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Creating Different Areas In A Small Yard Can Help Make It Look Bigger

EDN's Top 10 Tips on creating an incredible outdoor oasis in your small backyard


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A cozy outdoor seating area

So many times we see that people with small yards tend not to do too much with them. Many times a small yard is just that. A patch of grass, maybe a little patio and quite frankly, many times it leaves much to be desired. We see people with large, sprawling estates and think... well they can have it all. But having a small yard doesn't mean you can't too. Small yards don't have to feel cramped and claustrophobic. Some homeowners are left feeling discouraged about their outdoor space when they feel they don't have enough of it. However, by using some of these tips, you can make the space feel larger and more functional. After all, we all deserve beautiful outdoor spaces regardless of the size yard we have. So... read on, find some tips and inspiration then go outside and start creating your own awesome little backyard!

Here are our TOP 10 TIPS on creating an incredible small backyard oasis.


And don't worry, if your yard is a bit bigger, these tips can help you too. No matter the size, a backyard can be a fun and functional place for you to relax and unwind, have fun and party with friends, and enjoy all that nature has to offer. Being outside is great. And it's great for us so let's make a vow to create a beautiful outdoor space and get outside as often as we possibly can. Because, let's face it, when the weather is good there is nothing better than sitting and enjoying it.


1. Divide the Space


This may seem counterintuitive, but trust me! The first step to creating different areas in a small yard is to divide the space into sections. By dividing the space, you create the illusion of multiple rooms, which actually makes the yard feel larger. This can be done with garden beds, creating pathways, and making a small deck or patio. I created multiple deck and patio spaces with different materials in my backyard to delineate each zone. I have a small deck with a loveseat, two chairs and a coffee table for lounging. Then, I have a beautiful bluestone and rock patio for my dining area. There is a barbecue zone that has a fire pit and large bench seating for several people to gather. The result? The yard feels so much bigger than it did before! The various sections help to create the illusion of space.

2. Use Vertical Space

Many small yards lack horizontal space, but even in urban areas, they often have plenty of vertical space. By creating walls, using trellises, and hanging planters, planting tall trees or creating vertical gardens, you can add interest and function to your yard without taking up precious ground space. This also draws the eye upward, making the space feel larger. Not to mention, adding items of different heights to your yard brings us to the next point. They help to create privacy.



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Plant a taller hedge to bring the eye up

3. Create Privacy

The use of vertical space is a simple way to create vertical elements that are not only visually beautiful but also evoke a sense of coziness.

In a small yard, it’s important to create a sense of privacy. This can be done by using tall plants, fences, or even outdoor curtains. By creating a private area, you make the space feel like a retreat rather than a cramped backyard, making it the perfect place to have a cup of coffee and enjoy a good book or share a glass of wine and some laughs with a friend. The use of vertical space is a simple way to create vertical elements that are not only visually beautiful but are also oh so cozy.




4. Add a Focal Point


Adding a focal point can draw the eye to a particular area of a small backyard and creates visual interest in a small space. This can be an artful statue, a water feature, or even a large or unique colorful plant. Reflective surfaces are often used in a small area outdoors to create the illusion of more space. By adding a focal point, you create a sense of movement, depth and dimension in the yard. Not to mention it is a special feature that brings a little personality to your space.

5. Incorporate Seating

A great seating area is crucial in any outdoor space, but it’s especially important in a small yard. By adding seating, you create a functional area for entertaining or relaxing. This also makes the space feel more inviting and welcoming. It is important to think of a small outdoor space the same you would a small room in your home. You wouldn't leave out seating just because a room is small so why would you ever do that outside? When you don't have a lot of space, you need to be strategic with utilizing the space that you do have to be as efficient as possible. Approach your outdoor area like you would any other interior design project and ask yourself how you want to use the space then plan accordingly.


6. Use Color


You don't need a large garden to create an interesting one. Color is a powerful tool in any outdoor space. We often think of the power of color in indoor spaces but sometimes forget to utilize it in an outdoor space. By using bright colors, you draw the eye and create a sense of energy in the yard. This can be achieved with flowers, large-leafed plants, flower beds, furniture, an outdoor rug and pillows or even a painted feature. By incorporating color, you make the space feel larger and more dynamic.


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7. Create a Pathway


A pathway adds interest and function to a small yard. Creating a pathway gives the space purpose and create a sense of flow. This can be done with gravel, stone, ground cover or even a simple mulch path. You make the space feel larger and more organized and also create a fun way to meander through the sections of your yard. It is fun to place garden features throughout your yard to encourage you to walk about. Think about adding a small pond to the back of your yard with large pots of beautiful plants or small trees along the way.




8. Add Lighting

Outdoor lighting is as crucial to any outdoor space as lighting is with any indoor space, but it’s especially important in a small yard. By adding different levels of lighting, you create a sense of depth and dimension in the yard. Try adding string lights, lanterns, or even solar lamps. Landscape lighting illuminating a beautiful section of your yard can create such a warmth the the space. Lamps, pathway lights, hanging lanterns and string lights all add something special. Be sure to keep the lighting dim and warm. Nobody wants a spotlight on them when they're trying to enjoy a beautiful summer evening. By incorporating lighting, you make the space feel larger and much more inviting.



9. Incorporate Water

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A water feature brings me joy. I find them so incredibly peaceful and incorporate them as often as I can in any outdoor plan. Water features add interest and function to any outdoor space but I feel they are especially effective in a smaller space. By incorporating a fountain, pond, or even a small water feature, you create a sense of tranquility and relaxation in the yard. This also makes the space feel larger and more serene. There is just nothing better than the sound of trickling water. Be sure to visit a garden center that has fountains and water features on display so you can see and hear the flow of water before you make the investment. Every water feature looks and sounds differently and you want to find one that suits you.


10. Use Containers


When square footage is an issue, sometimes you just don't have enough garden bed space to plant an abundance of plants. Enter containers. Container gardening is a great way to add interest and function to a small yard. By using containers, you can grow plants in a small space without taking up precious ground space. This also allows you to move plants around and create different areas within the yard. Luckily, the container game has stepped up over the past few years. Not only are large, beautiful containers more readily available but we can now find them at a reasonable price point. Gone are the days of large planters being reserved for the wealthy. You can now find awesome planters at almost any budget.


backyard containers, plants


A small yard doesn’t have to feel boring and uninviting. By creating different areas within the space, you can make it feel larger, more functional and so much more interesting. Start by creating an overall plan even if you are not going to complete everything at once. This will ensure any part of the yard you improve will go towards a bigger picture and you won't be stuck redoing anything.

If you are unsure of where to start, seek help. Updating your exterior spaces can be a large investment and you want to be sure you spend your money wisely. Seek out a landscape designer to help with any long term planting plans before investing in perennials or trees. You want to be sure what you're buying will flourish in your space. You can also hire an interior designer (like myself!) to help create a plan for your outdoor zones, source the perfect outdoor furniture for your space and find those unique items that bring some personality to your yard. We can help you to create those smaller sections into intentional spaces with great seating, the best lighting and unique privacy solutions.


Ultimately, spending time outdoors is not only fun and relaxing but it is good for our health so make sure having a small yard doesn't stop you from enjoying the great outdoors. And remember, smaller yards can be so beautiful. People just tend not to do enough with them. So gather a bit of bravery, seek some professional help, have a plan and start creating the backyard of your dreams. Then, get outside and enjoy!


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