10 Petite Outdoor Retreats

For urban dwellers and small space living, these outdoor escapes offer nature's best. Get tips for designing your outdoor oasis.
By: Barbara Ballinger
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Photo By: Wlodarczyk

Levels of Interest

Staci Hill and Barbara Stock transformed a nonfunctioning lawn into a small intimate seating area with varying levels, slabs of Pennsylvania bluestone for the patio and a copper fire pit. Design by Stock & Hill; photography by Staci Hill

On the Side

Though a side yard measures only 9 feet wide, John Algozzini of K&D Landscape made it function for sitting, cooking, and warming with a portable grill and portable fire pit. Photography by Molly Algozzini

Petite and Portable Fire Pit

Landscape designer James Drzewiecki of Ginkgo Leaf Studio likes fire pits for the warmth they introduce even in small spaces and how they can extend a garden's use. Photography by James Drzewiecki

Rooftop Retreat

Small urban spaces demand using every inch, which Morgan Washburn of Botanical Decorators did with a table atop a rooftop deck paved in ipe and planted with ornamental grasses. Photography by Morgan Washburn

Courtyard Hideaway

Amber Freda created a Mediterranean oasis in the heart of New York City with terracotta tiled paved courtyard and pots, columns, tables with mosaic tile tops, and a stone fountain with koi fish. Photography by Giardino

Balance Hard With Soft

The corrugated metal wall of a small Soho garden was softened by Amber Freda with pots overflowing with coleus, sweet potato vines, and yellow groove bamboo. Lights illuminate; drip irrigation keeps materials watered. Photography by Amber Freda

Retrofit Water Features

To give a front yard the sound and sight of water, Howard Roberts retrofitted a 30"-high ceramic urn as a fountain with bluestones forming a path. Photography by Howard Roberts, Liquid Landscapes

Designated Dining Area

Even a modest size urban garden can serve multiple functions with good planning; Stephen Wlodarczyk also left a small lawn panel for a soothing effect. Photography by Botanical Decorators

City Views

What city patios lack in space they often make up for in breathtaking views. A 3’ balcony is comfortable for walking, but it should be 4’ wide to furnish, says designer Ruben Gutierrez, partner at Errez Design. Select a few plants and privacy screens to block unattractive views or nosy neighbors. Image courtesy Viceroy Hotels and Resorts

Small-Scale Zen

A petit Wabi basin with bamboo spout spills water onto a polished granite basin and river rocks to connote a Far Eastern theme. And the best part is there's almost no maintenance, explains James Drzewiecki of Ginkgo Leaf Studio. Photography by Jay Westhauser