6 Deck Furniture Layout Ideas That Work Brilliantly — Even for Furnishing Small Patios

Expert advice on sociable, stylish and comfortable deck furniture layouts that make the most of every inch

outdoor storage bench as seating
(Image credit: Project: XS Space)

The best deck furniture layout ideas for your yard will ensure a comfortable and convivial place to relax and entertain during the warmer months. 

Patios, terraces and decks became "outdoor rooms" long ago, yet there can still be a tendency to plonk some ill-fitting furniture outside and just expect it to work. It may if you're lucky. However, for an outside space that you and your guests can enjoy to the max, give as much consideration to the type, size, style and layout of the furniture outdoors as you would if you were arranging it indoors.

Measuring the space, observing the way the sun falls, and thinking about whether you want to lounge, cook, entertain or eat will lead you to the best outdoor furniture choices for you.

'While it may seem like a trivial task, getting your deck furniture right requires a bit of deeper introspection than one might think,' says Julie Farris, New York-based landscape designer and founder, XS Space. 

So what do experts recommend ?

1. Avoid over-furnishing 

deck with lounge and dining furniture

(Image credit: Project: XS Space / Photography: Matthew Williams)

'The main thing to remember is not to over-furnish,' continues Julie Farris. 'You need a lot less furniture than you think in a garden or backyard deck, and too much can feel busy quickly. In an outdoor space, less is more, and quality is key.  

'I usually go out once the landscape is installed to literally tape out on the ground how something will look in a space.  

'This can also inform other things you might not have considered—i.e. how you actually move through the space vs how you see the design on a plan, or whether a window is blocked by the back of a chair etc.'

'The furniture type and layout you opt for should certainly reflect the size and shape of your deck space, but also your lifestyle,' says Kat Aul Cervoni, landscape designer and founder, Staghorn NYC.

'Be honest with yourself about what you will use your space for most frequently as that is what you should design your layout around. Do you want to be grilling, outdoor dining or just hanging out? 

'How many people do you want to accommodate? It’s fun to be able to host 12 people for dinner, but if it’s only once a year, it’s not a practical way to set up your furnishings.'

2. Choose an L-shaped sectional and fire pit for sociability

L-shaped outdoor sofa with a fire pit

(Image credit: Project: Assembledge+ / Photography: Laure Joliet)

As with furnishing a living room, an L-shaped sectional sofa is great for creating a comfortable and sociable seating area. It's ideal for two people who want to lounge, or for accommodating a crowd, when you're entertaining friends and family. 

'When planning to furnish a deck, it’s important to account for circulation and breathing room around the furniture,' says David Thompson, Principal and Founder of Los Angeles-based architecture firm Assembledge+.

'L shaped sectionals are a versatile way to bring comfortable seating to any outdoor area. They can be large to accommodate lively gatherings or an intimate place. 

'Adding a fire pit and a couple of side chairs to create a circular arrangement works great to create a zone for relaxing and storytelling.

'In larger outdoor areas, start by allocating 3’ clear space around each seat as a rule of thumb and arrange accordingly from there. If the outdoor space is expansive, the use of large planters, sculptures, or site walls creates distinct zones that provide a more appropriate scale for lounging.'

3. Team a sofa with a lounge chair in a small space

outdoor sofa with lounge chair and fire pit

(Image credit: Project: Assemblage+ / Photography: Jennifer Hughes)

Not every outdoor living room has room for a large L-shaped sectional sofa. If that's your situation, a small outdoor sofa or bench with a lounge chair placed perpendicular is a space-saving way to provide a similar sociable seating layout.  

'Pairing a bench or straight sofa with a lounge chair is perfect for smaller spaces as it provides a variety of seating options with only a couple of pieces of furniture,' says David Thompson. 

'Adding a circular or square coffee table pulls the space together and provides a place for people to kick up their feet. If the outdoor space is in a sunny spot, consider placing an umbrella between the sofa and chair to maximize shade.'

It's important to consider storage when your outdoor furniture is not in use too. Will a cover be sufficient, or will you need to bring things in during the winter?

'In New York City, I am usually dealing with smaller spaces that need to be flexible,' says Julie Farris. 'So I'm always looking for beautiful outdoor sofas and loveseats that are comfortable in rope or mesh.

'I love lightweight rope chairs too. They can also function as overflow for a dining table in a pinch. I love mesh because it doesn’t require cushions. The storage of outdoor cushions is virtually impossible for most in NYC, deprived of extra space.'

4. Place a sofa opposite two lounge chairs

outdoor sofa with two lounge chairs placed opposite

(Image credit: Alamy)

'Another go-to layout for a lounge space is a 3+ seater sofa on one side, a rectangular outdoor coffee table in front and two arm chairs opposite this, so the chairs face the coffee table and sofa,' says Kat Aul Cervoni.

'If a rectangular coffee table isn’t your thing, try two round coffee tables next to each other. And if there is enough space, add in a small side table or two (round is great) between the arm chairs and even next to the sofa for drinks, phones, etc.'

Opt for stackable chairs and side tables or stools if you're going to need to store outdoor furniture in a shed during the winter. This will save space and protect it from the elements, so it stays looking good.

5. Consider a bench for dining seating or storage

outdoor storage bench as seating

(Image credit: Project: XS Space)

If you don't have space for a separate lounge area and dining space, a built-in bench can provide seating for both. It could even offer storage for gardening equipment too.

'I have designed a few spaces where the fence becomes a storage bench, which maximizes space and is also very functional,' says Julie. 'In narrow spaces, placing a dining table with a bench up against a wall or privacy fence with chairs or stools on the opposite side allows for a flexibility of seating options,' says David.

'People can move their stools or chairs around while the bench provides a more familial seating arrangement and also takes up less space.'

'Many of us have long narrow decks off the back of our houses and one of my favorite ways to maximize that space is with a narrow rectangular dining table - these are great for seating six or more people,' says Kat. 

'If space is especially tight, using two long benches that can tuck in under the table when not in use is a great way to save space.' 

6. Blend furniture with the surroundings

outdoor seating area with steel fire pit

(Image credit: Project: Assembledge+ / Photography: Lisa Romerein)

Although decks and patios have become outdoor rooms, it is still important for the outside to look like the outside. Choosing natural materials for your furniture and including plenty of plants or different layers in your layout will support this.

'I tend to veer towards enduring furnishings that are neutrals (gray, beige, charcoal, black) and made of natural materials, such as stone, wood or rope, so that the plants can be the main event in a space,' says Julie.

'I also like furnishings that have a sculptural form and can be beautiful through the winter months; the less fussy, the better.

'Quality is especially important in areas that have extreme freeze/thaw conditions—if you leave your furnishing out they need to be able to endure the climatic conditions of your area.'

'When connecting different outdoor areas such as a dining and a lounge spot, visual connection is key,' says David. 'They should be far enough away to avoid crowding, but each area should enliven the other. 

'Consider establishing different levels in the landscaping ideas, allowing one area to be higher than the other or plant taller grasses or cacti which help to screen one area from the other and add visual interest.'

Jacky Parker is a London-based freelance journalist and content creator, specialising in interiors, travel and food. From buying guides and real home case studies to shopping and news pages, she produces a wide range of features for national magazines and SEO content for websites

A long-time contributor to Livingetc, as a member of the team, she regularly reports on the latest trends, speaking to experts and discovering the latest tips. Jacky has also written  for other publications such as Homes and Gardens, Ideal Home, Red, Grand Designs, Sunday Times Style and AD, Country Homes and Interiors and ELLE Decoration.