Big Design Ideas for Small Outdoor Spaces

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

Photo By: Warwick P Hunt

Photo By: Andrew Franz Architect, Photo by Albert Vecerka

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Dual Purpose

In your small backyard space, find ways to have dual-purpose materials. This garden privacy wall doubles as a waterfall feature.

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.

Stick to the Essentials

When designing a small outdoor space, be sure to stick to the essentials. Cluttering the space with unnecessary items will have the space feeling disorderly.

Forget Grass

Having grass in a small yard makes for a troublesome task. Instead opt for tile, pavers or wood flooring - makes for easy yardwork.

Choose the Best Plants

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

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.

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.

Design on a Diagonal

The design-on-the-diagonal principle works on this small courtyard patio.

Remove the Clutter

Space is at a premium in this urban garden, so the designer used the minimalist approach in this beautiful retreat. Just enough plants to make a statement keep the clutter down.

Floating Bench

If you need extra seating, a good solution is to add a bench against one wall in your outdoor space. This is a space saving solution that allows for more guests to gather in outdoors.

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.

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. Woodwork or a bit of other hardscaping can turn the garden ornamental.

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.

Take it Up the Wall

Vertical planting increases the scale of a space and allows you to better showcase your greenery.

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