Just because you’ve got a small outdoor space doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. Instead, use your tiny yard as a chance to be creative. With a little strategy and some smart design ideas, you can turn your small yard into a personal oasis.

Divide and Conquer Functional and Aesthetic Aspects

Is your dream yard chock-full of amenities, with space for entertaining and activities and beautiful plants as decoration? While you might not have room to run, with some creative presentation, you can still have a multifunctional space on a smaller scale.

Functional sections of your yard

small-yard-with-patio-table-and-chairsWhat you choose to be the functional purpose of your yard depends on what you want to do while you are outside and the climate you live in. Consider these questions when choosing the function of your yard:

  • Do you want to drink your morning coffee or a glass of wine in the evening in solitude, or do you want to spend a lot of time outside with multiple people?
  • Is the weather mild enough to enjoy the space all year, or will frequent cases of extreme weather restrict your outdoor use?

If you’re looking for a small, intimate space, incorporate a small table with a couple chairs into your yard. Personally, I have an affinity for iron, but that material may not be comfortable to sit in for long periods of time. This is easily fixed by adding a couple of cushions.

As far as placement goes, you can put your set-up closer to the house or up under a porch if you want some cover from the sun or rain. If you’re not afraid of the weather, out in the garden is also a great choice.

You can also install or build a small swing. It provides enough space for one or two people without taking up your entire yard.

For the purposes of hosting a few guests, give your yard versatility by using accessories like fire pits and bench seating so you can socialize outside. The fire pit will provide warmth during the colder months and provide additional seating when not in use.

When you place a functional piece in your yard, it will become a focal point, so choose that spot carefully. Keep in mind that the eye naturally moves from left to right, and how (if at all) that will affect your fire pit or small gathering area.

Aesthetic sections of your yard

small-stone-patio-with-green-umbrella-and-small-pondUse plants and stones to create separate, defined spaces within a singular area and add a visually appealing sense of flexibility. Like designing a functional section of your yard, your aesthetic design stems from your answers to questions like these:

  • How much effort do you want to put into your yard space?
  • Are you looking for bright blooms or subdued natural tones?
  • Do you get lots of rain to encourage a lush environment, or do you live in a dry climate?

For those without a green thumb, you may only want to incorporate a path of paver stones filled in with pebbles that leads to your functional space. You don’t have to plant or water anything.

If you want bright blooms year after year, butterfly weed, chrysanthemums, daisies, carnations, and other perennials will be your best bet. They’ll need regular watering, adequate sunlight, and probably an occasional weeding. If you aren’t sure where to start, a local landscaping company can help you decide what plants will create the most dramatic effect.

In climates that don’t get much rain, succulents are much more prone to survival in dry conditions. Cacti, aloe plants, agave, sedums, and crassula are great starting points for a small garden. As long as they have sunlight and well-draining soil, they’ll be happy. Succulents are a nice compromise for those who want greenery but don’t have much time to give to a garden.

Pro Tip: The trick is to choose one functional purpose and one or two aesthetic sections for your space. More than that will make the space look crowded or overwhelm your senses.

Pro Tip #2: Designating separate sections for function and aesthetics doesn’t mean they can’t overlap.

Take Advantage of Sight Lines

backyard-with-retaining-walls-of-different-levelsMake the low square footage more visually interesting by creating levels. Break up areas of the yard by using a deck to elevate your entertaining area from your green space. Try stacking planters or placing them on stairways, and experiment with plants and furniture of different heights to help create a dynamic visual.

If you don’t have a deck, that’s okay—plants come in different sizes for a reason. Granted, that reason is probably not for your convenience, but it does happen to work out that way. Transplant some sunflowers on the border of your garden and shorter plants in the front, or try vertical gardening.

You can also repurpose a bird bath or a fountain as a visually appealing garden for plants with shallow roots. Not only do you get a tall focal point for the garden, you get the benefit of varying levels of foliage.

Create Optical Illusions

If you’re frustrated with the size of your outdoor space, try playing with perspective. Make the most of a small space by scaling down your decor to fit your space rather than the other way around—larger furniture pieces will only make small yards feel more claustrophobic.

Try planting your garden in window boxes or smaller planters so you can keep the beauty without the clutter. You could also design your paver walkways diagonally to help elongate the space.

Additionally, putting up a fence around your yard makes the space feel smaller. If your neighbors aren’t the friendliest bunch, there are other ways to section off your property, like thin (but tall) trees, that give depth to your yard.

If you want to go all out with your small space, think about incorporating a small pond. The depth of the pond will provide a contrast against the ground plants and the taller plants and create an additional level for the eye to take in. You can even throw in a few goldfish and water plants for extra style points.

Great Yards Come in Small Spaces

When designing your plans for your small back yard, follow these tips:

  • Pick one functional aspect of your yard (like a small table, a swing, or a fire pit).
  • Choose one or two aesthetic properties you want to include (pavers, bright foliage, or natural tones).
  • Vary the levels in your space. Either pick a variety of tall plants and short plants, repurpose a fountain, place potted/boxed plants along the steps and railing of your deck, or put in a small pond.
  • Evaluate the purpose of your fence against the visual effect it has on your yard. If you can live without it, replace it with small trees. If not, let a vine spruce it up a little.

Bigger isn’t always better. Make the most of the green space you have, and work to scale your ideas down to fit your situation. You may find that your yard is small but mighty.