using another space opening technique--like small wall mirrors.

One of the best ways to make a small space seem larger is to think vertically, taking advantage of any ability to add shelves, opt for hanging plants instead of planters, and string lights instead of lamps.

Outdoor fountain
Fountains, big and small, are well worth the trouble of keeping them supplied with water.

Add a focal point

A focal point will draw eyes where you want them--preferably away from any overflowing gutters or parched plants. Statues and statement vases seem big and luxurious, infusing your area with a sense of grandeur. They also make for great talking points--telling the story of where you found your elegant Greek inspired statue will break the ice with new guests.

Fountains of all sizes should also find their way onto your wishlist. From table sized trickles to six-foot tall fountains, nothing is more captivating than running water--besides a good, bright fire.

If you’re on board with the fire pit table but don’t want to get rid of your current table, there are plenty of other ways to ensure you have a place to burn all your seasoned wood. Fire pits in general make excellent focal points, providing a center around which to arrange seating. 

Or, consider using a chiminea, a free standing, front loading, vase shaped fireplace. These are great for residential areas where you don’t want to generate large amounts of smoke, and can even be used by the more adventurous to make bread.

If you’re looking for something even more luxe and have the space for it, why not add a goldfish pond or small waterfall. A step up from fountains, these permanent fixtures require a bit more upkeep than most decor, but certainly add something special to your space.

Potted plants
Instead of shelling out hundreds for expensive planters, consider some cheap and easy DIY options.

Use plants as decoration

If you’ve got a green thumb, there are many ways you can put it to good use when arranging your outdoor area. Sprawling gardens may not be an option, but little bursts of greenery in pots and planters are sure to give you a taste of nature.

Planters are also a perfect way to create different outdoor areas. Use them to create walkways or demarcate where the lounge area leads into the yard proper. Whether big or small, seedling or full grown, you have an option to incorporate some type of greenery in your life year round. Take advantage of local nurseries and landscaping companies to help you design and fill your space.

For those who are more practical-minded, don’t be deceived into thinking you need a big yard and lots of money in order to grow food. Edible plants are attractive and useful additions to any outdoor space. Consider starting with herb plants and hanging tomato plants as a way to start using your outdoor space for more than just a place to hang out.

Outdoor dining from above
Creating different sections makes your yard feel like a continuation of your home’s layout.

Create different sections

Segmenting your space so that there’s flow and a sense of different areas can help make the space feel larger. If you’re lucky enough to have a big yard, creating separate areas for eating, a fire pit, and lounging will make your outdoor space seem much larger. 

When partitioning your areas, don’t be afraid to get creative or to incorporate other design elements into your sections. Flower pots are a simple, effective way to create different sections. Or use your outdoor furniture to dictate the flow of traffic through your space; for example, adding a couch facing away from your eating space creates the illusion of two separate areas.

Putting together an outdoor space filled with all the amenities and design elements you want should be a fun experience, an opportunity to flex your creative muscles and explore different design techniques. The best way to get warmed up for this creative exercise is by perusing sites like Pinterest where other aspiring designers are sure to influence your own decisions.

Budget and space constraints may limit your ability to outfit your outdoors with state-of-the-art equipment and store bought furniture, but shouldn’t completely derail your efforts to make the most of your outdoor space. Start small, with a good thorough cleaning, and think about repurposing indoor decor and furniture. 

Discover your dream home in German Village, OH.

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August 26, 2020
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