Secret Location’s Carey Melnichuk shares her wisdom for creating a dreamy outdoor space.

Sure, all your friends have probably set up their barbecues and put out their multi-coloured accent pillows for summer get-togethers—but the thrill of patio season doesn’t resonate quite as well if you’re one of the many who live in a small space apartment building. ‘Tiny Balcony Season” is more like it, and sometimes it’s challenging to make that space as welcoming as you want.Carey Melnichuk of Secret Location loves to have an outdoor space that feels just as comfortable as one indoors. Since she knows Vancouverites want to spend as much time as possible outside these days, she shared some of her best advice on how to make the most out of a small patio space. Photo Credit: Secret Location

The Necessities

Decorating can be an intimidating task with the abundance of products, stores and prices to choose from, but Melnichuk says to start by focusing on items from these top three themes:1. Seating Arrangements Socialize your patio with a seating arrangement that is comfortable and fits the most people without utilizing the entire space. “This could be a bench, which is perfect for storing items, or an L-shaped couch,” she says.Since most people often start with a price range, think about your budget and how long you want something to last in terms of quality–which includes choosing a fabric that won’t deteriorate or fade from the elements.2. A Multi-Purpose Table Vancouver’s summer weather is not too hot nor too cold–a “just right” mentality that should be matched by a table with the perfect height. Melnichuk says the table should sit a few inches higher than the seats, which will allow people to eat with and entertain their guests (old school card games, anyone?). “The best is to find a table that is multi-purpose. Whether it be a covered sandbox or a trunk of some kind to allow for storage,” she suggests.3. Glorious Greenery If you want your patio to remain a welcoming space year-round, find plants that can last not only through the rainy months but the cold ones too. For higher maintenance plants with nice aromas, Melnichuk loves Mock Orange (a bush with a citrus scent that can grow up to 20-feet tall) and colourful varieties of Potentilla, Skimmea and Azealas.If you’re looking for something incredibly easy to care for, that will also create privacy, focus on shrubs,” Melnichuk recommends. She says these plants (like Cedars, Yucca, and Spikemoss) can still make your patio look and feel like an oasis. Photo: Secret Location

True Colours

When decorating your patio, dress it up with colours and patterns in mind to help it stand out and match your vibe. By choosing simply designed neutrals for the necessities, you can focus your attention on the extras–like cushions with removable slipcovers that can easily be changed throughout the year, or classic home items such as vases, books and coasters.Don’t feel super confident in your decorating skills? No problem! For those who aren’t as comfortable utilizing many colours, Melnichuk suggests just picking two and mixing up textures and prints from those.“For myself, once I’ve selected my base such as white or cream, I always choose one print or item to set the tone for what other colours I will introduce,” she says. “It is best to keep the neutral base the same. This will keep everything cohesive and your patio will create the illusion that your home is larger than it is.” The Gala Round Vase by Jonathan Adler—L’Objet