Small garden decking ideas – 9 ways to extend your tiny outdoor living space

From circular designs to walkways, add these small garden decking ideas to your space for time spent better outdoors

a small triangular garden deck
(Image credit: Charlotte Rowe Garden Design)

Your small garden decking ideas don't have to be diminutive, just because the space you're dealing with is. Decking has come a long way since it first gained popularity in the 1990s. Nowadays, the top ideas combine style and substance, creativity and color and put the fun in functionality. 

Plus, if you pick the right deck ideas, you can also increase the value of your property and elevate the look and feel of your outdoor space. 

With the brighter days (and nights) finally making an appearance. That can only mean one thing: it's time to breathe some life into your space, whether that's rooftop or courtyard or anything else, with new small garden ideas – and the deck is a great place to start. 

9 clever small garden decking ideas to consider

1. Make your decking multi-purpose 

a garden deck with pressure treated wood

(Image credit: Staghorn)

No matter what the top garden trends are of the year, when it comes to your outside space, functionality is key. And the same goes for your decking.

Make your decking a multi-purpose space that can be used for work and play. Just like this pine example from Kat Aul Cervoni, founder of New York City-based landscape design firm Staghorn

'Pressure-treated pine is the most affordable decking material and it’s typically sustainable,' says Kat. 

‘Its color isn’t for everyone, but it’s a great candidate for staining which also helps give it some protection and last a bit longer. However, it'll be the fastest of different types of decking to decompose and need replacing.’

2. Opt for simple straight lines 

a small garden deck made from cedar

(Image credit: Staghorn)

As with most modern garden ideas, sometimes less is actually so much more. Take this simple, yet stunning, and sustainable take on a small outside space. With its long lines of decking laid horizontally, this design trick can help make any compact space even bigger.  

Plus, this design ticks off another decking trend – and that's using real wood decking to add a design-led touch. Crafted with soft cedar decking, which is typically sustainable, you can create a welcoming outside area that's backed with quality materials. 

But the list of credentials doesn't stop there. Cedarwood is also naturally insect and rot-resistant, so it's a win-win if you live in a rainy climate and are prone to spotting insects. 

‘Cedarwood comes with a lovely, warm mid-toned color sometimes with pink undertones,' says Kat. 'It can technically be stained but is often left on its own or given a clear coat since its natural color is so nice. It even has a subtle, delightful aroma.’ 

3. Choose diagonal decking 

a curved diagonal decking around a pond

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

Make your decking the star of the show by mixing up the way it's laid. While horizontal decking can make your outside space look wider, laying your decking vertically can make your bijou balcony look longer. There are many reasons why you might lay your decking diagonally, especially if you're looking at how to make a small garden look bigger

Laying diagonal decking can actually strengthen your deck. Plus, it adds even more interest to any small space. 

'Get creative with the board orientations such as with diagonal lines or even chevrons,' Kat tells us. 'And don’t forget the border!' 

'Wider planks with mitered corners can give a traditional feel while a floating picture-frame style border can bring a more contemporary vibe.'

4. Design a seamless transition 

a small deck in a london home's garden

(Image credit: Lisa Linder)

Bring the inside, out, by choosing decking that seamlessly transitions between your indoors to your outdoors. 

Installing decking can be a great way of achieving a level threshold between house and garden,' London-based garden designer Sheila Jack tells us. 'It can often be installed above existing paving (eliminating the cost to remove old materials) and you can hide drainage, irrigation, and power cables within the substructure. ‘

'In this North London scheme, a seamless transition between house and garden was achieved using ‘Design board’ from London Stone, a low maintenance alternative to traditional timber decking.

 ‘Hardwood or composite decking also has a natural warmth underfoot which makes it an ideal material for barefoot transition between house and garden,' says Sheila. 'Decking can also be an effective way of achieving a high-quality finish for roof terrace schemes where depth and weight loading are an issue.’

5. Create a circular deck

eco decking in a round patio with bench seating and tropical plants

(Image credit: Catherine Clancy Garden Design)

Got an awkward space? Want to add a stand-out entertainment area to your back garden? Or, do you just want to venture away from the traditional square-shaped decking? Whatever your reason, we hear you. 

Thankfully, the 2022 decking options are endless when it comes to revitalizing your outside space. 

Entertain, relax and catch some rays in a decked seating area with a difference. Coming with curvilinear and geometric designs, this tropical garden idea complements the deck with plants to create a lush urban jungle that will help you escape the hustle and bustle of city living. 

6. Keep your decking simple but sophisticated 

painted garden decking and dences

(Image credit: Cuprinol)

We've said it before and we'll say it again: the best ideas are always the simplest. Take this design as your lead. If you've never thought about covering your whole outside space in decking, this idea will make you want to. 

Although we're big fans of a gorgeous green space, a fully decked garden is worth its weight in gold. Why? Decking helps to level out awkward slopes and create a destination for eating, entertaining, relaxing and more. Decking also lends itself well to container gardening, meaning you can fill your space with greenery with pots. 

So pair wooden decking back to your slatted wood fence and slatted wood built-in bench seating for a cohesive look. And try painting, staining, or bleaching the decking to create a more modern feel. 

7. Choose shades of gray 

gray decking materials

(Image credit: Future)

When looking at how to design a small garden, consider your deck color choice carefully. Introducing too many colors, finishes and materials in a tiny space can make it look crowded, while with the right combination you can actually make a small garden feel bigger. 

This tonal gray balcony garden idea works brilliantly in this way to soften the boundaries of the deck to create a more generous feel to this outdoor space. 

Just add some tree or screening to create some privacy to your decking, perhaps a few lights to set the mood and you're good to go.

8. Create a walk way 

a decked path in a narrow garden

(Image credit: Matthew Williams)

Decking can be used as a narrow garden idea too, but don't just take our word for it. This clever rooftop garden design proves it. 

The walkway tricks the eye into showing off the length of the outside space, instead of drawing your attention to the width. But it also adds a playful feel to the area. 

Finish it off with some raised flower beds complete with the best trees for small gardens, pebbles, a built-in cooking spot and a patch of grass. Who said you can't have it all?

9. Introduce different levels 

a small triangular garden deck

(Image credit: Charlotte Rowe Garden Design)

Create the illusion of a bigger space with decking that's built on different levels. 

Whether it's a space to chill, cook or relax and rest – split level decking is an easy way to define different zones in your small space.  After all, we use the rooms in our home for different functions, so why shouldn't we treat our outside space the same? 

Once you've decided on how many zones you'll inject into your space, now it's time to think about plants. If you've got a tiny outdoor area, you might think you can't go big on trees, right? But that's not the case. From potted olive trees to Japanese Maples. The best trees for small gardens add to your decking – not take it away. 

How do you build a small garden deck?

'If you have a bit of DIY knowledge, some tools and a helper handy (and a bit of confidence!) you could even build a small garden deck yourself,' says Charles Walton, founder of BillyOh

Pick a spot and think about shade, privacy, and how close to your house you want to be. Measure the area you want to use for your deck and create a to-scale plan to work off. Check local regulations on the height of your deck at this point. 

Then, measure and mark out your proposed deck area and adjust until it’s square. At this point, you can set marker pegs and a string line.

Next, you’ll remove the turf and vegetation from the proposed area. In the corners, dig holes to set your posts in and drop them onto a concrete or hardcore base. You’ll then prop and finally set these posts in place. Just make sure to use treated timber at all stages!

Repeat this process in the centers between your corner posts. Once you have your posts set around the perimeter, you’ll measure and secure level joists. (Make sure there’s a slight fall for water runoff)

You'll have to repeat the last couple of steps with a line of posts and joists 'through the guts'. 

Lay landscaping fabric (or a waterproof membrane), and either secure with steel pegs or gravel.

Add more joists with noggins secured between them until you have a full deck framework. If you want steps, you’ll build them up at this point before laying and securing your decking.

Lastly, add fascia boards to finish and build up the surrounding soil to cover any gaps.

a backyard deck with sun loungers

(Image credit: Divine Savages)

What can you use instead of decking?

'If decking doesn’t seem like the right choice for you, a patio is a great alternative option for a small garden,' says Kat Aul Cervoni, founder of New York City-based landscape design firm Staghorn. 'Patios are an ideal option for small gardens that need some privacy as they are built at ground level.' 

'Patios can be built in just about any size or shape which is helpful for small garden spaces. One of my favorite patio materials is bluestone which is both versatile in style and extremely long-lasting. In modern space, I love using thermal bluestone pavers for a crisp, streamlined look. Their blue-gray color reads beautifully as a cooling neutral in a garden. 

'My other favorite patio material is brick which tends to work well with traditional-leaning homes. Bricks offer numerous color choices and also provide opportunities for using recycled material. A brick patio is a fun place to play with interesting patterns such as herringbone, basketweave, or a traditional running bond. Brick is particularly convenient in small spaces because of its small size and the fact that it doesn’t require any large tools to be installed. Brick and stone patios are both relatively low-maintenance, sustainable and long-lasting options for your small garden.'

Freelance writer

Becks is a freelance lifestyle writer who works across a number of Future's titles. This includes Real Homes, Top Ten Reviews, Tom's Guide, TechRadar and more. She started her career in print journalism at a local newspaper more than 8 years ago and has since then worked across digital and social media for food, fashion and fitness titles, along with home interior magazines. Her own interior style? She's big on creating mindful spaces in every corner of her home. If it doesn't spark joy or happiness, it has no place here. When she’s not writing, she’s reading and when she’s not reading, she’s writing.