Think Big: Small Backyard Ideas with Big Impact

We’re not all lucky enough (or simply don’t want) to have a big, sprawling backyard. There are benefits to smaller outdoor spaces such as less maintenance, fewer utility bills, and a cozy appeal. No matter the size of your yard, it’s possible – and sometimes necessary – to make the most out of the space available. These small backyard ideas are designed to do just that: maximize the space, make it look bigger, and tailor it to suit your needs. Let’s get started!

Optical Illusion: Making a Small Backyard Look Bigger

The corner of a small patio with a wooden bench and hanging plants

It’s possible to trick your visitors (and yourself) into thinking you have more space than you actually do. With a few small backyard landscaping techniques, you can alter perception. These tips work for front and side yards too.

1. Organization is Everything

It’s common to think that leaving a small yard open and haphazard makes it look and feel bigger. Well, the opposite is true. It’s important to plan your space, with each area having a clear, intended purpose. This does not require walls. It’s possible to have sections while keeping the space open. For example, you can separate the dining space from the play area with a few plants or a pebble pathway. It’s in the defined spaces that you get a spacious feeling.

2. Diagonal Pavers and Decking

Close-up of wood laid out for outdoor decking on a house

Diagonal lines create the illusion of a space being bigger than it really is. Apply this to your outdoor space by laying your patio planks in diagonal lines instead of horizontally or vertically; or by laying pavers in a diagonal or winding pattern for a path or walkway. Be sure not to make your walkway too wide. Instead, gradually decrease its width as it goes farther toward the back of the yard. This makes the end seem farther away than it really is.

3. Use Color Correctly

If you love bright colors, place them close to the entry to the yard. This draws people’s attention, causing the background to recede. You can also use them in areas you’d like to draw attention to. On the other hand, cool colors such as blue and purple blend easily into greenery and should be used near the borders of the yard. No need to rely on paint or material to create this effect. You can use plants too – just make sure they bloom in the appropriate color.

4. Take it to Another Level

Overhead shot of a small backyard with stairs going up to upper balcony

Bring depth to a small yard by creating levels. If possible, add steps, create a sunken patio or outdoor fire pit, or raised lounging area. However, you don’t have to go that far. You can create dimension simply by having a container garden or raised planter. If you do go for the container garden, incorporate vines over the sides to draw the eye downward.

5. Incorporate Structures

Pergolas and other architectural features are great to add to your list of small yard ideas. They serve multiple purposes such as framing a view or providing support for a climbing garden, all while adding character to your outdoor space and creating the illusion of more space.

6. Furniture Choices

Woman sitting on wicker furniture in a garden showing small backyard ideas

Big, bulky furniture may be extra comfy, but it overwhelms a small yard and takes up a lot of (valuable) space. Stick with smaller furniture (which can be comfy too) that has a see-through design. This allows the eye to travel further. Additionally, choose furniture that is multi-functional and easy to store away when not in use. Think foldable chairs, a wide bench that can be used as a picnic table, or tabletop fire pits. This creates less clutter, making your space appear larger.

Small Backyard Ideas: How to Maximize Your Outdoor Space

An outdoor patio featuring a wine collection and outdoor furniture

Now we’re going to jump into how to get the most use out of your limited space. From storage to entertaining, small yards can pack just as much fun as big ones.

1. Use the Walls

Take advantage of the exterior walls of your house by installing shelving. This can be used to hold decorative pieces, plants, or your guests’ drinks and snacks when entertaining. Shelves won’t take up precious floor space or need to be put away. Get creative with your choice of shelving: make sure it’s attractive, fits in with your décor, and is functional.

2. Lighting a Small Yard

Close-up on lightbulbs on string lights hung outdoors

Amp up the coziness factor by hanging string lights across your small yard. They’re inexpensive, create great ambiance, and eliminate the need for standing lamps that take up floor space.

3. Impromptu Bench

Small backyard ideas require a bit of creativity. Take advantage of any sturdy ledge and convert it into a bench. Simply throw on some comfy, colorful pillows and you’re done! Need a side table? Grab a small garden stool, add a few coasters, and call it a day.

4. Hanging Plants

A woman in a garden surrounded by flowering hanging plants

Potted plants are great but they take up floor space. When landscaping your small backyard, consider a green wall to hang your plants. Make use of the garden fence, pergola, or exterior walls of your home to do this and you’ve got an instant colorful plant gallery of sorts. Hey, you could even plant some fresh herbs to use in your kitchen. Another benefit – they’ll be out of reach of rambunctious kiddos.

5. Borrow Space

Don’t have a backyard? Convert your front or side yard into one! If you do already have a backyard, extend it by using the side yard. More space equals more use. All of a sudden your small backyard landscaping project has become a bigger one. Use the (extra) space to plant an herb or vegetable garden, create an outdoor kitchen complete with fire pit, or make it a Zen garden to retreat and relax. The options are endless.

6. Stylish Storage

Large barrels in a backyard sitting around a fire pit

When maximizing space, you need small backyard ideas that serve more than one purpose. Once again, choosing furniture is a big deal here. Consider a bench (or wooden chest) with a top that opens up to reveal a storage unit – perfect for storing cushions, garden tools, toys, and more. Barrels also provide excellent storage, and can work as a cooler and be used as seating or side tables. Pick stylish items that are multifunctional, won’t take up too much space, and are easy to move around.

Small Backyard Ideas for Different Occasions

A backyard patio and pool

Like any backyard, small ones can have many uses. Here are some landscaping ideas for small backyards with different priorities.

1. Entertaining Family and Friends

  • Lure your visitors outdoors by creating a destination in the form of a special feature in your backyard such as a fountain or fire pit. Alternatively, you could simply have a well-arranged patio set and grill. Having a destination makes your tiny space worth a visit.
  • Use several small spaces: Set up multiple areas for guests to mingle by dividing your small backyard into different sections. The grill could be in one corner, drinks set up on another side, while meals can be served on a larger, round patio table (round tables are easier to walk around than rectangular or square ones). This way, everyone isn’t crowded around one spot.
  • Purchase small, narrow furniture to provide seating for a few guests. This creates space to walk around the deck or garden and has the added benefit of elongating it –  creating the illusion of a bigger space.
  • Hang decorations or keep them to one side, leaving space for seating (or dancing) on the other side.

2. Gardening in Small Yards

Woman pruning plants in a planter box

Containers, green walls with hanging plants, and raised beds work great when gardening in small spaces. Here’s another trick for small backyard landscaping: instead of arranging your plants in rows or square patterns, stagger your plants by planting in triangles. This allows you to fit up to 14% more plants in each bed. Just remember not to pack them too tightly or they won’t reach their full size.

3. Private Getaway

For many people, a backyard serves as a personal space to get away from the stress of the world. A small backyard works perfectly as a meditation garden (just enough space for you), a reading nook, or somewhere to take a coffee break. Here’s how:

  • Surround yourself with low-maintenance greenery and fragrances. Green is soothing and scents from plants such as lavender can help you relax and feel calm.
  • If possible, install a small water feature. The soothing white noise of water can have a calming effect on you. Plus it looks great in any backyard.
  • For a Zen atmosphere, choose lighting that isn’t too bright or distracting, add inspiring artwork as a focal point to draw the eye and make your space seem bigger, and create a small Zen garden in one corner with rocks, pebbles, and sand (don’t forget the rake).
  • Hang up a hammock or throw some comfy cushions on the ground to really relax.
  • Set up a small coffee table and chairs.
  • Keep things simple and minimalist – the less stuff, the less clutter, the more relaxing.

Small Backyard Ideas: Think Outside the Box

Couple sitting at small outdoor table

Implementing these small backyard ideas requires some creativity on your part. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box – small outdoor spaces offer more than they seem and can create just as many memories as larger ones. It’s more about how you use your space and the character you inject into it.

Do you feel better about your small backyard? How will you make the most of it? Let us know in the comments below!