Small garden decking ideas are a fabulous way to enhance your outdoor space. Your deck can be used to zone an area that’s purely for outdoor dining, or to create a low-maintenance space if you don’t want a lawn.
You can also use decking as a path area through your backyard. The beauty of most deck ideas is that you can add to them – so you can start small, and then create a larger area that could include balustrades and even a small fence to provide a more sheltered space to enjoy more months of the year.
If your yard slopes, you can have a raised deck with steps down to the lower part and use the area underneath the decking for storage – decking is one of the most versatile garden structures around, whatever sized space you have.
Small garden decking ideas
These small backyard ideas use decking to create a useful, easy to maintain and attractive space.
1. Choose Mid Century style
On a small deck, scale is key to maximizing function, which is important to prioritize in your small backyard landscaping ideas. Avoid the deck design mistake of overcrowding your space (or just as unfortunate, letting usable space go to waste) by choosing streamlined midcentury furniture. It strikes the right balance of optimizing seating options, which also leaving room to move about.
'Deck lighting ideas are really important for small decks in particular,' says Homes & Gardens' Editor in Chief Lucy Searle. 'Ensuring there are different ways to light the deck, without flooding it with light, will make it feel larger but also a cozy place to gather at night. I'd suggest wall lights with directional focus, so you can choose to light different areas, depending on what you are doing; low lighting in planting around the deck and into the yard beyond, to make the space feel larger, and a light, whether artificial or candlelit, centrally to encourage a social feel.'
2. Try a tête-à-tête
The term tête-à-tête literally translates to 'an intimate conversation between two people,' which is where the eponymous, cozy sofa style gets its name. Use a tête-à-tête on a small deck to maximize seating and foster conversation. Plus, this version from Serena & Lily (opens in new tab) comes with a built-in table for holding drinks, books, or sun screen.
Which leads to another practical tip for extra-small spaces: ensure your furniture pulls its weight by choosing items that serve more than one purpose.
3. Minimize visual clutter
Slim-profile furnishings make sense for a small deck for a few reasons. For one, they're physically less bulky, so you can fit a full-size conversation set on a small deck without monopolizing what little space you have. Plus, the intricate construction, as above, makes the chairs semi-transparent, which helps minimize visual clutter, too.
Last but not least, they pack a ton of style into a petite package. You don't need much else in the way of decor or accessories to make a statement.
Think practically with deck color ideas, too. Small decks benefit from pale colors that will enhance the feeling of space.
4. Choose all-weather furniture
If you have a small deck area, there's a good chance you won't have room for a storage shed or deck box to stash cushions or décor when it rains, so be sure to choose furnishings that will stand up to the elements.
'Look for furniture made with polywood due to its weather-resistant durability which can withstand rain, snow, and wind in most geographic regions,' says Jenny Reimold, interior stylist and HomeGoods (opens in new tab) style expert. 'Additionally, to avoid visible staining and extra cleaning, look for darker fabrics, though lighter fabrics made from synthetic fibers can be easily cleaned with soap and water or a light pressure wash.'
5. Take in a view
Decks are most often attached directly to the house, with an access point leading straight from inside to out. But, that doesn't mean your deck and house always needs to be adjacent, especially if a different site lets you capture a view, enjoy surrounding gardens, or offers a better spot for complementary deck planting ideas.
If your outdoor space has a view, build your deck in a spot that captures as much of it as you can. At the Los Angeles home above, landscape designer Sarita Jaccard (opens in new tab) built a walkway to a small deck that surrounds an in-ground Jacuzzi tub, where the homeowner can retire to take in the sunsets at the end of the day.
'The view at this property is just so special, we wanted to create an area where one could retreat and appreciate it,' Jaccard says. 'The walkway is meant to feel purposeful and direct, leading the visitors eye (and therefore self) to a viewpoint where they can appreciate the mountains and the beauty of this location.'
6. Enclose your decking
Make a feature of your decking area by enclosing it within the footprint of your home, an all encompassing look if you will, so your outside space becomes an extension of your home and links due to the fence around it.
There are plenty of deck railing ideas to choose from. Here, the wide plank of the top bar that runs around the decking can also be used as a shelf – for drinks and nibbles when entertaining, or even for pots and planters.
7. Opt for slimline furniture
When space is tight, as with interiors, choosing furniture that has a low profile and slim legs will help to create the illusion of space.
This set is a great example of this works in small garden decking ideas – you can see underneath the sofa and coffee table, and the pale wood and light taupe cushions keep the overall look ‘light’ visually.
8. Opt for decking throughout
If you love being out in your garden but are not keen on the gardening aspect, then consider having the whole area decked, perfect for adding cohesion to courtyard gardens.
A fully decked space will also be super low-maintenance, something worth considering alongside how much a deck costs, and you can use planters against the back fence to create interest and privacy.
9. Zone your space
You could create a design feature when you plan your small garden layout by only decking certain areas of the space.
We love how this bistro seating area is edged with beautiful textured stone. The colors of the furniture also tie in visually with the decking color and stone edging to give a cohesive look.
Consider deck edging ideas carefully, too. Small decks benefit from a delineated border to make them feel purposeful.
10. Mark your boundary
Instead of having a fence at the end of your garden you could use your small garden decking ideas to create the boundary, especially if you have raised decking.
Removing tall visual boundaries will also help to make a small garden look bigger. Here, there’s a nice natural line between the end of the decking and the wild field beyond.
11. Use decking as a design feature
If your garden is narrow or an awkward shape and you are looking for long garden ideas, why not add decking along the length of your house, as you can see here, in a wraparound effect. It will be easy to maintain and provides a hard standing area for your table and benches.
12. Make small garden decking ideas work in a country garden
Ann-Marie Powell, founder of Ann-Marie Powell Gardens (opens in new tab), created this beautiful country garden decked scheme.
‘With a split level garden, decking was a perfect choice. We chose to use green oak as it would age with grace and character, pressure washing to keep the areas slip proof and clean, and adding to the charm by exposing the end grain and natural qualities in the wood.
'Laid using stainless steel lost head screws so the fixings became invisible and didn’t rot the wood, 15 years later I actually prefer the deck to when it was first laid.'
The clever use of deck planting ideas in this scheme also maximises the available planting space in a small garden.
13. Go for flexible small garden decking ideas
'Decking is a very flexible and useful material in that it allows you to create useful level areas, say around a tree, without the need for foundations as you would with paving, which can destroy a tree’s roots,’ says Debbie Roberts, co-founder of Acres Wild (opens in new tab) – so why not incorporate one or two of these best trees for a small garden into your decking ideas.
The fact that decking doesn't need foundations makes it a useful flooring option for balcony gardens too, and it can also be made into steps, like in the tropical-inspired space above.
14. Use decking in any weather
The beauty of decking is that you can enjoy it all year round. No squelching through mud to celebrate an occasion if it has rained the night before – you can simply use your decking to set up a lovely firepit and relax wrapped in faux throws whilst enjoying marshmallows with your family.
15. Opt for small garden decking ideas with levels
Small garden decking ideas can be so much more than a simple level for you to walk on. You can create raised areas, like these, that can be used for seating and as somewhere to place drinks and nibbles if you are entertaining.
They also add interest to the corner of your garden. We love how this decking area is edged with flowers and a painted wall, and utilises soft, washed deck color ideas that complement the vivid blue of the wall.
How do I build a small deck area?
You’ve been inspired by our small garden decking ideas and set your heart on creating a stylish decking area, but how do you go about it?
To start with, you need to make sure your ground is flat, soft and level. In terms of power tools, all you need is a basic tool kit and some simple woodworking skills.
You need to decide on your area – are you covering the whole lawn, or do you want to keep the decking to a minimum and nearer to the house?
One top tip is to measure or at least place your garden furniture where you would like the decking to go. This way you can see how big the decking area needs to be to fully accommodate it. It’s also worth checking that you don’t need planning permission and let your neighbours know too.
Once you have everything in place and you have your measurements, you need to create your frame and attach the inner joists. The spacing of these will depend on your decking design – for example, do you want horizontal, diagonal, chevron or a particular pattern?
Once this is done and all secure, you can then add your deck boards by starting in one corner and working out. It is important to allow a gap of 3mm in between each one. Keep working until you have finished the entire area.
How can I make my small deck look good?
To make a small deck look good, first give the decking time to weather naturally, and to allow for a certain amount of natural shrinkage and expansion.
Then, you need to decide on how you want your small garden decking ideas to look – this also depends on whether the boards are soft or hardwood.
Keeping it clean and free from rotting leaves and algae is a must, because both of these can leave you with a slippery deck that can become dangerous.
Spring is a great time to give your decking some love and attention. Power washers are ideal for blasting off debris, and when it’s dry give it a coat of deck oil, paint or a stain.
The more you look after your decking, the longer it will last.
Sophie has been an interior stylist and journalist for over 20 years and has worked for many of the main interior magazines during that time, both in-house and as a freelancer. On the side, as well as being the News Editor for indie magazine, 91, she trained to be a florist in 2019 and launched The Prettiest Posy where she curates beautiful flowers for modern weddings and events. For H&G, she writes features about interior design – and is known for having an eye for a beautiful room.
- Kaitlin Madden Executive Editor, Homes & Gardens
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