Outdoor Furniture Layout Plans for a Small Patio — 5 Ideas Landscape Designers Say You Should Try

Maximize your outdoor living space by adding a touch of character with these tips and tricks from experts

an outdoor patio set
(Image credit: McGee & Co)

Finding the right outdoor furniture layout can be quite the task — especially if you have a small patio. So if you want to make the most of a limited area, it's worth taking careful consideration and listening to advice from experts.

'Having a good outdoor furniture layout helps you maximize the use of your space,' says Kat Aul Cervoni, landscape designer and founder of Staghorn NYC and The Cultivation by Kat. 'It improves functionality and overall can lead you to use the space more efficiently and more frequently. First, ask yourself, what do I want to use the space for? For example, do you see yourself grilling, dining or lounging and hanging out?'

With that in mind, here are 5 outdoor furniture layout plans from landscape designers that will help enhance your patio ideas for the summer season.

1. L-shaped sectional with coffee table and lounge chairs

NYC Landscape project by Staghorn Living of a L shaped sofa

(Image credit: Project: Staghorn Living)

L-shaped sectionals aren't just for large lounge areas. New York-based landscape designer, Kat Aul Cervoni has successfully used one in a layout on a compact Park Avenue roof terrace. If you're looking for the best outdoor furniture for small spaces, then an elegant configuration with L shaped lounge chairs would work just as well on a small patio.

'For lounge-focused outside spaces, I like using an L-shaped sectional sofa, especially to nestle into an otherwise tricky corner space,' says Kat. 'This pairs well with a generous coffee table and if space allows, one or two lounge chairs. If there is enough space, I’ll opt for arm chairs from the same collection as the sofa for continuity. Other times, I like going with chairs that complement the sofa but aren't identical. The aim with the Park Avenue project was to strike a balance between airiness and privacy, so the lounge area and dining area are connected via a corridor of plantings, which include ornamental grasses, flowering perennials and evergreen shrubs.'

'When designing a small outdoor space, I love using L-shaped sofas too,' says New York-based landscape designer, Amber Freda. 'They can take the place of chaise lounges, since you can easily just put your feet up on the sofa or on ottomans, instead. Chaise lounges are a pretty inefficient use of space for a small patio because they take up so much room and don’t work for entertaining guests.'

2. Love seat with small tables and chairs

Anjou outdoor sofa with two tables in the middle of the patio

(Image credit: Satara Australia)

It's not just the size of a small patio that can make it tricky to furnish, the shape and orientation will impact the layout too. So as you start to think about your Modern small patio ideas, keep these details in mind.

'Oftentimes I find that apartments and condos are built with narrow, rectangular patio and balcony spaces that can feel tricky to find the right layout for,' says Kat Aul Cervoni. 'One of my go-to layouts to maximize these spaces is to use a loveseat at one end that faces out with a small coffee table in front as a lounge area. Then a bistro table with two chairs opposite this for dining. Fermob has excellent space-savvy and chic options for furnishing small outdoor spaces.'

3. Cozy bistro nook

Ringo chair, Sierra by Umbra with hanging plants against a wood panelled wall

Ringo chair, Sierra from Umbra

(Image credit: Umbra)

In a super-small outdoor living space where there isn't room for separate lounge and dining areas, look for flexible furniture that can double up for both activities. 'For extra small spaces that are only going to allow for one set of furnishings, I like using two chairs that feel like extra-comfy dining end chairs or two extra lean armchairs combined with a slightly taller than usual coffee table, or a small (24”-30” diameter) round café table,' says Kat. 'The idea here is that the space can work for casual dining or lounging - totally flexible and chic.'

Nina Lichtenstein, founder and principal designer, Custom Home Design by Nina Lichtenstein, tells us: 'On a small patio, a bistro set is a quintessential choice that combines style and functionality. If space is really tight, opt for a round, foldable bistro table paired with two slender, armless chairs. Place the table against one side of the patio, ideally near a wall or railing, to open up the central area and maintain a spacious feel.

Nina continues: 'This layout not only provides a delightful spot for morning coffee or evening drinks but also allows for easy movement around the patio. To enhance the cozy ambiance, add a small, vertical garden or wall-mounted planters nearby, bringing greenery without encroaching on floor space. String lights or a compact outdoor lantern can further elevate the atmosphere, creating a warm and inviting nook perfect for intimate gatherings.'

4. Dine and lounge combo 

outdoor patio with lounging and dining areas with plants scattered around the space

(Image credit: Future / Paul Raeside)

It is possible to include separate lounging and dining areas even on a small patio if you're savvy with space and choose flexible furnishings. A lounge and dine combo is one of Nina Lichtenstein's preferred go-to.

She tells us: 'An excellent layout for a small patio is the lounge and dine combo, which merges relaxation with functionality. Start with a compact, rectangular dining table with a bench on one side and two stackable chairs on the other. Position the table along one edge of the patio, leaving enough room for easy access. Opposite the dining area, place a small outdoor loveseat or a pair of cushioned chairs, with a petite coffee table in between'.

Nina notes that this arrangement 'creates distinct zones for dining and lounging, maximizing the use of space without feeling cramped. Choose multi-functional furniture, like a bench with storage and stackable chairs, to keep the area tidy and versatile. Adding a vibrant outdoor rug and a few decorative pillows can tie the space together, making it both practical and aesthetically pleasing,' Nina adds.

Amber Freda says rectangular tables also work well for small spaces, adding: 'Rectangular tables that can extend also work well for small spaces where you want the flexibility of going from four or six person seating up to eight or ten person seating for a special occasion.'

5. Square configuration with sofa opposite two lounge chairs

Outdoor compact sofa opposite two lounge chairs from Havenly

(Image credit: Havenly)

A square layout looks smart and can maximize a petite patio, particularly when the look is pulled together with some of the best outdoor rugs and coordinating accessories. If space allows add a firepit, a parasol and planters.

'A compact sofa with a pair of armchairs opposite and a coffee table in between is also a great way to seat people comfortably in a small outdoor space,' says Amber Freda. 'The benefit of this arrangement over an L-shaped sofa is that people can have their own space more. It also allows the flexibility of being able to move the armchairs to the sides of the table or elsewhere on the patio, when needed.'

New York-based landscape designer, Jonathan Fargion says:'There is also the classic two sofas in front of each other (2 or 3 seater), and either 2 or 4 armchairs to close the square, with a coffee table in the middle and a few side tables for the armchair, depending on the size of the space. I prefer to use metal furniture, it's weather resistant and typically easy to move as it is fairly light. It's also fun to be able to play with fabric, if you can custom order that, or just play with a series of throw pillows (and throw blanket for the fall) which add a lot of character and can transform the most typical sofa into something more special.'

'I tend to avoid a sectional sofa outside as it feels very "interior" like rather than garden-like and it is very bulky and hard to move if you have to store it during the winter time,' cautions Jonathan. 'And remember, all furniture should have at least a winter cover.'

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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.