Big Design Ideas for Small Yards

Stuck with a tiny yard? Transform your small outdoor space into a beautiful and functional escape with these totally doable design ideas.

  • Mixed Materials in Backyard Space

    Design to Scale

    The key to making a big impact on a small footprint: design to scale. Here, a mix of wood and slate, married with plant materials of contrasting color but similar tones, creates four levels of interest in this small space.

  • Asian Conifer and Bamboo Garden

    Choose the Best Plants

    This elegant small garden has been planted with dwarf and well-behaved conifers and other plants that won't grow to overwhelm the site.

  • Modern Backyard Garden

    Define Key Areas

    Three clearly defined spaces — a dining area, lawn and plantings, and a woodland beyond — eke a lot of function out of a relatively small amount of urban real estate. This design by Sara Jane Rothwell features walls, screens, levels, pathways and trees, creating a relationship of horizontal surfaces in distinct areas of the yard.

  • Arching Pergola Above Walkway

    Use the Rules of Perspective

    Designing the space around the rules of perspective — chiefly that parallel lines appear to converge to a \"vanishing point\" and objects in the distance appear smaller than those close by — can help make a small garden seem larger. Here, the pergola reinforces and frames the view, and the flower-filled container as a focal point in the middle distance draws the eye forward.

  • Diagonal Garden Path

    Fool the Eye

    Creating a view along the diagonal of the property creates the illusion that the space is bigger than it looks. Here, the diagonal path with steps traces a zigzag line through the garden, providing areas to linger and enjoy the wide beds and colorful plantings.

  • Overlapping Deck Areas

    Break Up the Mundane

    The arrangement of elements — raised decks, walls and plantings — in this small garden breaks up an otherwise dull rectangular plot, and creates different spatial and textural effects.

  • Design on a Diagonal

    The design-on-the-diagonal principle works on this tiny courtyard patio, where the tile pattern appears to elongate the dimensions.

  • Cozy Suburban Backyard Deck

    Remove the Clutter

    Space is at a premium in this urban garden, so designer Sam Joyce used the minimalist approach in this beautiful retreat. Built-in seating and just enough plants to make a statement keep the clutter down. Sam left room for additional chairs to be brought out from the house when necessary.

  • Open Backyard

    Create a Multifunctional Space

    The open space and minimal plantings in this backyard offer the flexibility to accommodate many uses.

  • Backyard Deck With Firewood Storage

    Get Creative With Storage

    Designers Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri built a clever cut-out under the deck to store firewood. This smart storage solution frees up visible deck areas for seating and greenery.

  • Flower Bed

    Create a Mixed Garden

    To grow fruits and veggies in a small yard, pitch out the concept of straight rows in one big garden, and cram your veggie garden in overlooked spaces or mix in with the landscaping, in raised beds and pots. Stonework or a bit of other hardscaping can turn the garden ornamental.

  • Small Containers Used in a Variety of Ways

    Scale Down Garden Pots

    Rather than use one or two large planters, scale down the size of your pots. Several small containers can be used in a smaller space, either on the wall or on garden shelves.

  • Wall Pots For Small Space

    Take It Up the Wall

    Vertical planting increases the scale of a space. Here, trailing herbs and plants in wall pots give a Mediterranean look to this courtyard setting.

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