Sometimes, as we all know, the best things come in small packages.
That can also be true of outdoor living spaces.
While many people like to be able to spread out when they are outside, some of the most charming outdoor spaces are those created in a small entryway, balcony, courtyard or patio. Gathering with close friends or family in an intimate area that has been well thought out and decorated can be ideal.
World Market stores throughout the Chicago area are filled with bistro tables, chairs, modular deep seating furniture, indoor-outdoor rugs and colorful lighting that can be used to make any outdoor space the perfect entertaining space, according to Dan Krysh, manager of the Randhurst Village store in Mount Prospect.
Bright colors and insect-themed throw pillows and dishware, in particular, are all the rage this summer, he said.
Bali Club chairs, which are made of wood and canvas in the style of director chairs, are perfect for small spaces since they fold up and can be easily stored when not in use.
"And you can easily change out the canvas for a different look," Krysh added. "We have about 20 different colors and patterns of canvas for the Bali Club line. They also work well with any of our table-height bistro tables which are made of wood or mosaic tile."
A wide variety of small wire Landon stools in bright colors can also be used as accent tables or for additional seating when a big group invades your small balcony or courtyard.
Those who love the popular new deep-seating all-weather wicker furniture can now assemble luxurious seating, even in a small space. The Solano line is modular so a homeowner can make it fit anywhere, wrapping around a corner or just occupying a small area as a love seat or single chair. It comes with the popular deep-seating cushions which are as weatherproof as the wicker. While the choice of cushions is limited, Krysh said that a wide variety of toss pillows can be used to personalize the look.
"Some even feature the beetles and other insects that are so hot this season and coordinate with our melamine serving trays and plates for outdoor dining," he explained.
All-weather rugs and mats in bright colors can also personalize a small space. World Market carries indoor-outdoor rugs ranging from 3-by-5 feet to 6-by-9 feet, which are particularly popular under bistro sets to further delineate a homeowner's dining area.
Electric and battery-operated string lights and lanterns can make the space even more charming and festive.
Small wooden potting benches in two colors are also available from World Market for those who want to further personalize their small space with flowers, Krysh said. The adjustable bench has a deep base and hooks for tools, so it is popular with balcony gardeners who would rather not dirty their kitchens while beautifying their outdoor spaces.
There are many gardening options for those with balconies, small entryways or other intimate outdoor spaces they wish to enhance, according to Jean Bragdon, operations manager for Lurvey's Garden Center in Des Plaines.
The ever-popular hanging baskets are the easiest to use in any space, of course. There is nothing to plant. All you need to do is hang one from a hook or overhang for instant beauty and a touch of nature.
Trellises and obelisks can be used for vertical interest and if vines are cultivated to grow up them, trellises, in particular, can enhance the privacy available on a balcony or a small property where the patio is uncomfortably close to the neighbors. These outdoor sculptures can easily be used in either containers or out in a larger yard, according to Bragdon.
Containers of all sizes, shapes and colors, filled with annuals, can dress up any space of any size. Shrubs and perennials, on the other hand, tend not to thrive in containers because the soil freezes during the Chicago winters unless the pot is placed very close to the house or in another protected area, she explained.
"Window boxes and other containers with wall mounts can also enhance a small space," Bragdon said. "They come in half-pockets and many other shapes and sizes for a great look."
Those who would like to grow vegetables in their small spaces can also do so. Cherry tomatoes do particularly well in containers. Some, like Sweet 100s and Tumbling Toms, even cascade for an attractive look, according to Bragdon. But many other vegetables also grow well in raised beds and containers. So those who wish to have fresh vegetables from their own "garden" can grow them no matter how small their growing space might be. It just takes some planning, she said.
Small water features can also be incorporated into small outdoor spaces in the city or the suburbs.
"Water is often the finishing touch and that is also true with balconies, small yards and even next to front doors," explained Brian Helfrich, construction manager for Aquascape Designs in St. Charles and Lisle.
"There is literally a water feature for everyone. It is just a matter of finding the right one. Moving water is just so relaxing and fun to watch that people want it," he said.
Aqua bowls, for instance, are made of a resin that looks like stone and they are designed to hold water lilies, small fish, tadpoles, snails and even turtles. They are a favorite with small children and are lightweight and easy to move. They fit into small spaces perfectly.
Free-standing fountains that move water from dish to dish to dish can also be perfect for some applications, while bubblers or fountains made of boulders, urns, vases or even barrels can make a patio, balcony or small yard enchanting.
"Small water features work particularly well by the front door in order to add to a small home or town house's curb appeal," Helfrich said. "In order to really understand what is possible in an outdoor space, large or small, you need to consult an expert. It is always amazing to homeowners what types of water features can be installed to enhance their home, townhouse, condominium, villa or even apartment."