Style Expert

Adding Big Style to a Tiny Patio

After an easy, breezy weekend makeover, a teeny-weeny Atlanta patio gets a big boost of style

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A posh patio in pleasing shades of purple.

A busy director of public relations for a nonprofit, Meghann hasn’t had time to properly decorate or enjoy her patio. Style Expert Brian Patrick Flynn viewed it as the perfect opportunity to infuse color, update the outdoor furnishings, add accents, and bring a pop of style to her patio space …

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When I first started out in the design industry, the decorator I worked for asked me, “What are your least favorite colors?” I’d never really thought about it before, but after about 30 seconds, I enthusiastically replied, “I hate, hate, hate flesh tones and purples. Flesh tones make me think of dermatology, and purples are straight-up tacky.” Authoritatively she said, “Use those hues in your next project, and I guarantee one of them will become your favorite color.”

Ten years later, violet is, hands-down, the most-used color in my portfolio. In fact, I’ve gone purple-tastic three times in the past month designing outdoor spaces. So when my client Meghann decided to finish the final phase of her lavender-toned, urban Atlanta loft, I jumped at the opportunity to transform her teeny-weeny patio into something as royally modern as her interior. And as for where I currently stand with flesh tones, well, let’s just say that Meghann’s patio was flesh-toned… and now it’s violet. Sure, my mentor was right about purple, but as far as dermatological hues are concerned, let’s just leave them at the doctor’s office.

From Neglected to Inspired

Meghann is the director of public relations for an impressive nonprofit, and with many of her weeks clocking in at 90 hours, there’s a reason why her tiny patio went nearly unused. She was never home to enjoy it. Now that her schedule is looking a little more like a normal person’s, we both decided it was time to whip the flesh-toned eyesore into shape.

Puppy Party on the Redecorated Patio

Ever since her tiny patio’s vibrant redesign, Meghann loves to kick back here with Finnegan, her Cavalier King Charles spaniel, but lots of other randoms show up to enjoy it, too. For example: Mossimo, that random Pomeranian sitting on the table.

Perception Tricks & the Power of Purples

A tiny patio is a handy way to make an adjacent space feel larger, and the patio can appear more spacious, as well, if the two areas are decorated with similar palettes and styles. In Meghann’s case, we carried the same lavenders, silvery grays, and violets of her living room out into the 6 x 8-foot concrete outdoor space. From the view of the living room, her patio looks like an extension of the living space, and vice versa.

So here’s the deal: I really, really, really love Meghann and her dog, Finnegan, but he friggin’ snores – a lot – even when he’s wide awake and standing up. When the sliding glass door is open to Meghann’s newly posh and comfy patio, Finnegan can mosey outside solo to awake-snore in the chairs where nobody inside can hear him.

We decided to throw the color scheme off a bit. Instead of it looking like, “We are purple quadruplets, and everything in our DNA is 100 percent the same; we shall match forever,” the look is more like, “We are purple cousins. Each of us has similar characteristics since our parents are siblings, but none of us necessarily looks all that much alike.” We layered in deep violet, concord grape, and dark mauve throughout – from the trellis, to the chairs, to the area rug.

Accents & Decor, from Floor to Sky

While installing several outdoor spaces and using Instagram to keep my friends, family, and colleagues in the know, I posted a ton of images of the outdoor rugs we’d chosen. Seriously, no one could believe how indoors-y and comfy our selections looked, but they’re still engineered to hold up to the elements. To bring pattern and purple to the patio floor, we chose the Rug Market Resort 25359 Andalucia Outdoor Rug – Brown / Beige / Lavender for the way it mixes graphic and modern with fun and flirty.

Sure, the patio is purple, but it isn’t overwhelming. When using purples, I often try to find as many ways as possible to tone them down … so they don’t look like they could belong in the home of a McDonald’s mascot named Grimace or something. For example: The clear, stackable Compamia Victoria Polycarbonate Modern Dining Chairs are totally transparent and coordinate perfectly with their pleasingly purple environment. You can see straight through them, which makes all that purple around them easier to swallow. Stackable chairs in a small space are a godsend; when not in use, simply store them atop one another, in a corner or even tucked inside a closet.

String lantern lights are the easiest, most effective ways to illuminate an outdoor area without incurring electrician or handy man costs. Lucky for us, Meghann had a double outdoor outlet along the exterior wall of her teeny-weeny patio. After stringing the Smart Solar San Rafael Lantern Solar String Lights across the top of the trellis, then attaching them to the exterior wall with hook eyes, we simply plugged those bad boys into the outlet and shazam! The entire area now glows at night.

Now See Here

Since a good portion of my interior design work includes adding glamorous touches to not-so-glamorous spaces – such as family rooms and breakfast nooks – I get sick of talking about the power of reflective surfaces. But, who cares? It’s fun. Take a look at the smoked glass top of the Compamia Miami Resin Wickerlook Square Dining Table. It’s easy to clean, which makes maintenance a breeze; plus, you can see through it, so the teeny-weeny space instantly seems less claustrophobic. On top of that, it plays with reflection brilliantly, turning a clear blue-sky day into something of an art piece along the tabletop.

And here I go again with the reflective surfaces rant. This one will be short and sweet: The mirrored tray elevates the glassware and shiny modern pitcher to a more glamorous level. Bam!

A Side of Green with Your Style

Plants can be intimidating, especially for busy professionals like Meghann who are almost never home – and when they are, the last thing they want to do is tend to someone or something else. That’s what publicists like Meghann do all day anyway, so low-maintenance or no-maintenance plants were musts. To add easy-care greenery to the patio, we hung a trio of stag horn ferns (also known as air plants) from the trellis. What follows is the insanely difficult, rigorous care (I say with a sarcastic tone) that goes into keeping them alive and healthy: Dip the ball of the root in water before you mount it to a board and hang it, then water it once every four months.

In 2011, I lived in New York City while producing a reality-competition design series for HGTV. While there, I was introduced to the wide array of apartment-scaled sofas that retailers offer for tiny New York homes, which are often tricky to furnish. This same rule applies to small patios; most standard-sized outdoor sofas will eat up all useable space, limiting room to mix dining and lounging furniture. In Meghann’s case, I stuck with this good-lookin’ modern piece, which could be considered an extra-large chair, or even a tiny love seat. Most importantly, it fits in perfectly with the pair of cube tables fronting it – perfect for hosting two extra dinner guests, should Meghann run out of room at the dining table.

To add some purple flair to the seating area, I chose two indoor throw pillows, the Surya Silk Lane Decorative Pillow – Plum and the Surya Cabana Decorative Pillow-Lavender. To keep Meghann’s interior consistent with her adjacent patio, the same pillows are used inside on her living room sofa.

A Touch of Personality

Do you want to know my favorite thing about a ready-made trellis? It’s one of the easiest-to-customize outdoor design elements around, and it costs almost nothing to use. To make Meghann’s open patio feel less exposed to passersby, we added a layer of privacy with the Yardistry Cedar Lattice Privacy Trellis, updated with plum outdoor paint. Better still, Meghann will add a vine along the top, so her neighbors can admire a lush, green accent on their daily strolls down the corridor.

I like to go as custom as possible when designing spaces inside or outside, large or small. In Meghann’s case, we added personality with the Personalized Stemless Wine Glasses – Set of 4, monogrammed with a “G” for her last name, Gibbons.

In small, urban spaces, it’s wise to get as multi-purpose-happy as humanly possible. To mix up the look of Meghann’s tablescape, I chose three different purple-toned pitchers: one in plum, one in mulberry, and one in cassis, which, when not used to serve drinks to guests, can double as vessels for floral arrangements – out on the patio as well as inside Meghann’s loft.

When planning the design of Meghann’s tiny patio, there was one point she couldn’t stress enough. She wanted some girly stuff. Nothing masculine; just light, fun, and feminine … but not stuffy. While the majority of the patio furniture is gender-neutral, the area rug and potted greenery boost the girl quotient. And since she can’t keep cut hydrangeas outside in vases all the time, we brought in the real deal via a pair of potted hydrangeas in violet and magenta, juxtaposed with a shot of leafy green.

With well-chosen accents, a color scheme that sings, and some love, the sky’s the limit with a small patio space.

See Brian Patrick Flynn’s Styleboards in Hayneedle’s Style Gallery!

Brian Patrick Flynn, HGTV designer/producer; Decor Demon

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