Small Patio Decorating Ideas: An Urban Oasis Revisited

Courtney Lake

Article Posted By: Courtney Lake

of Courtney Out Loud

Small Patio Decorating Ideas: An Urban Oasis Revisited, by Courtney Lake

Sometimes even the most talented decorators and designers rethink what they’ve done.

Courtney Lake of Courtney Out Loud has participated in our Patio Style Challenge before. His small patio decorating ideas resulted in a lovely, comfortable outdoor space. But, as you’ll see, he noticed neither he nor his guests were using the space quite in the way he intended. A tweak was called for.

So we signed him up for a second round of our Patio Style Challenge. As with other such Challenges, we sent him a new outdoor furniture set, and let him work his magic… in this case, he re-worked his magic. It’s fascinating to see how he has now twice created a marvelous outdoor space with his small patio.

He also reveals why he’s so enamored with succulents and cacti. Many readers will understand exactly what he’s talking about.

Let’s be honest, I am a city boy to my core. I send my laundry out for cleaning, order take-out more often than I should and “roughing it” to me means going to a hotel that doesn’t have an attached gym. So when we bought our Oakland home a few years ago and it came with its own little patch of land, I immediately thought I would turn over a new leaf and become the urban equivalent of Farmer John.

Fast forward several years and I would label myself less farmer and more executioner because I have killed most of the plants I have come in contact with, including ivy. For those of you who don’t know, ivy is essentially a pretty weed which has amazing regenerative powers to rival any super hero character. I am ivy’s kryptonite. The nursery attendants at our local Home Depot know me on a first-name basis. It’s pretty bad, so when I got the call to participate in the Patio Challenge, I gazed at my patio and determined it was time to take ownership. Or to pave it over and turn it into a really great parking lot.

Fortunately, I was talked out of the latter…

Small Patio Decorating Ideas: An Urban Oasis Revisited

Looking at our patio, I determined that we need to do two things: (1) rethink how we used the two distinct zones we created last year, and (2) be honest with my level of gardening expertise as well as my commitment to maintenance.

First on the list was rethinking and evaluating how we used our patio. We initially had a space for eating and a space for lounging. It was great in theory, but not in application. We rarely used the outdoor dining table, and the bench seating we had in the lounge zone, while it looked great, was too removed from the rest of the patio. Knowing what didn’t work, we set out to tweak the footprint of the layout and make the space more usable.

Small Patio Decorating Ideas: Loveseat from the Brown Jordan Collection at The Home Depot

So bye-bye went the dining set and in came this new loveseat from the Brown Jordan Collection at The Home Depot. Extra-deep, plush and comfortable, it is the perfect location to cozy up with a magazine or take an afternoon nap. Not that I nap during the week, but if I had the occasion, I would totally be here. We paired it with an existing outdoor coffee table and a pair of low-backed chairs to create a conversation area.

Small Patio Decorating Ideas: A pair of lounge chairs and a fire pit

Where our lounge zone once stood, we replaced the benches with a pair of lounge chairs also from the Brown Jordan for Home Depot Collection. Set against the backdrop of our privacy hedges, the chairs are the perfect spot to snuggle by the fire pit and talk about the day’s events. While we lost seating, what we have found is that the spot is one of the favorites for guests who love throwing a blanket across their laps and chatting away at parties.

But what I think is the real reason folks go crazy over this spot is that the lounge chairs recline to reveal a foot rest. Yes, people …a foot rest. It’s the little things in life I have come to appreciate. From a design perspective, a well-integrated and slim-profile recliner is like finding $20 in your pocket–a welcome surprise no one has ever been disappointed to discover.

Small Patio Decorating Ideas: Ottoman coffee table combo

As I said, we lost seating when I got rid of the lounge zone, but we were able to make it up thanks to this ottoman coffee table combo from the same Brown Jordan Collection. It’s an ingenious little work horse of furniture that easily provides seating for two, along with a place to set drinks. It may be my new furniture crush. And yes, I have crushes on inanimate objects and have torrid love affairs with chairs, lamps and the occasional rug.

Small Patio Decorating Ideas: A grill with a slightly retro look

And speaking of crushes, I think The Partner is having a torrid love affair with his new Char-Broil grill. While I fell in love with the slightly retro look of the grill, he was excited to revert back to charcoal for adventures in smoking and curing. To be on the safe side, I have the fire department on speed dial and a fire extinguisher ready should his grilling prowess not be up to snuff.

Small Patio Decorating Ideas: Cacti, succulents, native grasses and herbs

Small Patio Decorating Ideas: Cacti, succulents, native grasses and herbs

Small Patio Decorating Ideas: Cacti, succulents, native grasses and herbs

With the zones planned, I set out to evaluate my commitment to gardening.

As mentioned, I kill most plants…except for succulents. For some reason, they thrive under my abuse. The more I ignore them, the better they look, so I figured why fight it and just go whole hog. I visited our local Home Depot Garden Center and the associates gave me a mini-tutorial on drought-tolerant and shade-loving plants, as well as succulents. An hour later, I was out the door with an abundance of cacti, succulents, native grasses and herbs.

I know – one of these isn’t like the other, but the herbs were my one concession that if they died, I wouldn’t feel bad since they are seasonable plus edible. We will see how long they last, but the mix of the textures from the herbs, grasses and succulents is the perfect addition to the patio greenery.

Small Patio Decorating Ideas: A small planting bench

And to see if I can atone for my past plant sins, I created a small planting bench/succulent “hospital” for those plants that seem to be ailing. It’s a great way to try out plants that I may not be familiar with as well as see if I can nurse any plants back to health.

I like to think of this as my way of remembering all the plants that have fallen to my black thumb in the past. As the sun sets and the nights become warmer (well, as warm as they will get in the Bay Area), I am excited to use my new patio and enjoy my own little patch of greenery in the concrete jungle I call home.

Small Patio Decorating Ideas: Succulents

Photography: Photo by Adza  

Courtney Lake is a Bay Area interior designer and the voice behind the lifestyle blog Courtney Out Loud. A graduate of Stanford University, he worked in high-tech marketing and events before launching his successful interior design business, Courtney Lake Interiors. His writing and work has been featured on television, online and in print including: Life & Style Magazine, The Nate Berkus Show, Dabble Magazine, Apartment Therapy and many others. When not designing, he can be found in the kitchen, testing recipes on his partner and playing with his loveable mutt, Scruffy.

For more small patio decorating ideas and inspiration, see other Patio Style Challenges as well as our Patio Style Challenge pinboard on Pinterest. And browse our online Outdoor Living Department for everything you need for your deck, backyard or garden.

Style Challenge is a series of articles from guest contributors who aim to bring you fresh inspiration and ideas for your home and garden using a single Home Depot product as a starting point. Courtney received a patio set from The Home Depot and a gift card. The opinions and ideas Courtney expressed are his own.