Small deck ideas come in handy when you're trying to make the most of a tiny or unused outdoor space.
The usual options would be to transform this awkward little area into a patio or a courtyard, but deck ideas can be used successfully to enhance teeny yards too. You just need a bit of know-how and ingenuity to make the materials work and the space sing.
Discover the tricks and tips for choosing the best decking material, color, furniture, and layout to make your space feel bigger, better, and brighter. With these small deck ideas on a budget, we promise you won't go overboard online, or at your local home improvement store.
Small deck ideas on a budget
1. Build a pretty playhouse
Move over summerhouses and expensive children's playhouses – because it's all about this pink project. Built like a real-life dollhouse, this dreamy DIY is THE place to be for play dates and socializing outside. Complete with a ladder and slide, it's the perfect miniature playground to supervise the kids while you slurp on a cool drink outside.
2. Add lattice woodwork for a romantic scheme
Hanging out on your small deck is all good until you have a peeping tom spying on your whereabouts. If you want to isolate yourself from your next-door neighbor, but don't want (or can't have) a fence to use as a partition, check out this cute garden screening idea that screams less: 'stop looking at me!' and is much more regencycore.
'Give your small deck a sense of privacy to foster a cozy, intimate feeling.' says Jonathan Shapiro , a realtor at Keller Williams, SouthPark (opens in new tab).
'Lattice panels create boundaries around your outdoor space and block neighboring views.'
Try Home Depot (opens in new tab) for decorative trellis hardware.
3. Throw some shade with an outdoor umbrella
Sun worshipper or UV-wary – which one are you? No matter which camp you fall in, respecting your skin is a non-negotiable when it comes to responsible tanning. So, avoid getting your back burnt by investing in the best garden parasol your budget can stretch to.
Just because it's a practical deck shade idea, doesn't mean that you can't make it stylish. Pick a sunshade that fits in with the rest of your external scheme. For example, classic stripes are good for traditional types, while pineapple or flamingo motifs give off that contemporary Cali vibe.
Using this over your patio table will take your alfresco eating from drab to fab, just like that.
4. Go wild with a kids' activity corner
Get the kids off their consoles and out into the backyard with this enticing area with lots of space for activities. If space permits, add a chalkboard or if there's nowhere to install one, use Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint (opens in new tab) to create a surface they can write on.
Bunting always makes everything better and brings a real celebratory feel to the outdoor space. It's super cheap to buy from Amazon (opens in new tab) or let kids have fun DIYing their own with jute twine (opens in new tab) and scrap bits of fabric from your haberdashery hoard. Hobbycraft have a tutorial on how to make bunting (opens in new tab) if you want to give it a go.
And, while we're being big kids ourselves, unleash your competitive side with indoor classics brought to life outside. Four in a row (opens in new tab) (aka Connect Four) and giant Jenga (opens in new tab) are must-haves when it comes to grabbing the best garden games.
5. Pop your DIY pallet projects on your deck
Be smug and show off your pallet table coffee table idea at your next backyard party. After all, knowing how to make pallet furniture takes patience, persistence, and some skill so you're well within your right to be proud of your DIY project.
Make sure it takes pride of place by placing it smack bang in the middle of your small deck. Because nobody puts Baby in the corner.
6. Create a nostalgic scene with a garden swing
How cute is this boho-inspired Trym Swing Chair from Wayfair (opens in new tab)? Ideal for all ages, rock back and forth with the best seat in the house (OK, technically in the backyard but whatevs).
If you've got a small tree adjacent to your deck, it's the perfect place to install your garden swing. Max out on whimsical ambiance and get to decorating your deck with wooden accessories, distinct, vibrant colors, and heaps of potted plants for extra texture. And don't forget those outdoor cushions to make the seat super comfy.
7. Use a area rug to add interest (or fake with paint)
'Anchor your small deck with a high-style outdoor rug,' says Shapiro.
'If you want something more permanent, a painted design on the deck can take the place of an area rug.'
If you're stuck between the two ideas, why not learn how to paint an outdoor rug so you can play with paint and texture.
8. Cool the kids down with a kiddie pool
If you take pride in having the greenest turf in your neighborhood, you'll know that you should never leave an inflatable pool on grass. According to gardening pros, the ideal place to put your best paddling pool, is on your deck.
9. Create a super casual social setup with a coffee table
Alfresco dining is a hella lot more relaxed than a sit-down meal inside. And nine times out of ten, all rules for interior dining schemes are thrown out of the window.
Where mismatched furniture feels a bit thrown together and ill-prepared inside, mixing up your outdoor dining sets is a welcome way to add interest and versatility.
'Dedicate your small deck to entertaining friends and family by arranging small deck furniture in casual grouping with a petite coffee table in the middle,' says Shapiro.
'Maximize on space by incorporating seating around the perimeter. This helps free up floor space at the center and creates more standing room.'
10. Create a cozy corner made for movie night
If you want to create an outdoor drive-in cinema space without a car, this small deck idea is perfect for movie buffs and cinephiles. If your budget doesn't quite stretch to an all-out outdoor living room space, you can pick up an outdoor projector for pretty cheap. In fact, the AuKing mini project on Amazon (opens in new tab) comes in under $100, with change for popcorn and other snacks.
'I thought we could have a little date night/movie night in the garden, so went to town and brought out extra lighting, blankets, and cushions. We don't have any fancy outdoor screens or the likes, so we just take the laptop out,' explains Carol Maxwell, (aka @maxmademedoit (opens in new tab)).
'The corner dining set is from made.com (opens in new tab). I genuinely don't know what we would have done without this during the lockdown as it made our outdoor haven so comfy. The standard light next to the vintage egg chair is by West Elm (opens in new tab).'
11. Combine decking with a mini patio area
To add design interest and visually enhance your small garden design ideas, combining decking with a paved area. This will create an illusion of a larger, zoned space. This decked area created by Anna-Carin McNamara (opens in new tab) benefits from a neutral patio area and a huge mirror, which makes the garden look twice the size.
12. Try small deck ideas that use vertical space
Just because your deck is small, that doesn't mean you can't make the most of floral displays on it.
The trick is to use the walls as vertical garden storage ideas. This small decking idea by @j_habite (opens in new tab), uses decking up the wall to provide hanging space for containers. The wrap-around approach makes for visual continuity, which makes the area feel bigger and more cohesive too. Clever – and a great option if you're wondering how to make a small garden look bigger.
13. Work built-in seating into small garden decking
Small outdoor spaces call for clever garden seating ideas, so take note of any area that could be used for custom-built spots to park yourself.
We like the way that the decking material is used to create a streamlined, wrap-around seating area in this decked garden by Norsu Home (opens in new tab) as it helps draw the eye around, enhancing the space, though there are loads of other places to scout for good garden furniture. You might be surprised to know that Amazon garden furniture is actually of good quality.
14. Stain a small deck in a light color for simplicity
We all know that light colors indoors make a room feel larger, and the same works outdoors with a deck, so choosing a light-colored decking paint or decking stain makes good sense.
In this small decked area, the light wood of the deck stands out against the dark facade; the monochrome design scheme is completed with the Square Table And Chair Garden Set in Clay (opens in new tab) from Lime Lace.
15. Make it a sociable small garden decking setup with a cooking station
Talking of space and garden dining... just because your deck is small, that doesn't mean you can't incorporate an outdoor kitchen in yours, just like you'd squeeze in a perfectly functional kitchen indoors.
We love a DIY look which is ideal to customize to whatever size your area allows for, plus, it's one of the most budget-friendly small decking ideas going.
16. Create wall-to-wall decking to exaggerate a small garden's width
When considering small garden ideas, you have to use all the design tricks up your sleeve. One is to exaggerate the garden's width with decking. You can do this by laying the boards width-ways – their lines will draw the eye across the deck's width, making it seem wider – and by laying them right up to the boundary on both sides. You can soften the finished look by creating a green vista in the near distance – this will prevent your small garden from looking boxed in.
This enclosed garden in London has been designed by Honor Holmes Garden Design (opens in new tab) and benefits from a green space at the bottom of the garden that contrasts with the decking.
17. Save space with compact, multi-tasking garden furniture
If you do want some of the best garden furniture out on your small garden deck, pick a patio dining set that has a small footprint. Dual-purpose pieces or built-in storage is a bonus, too. The St Mawes Drinks/Planter Bar Table (opens in new tab) from Garden Trading has a steel trough in the middle - perfect for cooling drinks, or creating a green display.
If cash is tight, consider looking at how to revive an old patio furniture set with spray paint.
18. Combine small garden decking ideas with built-in planters
Small garden decking ideas and container gardening were made for each other, and you can fit in a plant or two in even the tiniest of decked gardens, balconies, or terraces as this lovely decked area shows.
Building a raised bed like this is a great idea for small decked areas – the streamlined nature of the container will make the area feel larger and can be made to raise the height of the plants significantly, upping their impact.
Feeling strapped for cash? Instead of buying decorative pots from garden centers and nurseries, consider making your own DIY plant stands to house your plant babies.
19. Include a change in decking levels for compact gardens
If you are looking small sloping garden ideas, you've actually been handed a golden opportunity. Rather than working out how to level a yard or dividing your lawn into lots of different zones, creating decking on different levels will make it more usable and enhance the feeling of space.
20. Turn your small deck into an outdoor room
As mentioned, we like all the frills so we wholeheartedly recommend going to town with seating, soft furnishings, and outdoor decor to help enhance your small deck further.
21. Use contrasting colors to enhance a small deck
Small deck ideas needn't just be about structure. You can make a big difference cheaply using paint. Deploying contrasting decking paint colors is a clever, distracting move in a small outdoor space; think contrasting the wall and deck colors, or even experiment by 'zoning' the deck itself, painting one half a lighter color than the other.
This small all-over decked area has been enhanced by color contrasts created with Cuprinol Garden Shades (opens in new tab) decking paint.
22. Use decking to zone different areas in a small space
It may feel counterintuitive to use multiple materials in a small space, but using garden decking to delineate different zones in a small garden will actually make it look bigger. The trick is to use different materials in a similar shade.
This small deck idea for a rooftop garden has had a makeover with a separate decking area for sun loungers that wraps around the patio, which is used for dining and outdoor cooking. The design is by My Landscapes (opens in new tab).
23. Transform a small deck into an outdoor spa
Decking is often used in areas that get wet a lot, especially around swimming pools and plunge pools, but if your garden is very small, you can still use it this way.
Depending on what's most feasible for your specific outdoor area, it could be a small plunge pool, or an integrated hot tub. You'll need to speak to a garden designer and/or architect first.
Once all the formalities are out of the way, dive into the best hot tub deals for your hard-earned dollars.
24. Small garden decking needs vertical planting
If you do opt for an all-decked garden in a small outdoor area, add interest with vertical planting and integrated lighting to create more contrast and texture.
This small rooftop garden has a relaxed and glowing look thanks to the clever use of plants and lights. Why not find out how to create a living wall with our green-fingered guide?
25. Surround small garden decking with a painted fence
It makes sense to keep your decking natural – it's much easier to maintain if it's not painted, but oiled or stained instead. However, your garden still needs color – and you can add that by painting your fence to create a garden color scheme. Then just accessorize.
Want a small decking idea that won't cost much, but will have plenty of instant impact? Colorful cushions can go a surprisingly long way to making your small deck more inviting. Mix and match bold colors with graphic patterns for maximum effect –small decks really can take a lot of color.
26. Use stencils for a uplifting feature fence
'A feature fence is a fun and innovative way to add originality to your outdoor space,' says Tristan Sissons, garden buying manager, Homebase (opens in new tab).
'And with there being a whole variety of fence paint colors to choose from, there’s something to suit everyone. If you’re in need of some feature fence ideas, remember, bright pops of color are a great way to make smaller gardens feel bigger, whereas trendy darker tones do an excellent job at making vegetation and plant arrangements stand out.'
Of course, you don't have to stick to a palm motif, there are plenty of stencils to choose from on Amazon (opens in new tab), as well as exterior paint combos to play with. Frenchic's alfresco paint (opens in new tab) has a good range of pastel hues as well as more traditional shades.
27. Layer the greenery
Decorating an elevated small deck idea with greenery all around makes for a truly inviting set up. Complement any surrounding grass or trees with more plants on a table and keep cool containers close by for a loosely crowded plant party.
28. And, work in a totally tropical corner(opens in new tab)
If you've only got room for one sun lounger, you may as well make it feel like you're actually sat in the jungle. How? Plant all the greenery around this mini decked area and keep your sun lounger loaded with plush extras too. Lush? Check. Dappled sun? Check. Piña Colada? Coming!
But, you don't want to be batting leaves out of your mouth while sipping on your cocktails, so take a look at the best small garden trees that aren't too intrusive.
29. Make lighting the biggest feature
Garden lighting ideas are so important in your outdoor space, especially when it's a small one, and it's amazing what you can do by layering different forms and having them displayed in a variety of ways.
Try lanterns teamed with candles for heaps of ambiance by day, and by night, to make your small deck ideas shine in all seasons.
30. Add a dramatic living wall
Small decking ideas needn't lack drama - unless of course, you're going for that vibe. DIY your own living wall ideas and make it a big one even for your small space.
31. Make it convivial with an outdoor fireplace
Logs burning on a cool night will make even the smallest of small deck ideas super cozy. Warm it up with one of the more classic outdoor fireplace ideas for big appeal or scale things down a notch with the best fire pit instead.
What safety considerations do I need to factor in for composite decking?
Whether you're working with a big or small decking idea, there are some safety and practical considerations you need to make. Here Chris Moorhouse, category director - timber, building, decor, garden, at Wickes (opens in new tab) shares his top tips:
- If you are building a timber base frame, make sure that your timber is structurally treated.
- Ensure you leave a 40mm gap beneath fascia boards to allow for proper ventilation.
- Treat all cut ends of timber and drill holes with two coats of preservative.
- When drilling, it’s best to mark out pilot holes as this will help to make your fixings as accurate as possible. Ensure that you use screws specifically designed for the job and that all screws are secure but not over tightened.
- Whilst it is possible to build a composite deck on your own, it’s much easier with a spare pair of hands, so ask a friend if they can help out.
- If you need to cut a deck board to accommodate an obstacle, or you need to trim any overhanging deck boards in order to make a straight edge, mark a chalk guideline and then carefully cut along the line with a jigsaw.
How can I decorate a small porch?
'We love things that are pretty within their design, yet super practical too!' says Lucy Kirk, creative and photography manager, Lights4Fun (opens in new tab).
'Solar lights are a great example of design meets function, with the added benefit of being energy efficient and green to run. Powered entirely by the sun, they involve absolutely no running costs and minimal upkeep to ensure they glow come dusk.'
'When it comes to dressing your deck, illuminate from the bottom up by displaying solar pebble lights around the edge of your deck. Creating not only an illumination to the edge, but a colorful walkway with settings to suit all times of the year.'
'Their super handy solar powered functionality allows them to become portable, giving you the option to move around where you see fit. Complete the look by opting for solar powered festoon lights draped from tree to tree to create a ceiling high glow to your space.'