How To Make The Most Of A Small Outside Space.

If there’s one thing I look forward to at the start of Spring it’s getting the garden ready for entertaining and Summer fun. This year, it’s especially important to invest in your outside space as we finally start to socialise again. Holidays abroad are looking less likely, so creating the perfect staycation spot is going to be all the rage. But, what if you only have a balcony, a small courtyard, patio or deck, like ours at @theharbourdeckhouse ? Fear not my friends, I’m about to tell you how to make the most of your outside space, however small. It’ll be fit for a king, or at least a big old queen, before I’m done with it!

The Albany Corner Dining Set with Juni Tableware and Fluted Wine glasses and Tumblers. Finished with the Whitewashed Vase. On the wall is the Large Slim Black Framed Round Mirror all by Cox & Cox.
The Albany Corner Dining Set from Cox & Cox.

For me, the most important thing when designing an outside entertaining area is to treat whatever space you have as if it’s another room in your home. You want to bring all the creature comforts from inside your home outside. There is no reason why a balcony or courtyard should be any less inviting than your living room. It should entice you to want to spend time there, relax and unwind, just as if you were settling down for a cosy night in front of the telly with a big bag of your favourite sweets to share.

Think About The Senses

A really successful outdoor space not only has considered pieces of furniture, but also everything you need to delight the senses. You should be thinking about all the senses, including sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Your seating/dining area should say: “Hey, come sit by me for a spell, pour a glass of wine and tell me all the gossip!”

Soft throws and comfy cushions add an immediate charm and a sense of luxury. If chosen correctly, you will be drawn to the area because it’s inviting you to sit down. Once you are seated, what keeps you there? Well, this is where the other senses come into play.

You may not have a lot of space, but there is always room for a planter or two. A well chosen outdoor planter can create huge impact in a small space. Before heading off to the garden centre and buying the first colourful plant you see, consider how it works for you. Plants should be more than decorative, particularly if you only have a choice few. So, look at plants that have a fragrance as well as colour. Consider their texture. A prickly-leafed specimen might not be the most alluring of choices. Lavender, Thyme and Rosemary have beautiful soft muted colour in the Summer, but also smell amazing. Every time you brush past them you will be transported to the sun-scorched hills of Tuscany. What’s more, you can use them in your cooking too!

An outdoor rug is a great idea as it anchors your design and can bring a colour scheme together. It also solidifies the idea that it’s an outdoor room, an extension of your home. Lighting is also key because if you get the design right, then you and your guests will want to stay there chatting away till it gets dark. Solar lights are a great option here as you don’t need to worry about wiring or electrics. If you do have outdoor sockets though, then perhaps an outdoor floor lamp or festoon lights could work?

Another way to create a feeling of relaxation in an outdoor space is to add a water feature. The constant trickle of soothing water has a calming influence on the soul and can also distract you from other less comforting sounds around you. Do make sure whatever you choose has a soft, subtle flow though. You don’t want to constantly feel like you need to pop to the loo!

Two Tone Parasol and the Indoor Outdoor Acacia Lounger and Footstool also by Cox & Cox.
A water feature can transcend calm and tranquility.

Don’t Forget About The Sun!

For those, like me, that need shade during the Summer months, a classic parasol is much needed. Make sure it has a good heavy weight included, so not to come loose and fly. Many of them now come with wheels attached too, so it’s easy to move around. Consider using a mirror in your outside space, particularly if you are spatially challenged. It will reflect the world around you and make the area feel much larger. It’s also great for those last minute hair checks before guests arrive!

Finally, we mustn’t forget taste! There’s nothing more life-affirming than sharing a meal with friends and family. The cooking is up to you, but I can help you with the table and glassware. Again, choose something that has texture or a rustic feel. Summer food is vibrant and usually a lot healthier than the Winter comfort food we’ve been used to. So, present your salad of rocket, tomatoes, goat’s cheese, fennel and pear (yummy, right?) on something that acts as a backdrop to the drama! They’re not just plates, they are the stage on which your culinary play is enacted! Don’t forget to add a little vase of flowers in the centre of your table too! It’s the little finishing touches that make all the difference.

Make The Most Of A Courtyard, Patio or Deck

We currently have a side deck at our airbnb and renovation project @theharbourdeckhouse , but we have just received planning permission for a front balcony too. To give you some idea of size, the balcony will be about five metres by 1.4 meters and the side deck is three metres by five meters. So, not at all spacious, but I plan to get a lot in and in doing so, I’ll illustrate how you can do the same to make the most of your small outside space.

I’ve been working with Cox & Cox , one of my all time favourite brands, on this project and all of the beautiful furniture and outdoor Summer goodies I’ve used are available on their website. I’m going with a blue and white colour palette, with hints of yellow for a slightly nautical look as we are by the coast. I’ve attached a handy mini carousel shop for all the Cox & Cox products for your perusal.

So, first of all lets look at a courtyard or deck space. More often than not the area will be rectangular. It’s important to use all the space you have, but without making it feel crowded. Even if you are a maximalist and like things to be busy, everything still needs to have its place and feel balanced and curated.

The most important part of your garden is the seating area. This is where you will spend most of your time. For our deck I have chosen the Albany Corner Dining Set. It has a dark grey powder coated aluminium frame with Acacia wood on the arms and back of the seats as well as the table top. The seat cushions are made from a plush brushed-linen type fabric, which is water repellent.

The Albany Corner Dining Set with Juni Tableware and Fluted Wine glasses and Tumblers. Finished with the Whitewashed Vase. Tasselled Throw with Blue Stripe, Outdoor Rug with Blue stripe, Soft Wool Throw in French mustard and the Stonewashed Linen Rectangular Cushion in white. On the wall is the Large Slim Black Framed Round Mirror all by Cox & Cox.
A room with a view!

This is a great option to utilise a corner. It comes with a separate bench too, so in all it seats 6-7 people comfortably. The cushions will need to brought inside when it’s raining or stored in a container if you have room.

I’ve styled up the corner dining set with soft cushions including the Velvet & Linen Rectangular Cushion and the Velvet & Linen Square Cushion, both in blue. To contrast those I also went for the Washed Linen Rectangular Cushion in white. I’ve used comfy throws like the Soft Wool Throw with blue French stripe and the mustard French stripe for a pop of Summer colour. I absolutely loved using the Tasselled Blue Stripe Throw too for a sense of fun.

You could also look at the new Indoor Outdoor Herringbone Reversible Throw in blue and the Indoor Outdoor Large Square Cushion in soft blue. I’ve brought the blue and white look together using the Indoor Outdoor Coast Rug with blue stripe. It’s made from PVC, but has a soft look and feel.

At either end of the corner set I’ve planted up some gorgeous Striped Concrete Planters, which is a set of three and then another set of two Striped Standing Planters, which have waterproof pale wood legs. I have filled them with herbs and delicate lilac Scabious and Lithodora Heavenly Blue, which will eventually cascade down the sides.

For the lighting I have used the Extendable Drop Festoon Lights, which do need to be plugged in. If you don’t have a power source, then why not try the Solar Teardrop Cage Festoon Lights or the Two Solar Pendant Cage Lights. Finally, I have added the Black Slim Frame Round Mirror to make the space feel so much larger than it is. It also is incredibly stylish and bang on trend!

Setting The Scene At The Table

We’re really motoring on now with making the most of a small outside space. To create a beautiful scene at the dining table I’ve opted for the Juni Dinnerware, which is crafted in porcelain. Each piece is unique because of the glazed finish, resulting in a speckled surface and rim. It has a rustic, yet contemporary feel, perfect for those Summer days. The Gold Cutlery set is the perfect choice to accompany the dinnerware and adds a touch of drama and sophistication.

For the drinks, I always think it’s important to feel like you are sipping our of something luxurious. It’s not just about what’s in the glass. The glass is half of the experience. The Six Fluted Wine Glasses – clear glass and the Six Fluted Tumblers are styled on a vintage French design. They add instant sex appeal to not only the table, but the person holding the glass!

In the centre of the table I have placed the Whitewashed Bottle Vase with it’s rustic geometric pattern. I’ve placed some simple pretty white daisies in it for a sense of tranquility. An alternative option is the Bamboo and Seagrass Glass Vase. I’m serving after lunch coffee in the Six Enamelled Mugs – black. These are so cute, with white enamel on the inside. I’ll be keeping some of these at our deckhouse for when it becomes an Airbnb.

Balcony Styling

As we haven’t built our balcony yet, I cordoned off a smaller area on our deck to show you how a smaller space can be styled. Here, I kept the Outdoor Striped Rug as a base and then added two Indoor Outdoor Acacia Lounge Chairs and Footstools. This styling is all about spending time with someone you love. It’s a space for two. Again, I have gone for the Velvet and Linen Rectangular Cushions in blue as they add a touch of luxury and softness. I’ve paired them with the Solna Striped Throws in grey. These are made from cotton and have tactile white tassels.

Either side of the chairs I have placed the planters again and in the centre is a Mila Side Table in grey. For an small table that can stay outside, look at the Indoor Outdoor Concrete Topped Side Table.

To add that little bit of drama I have also included the Standing Round Water Feature, which has the same waterproof legs as the planters. To finish off the look there is the Two Tone Parasol in blue. It’s über stylish and has a feel of the Amalfi Coast. It comes with a heavy weighted base, which is on casters, so it’s easily moved.

That’s it, we’re now all set for a stylish afternoon in the sunshine with friends. However small your outside space is you can make it look incredible and really make the most of your outside space. Just follow my easy steps to create your own outdoor room. Before you know it you’ll be sipping something fabulous and feeling like you’ve been transported to warmer climes. Chin chin!

JP Clark signature

I will not receive commission for any sales made via this post. However, this post is part of a paid partnership with Cox & Cox.

For more information on our deckhouse, why not read my blog post about it? The Harbour Deckhouse – Breathing New Life Into A 60s Icon.

Why not follow my main Instagram account as we will soon be starting a renovation of a grand Victorian Townhouse! @jpslifeandloves


  1. April 11, 2021 / 10:09 am

    I enjoyed that tremendously and all your great ideas, fantastic. Can’t wait to get started 👍

    • JP Clark
      April 11, 2021 / 10:33 am

      Thank you so much Stephanie, very kind. Xx

  2. Maz
    April 11, 2021 / 11:36 am

    Love what you’ve done here JP – looks so refined and relaxing with a nod to the US that you love.
    I’d missed from your grid that you’d found a new big renovation project. So pleased for you and Mr C xx

    • JP Clark
      April 15, 2021 / 2:20 pm

      Thank you Max. Just waiting for the purchase to go through. Fingers crossed. X

  3. Jean Molloy
    April 11, 2021 / 6:30 pm

    Lovely read as always JP. Inspired by you yet again, all I need is the weather!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Deckhouse - Book Now