Designing for a Small Backyard

By Jessica Goldberg

August 24, 2021

Backyard Garden Window

At Tilly, we have designed for just about every kind of space. Roof terraces, single-floor ranches in desert climates, lakefront dockside areas; you name it. One request that comes across our desk daily is a design for a small backyard. While lacking in square-footage may seem like a hindrance to some, trust us, we love working with small yards. One of Tilly’s founding principles is to bring great landscape design to a wider range of homeowners and that includes those small backyards, side yards, or those funny-shaped, quirky, and unique plots of land! Planning for a small backyard comes with its own set of challenges and maximizing a small space can change how you use and enjoy your entire property. 

Here are some of our best tips for taking your small backyard to the next level.

 

Set Your Backyard Priorities

The very first thing you should do when designing for a small backyard is determine the priorities for your space! When there is limited area to work with, space will fill up quickly. So, write out what you want for your backyard and rank those desires. While you may want a spa, be sure it doesn’t take the place of something more important before calling the installer. 

The same goes with priorities that are less obvious. Having open space may be a visual desire for your backyard, or being able to throw a baseball back and forth. Plan for all of these things! Check out our post about prioritizing space in your yard or our Pinterest page for inspiration about figuring out your backyard goals.

Some frequent space priority requests we get include: 

  • Dining table for entertaining
  • Lounge area 
  • Kid’s playground 
  • Dedicated fire pit space 
  • Grass or Turf to enjoy
  • Water feature 
  • Colorful garden views 
Backyard Design Garden Priority

Photo Credit: Tilly, Kody Kohlman

 

Flexible Multiuse Backyard Spaces

One great way to obtain the maximum use out of a small backyard is to create spaces that can serve more than one purpose. Can your bocce court host a buffet table? Can the exterior of your house be used as a projector screen? This is an opportunity to juxtapose some of your yard’s uses in a playful way. While you may not have space for a dedicated patio, you may find that your guests love feeling immersed in the verdant dining space you have erected among your garden. This is where the expertise and experience of a professional designer can really make a difference. 

Backyard Dining Table

Photo Credit: Canva

Storage Storage… Backyard Storage

Anyone who has lived in a small space knows that visual clutter is a constant issue that comes on fast! Leaving out a play set or an extra table and chairs can quickly leave a small area looking messy or full. For this, storage is your best friend. Be strategic with every purchase so that each item that goes in your backyard has an intended place. 

Also, be creative with your storage! Binge a couple of episodes of Tiny House Nation and you will be hooked on all the clever ways that people put things away. There are many chairs, tables, and ottomans on the market now that come with built-in storage, as well as outdoor shelving solutions that can fit your style. Storage can be made into an attractive addition to a space rather than a pile of junk to hide.

Small Backyard with a Great Fence

Photo Credit: Turquoise and Tabacco

 

Blend Indoors and Outdoors

There is a reason French doors feel so lush and fanciful. They open our homes to the outdoors, inviting air and nature in, while extending the home space out. This effect can be achieved in a number of ways for great results in a small backyard. Find ways to blur the lines between the inside and outside, so that your backyard can be thought of as an extension of your home. This can mean features like French doors, extending the flooring of your interior into an outdoor patio, installing big windows, or placing some indoor plants near the entrance to your backyard. Lighting can also be to blend your interior space with the backyard.

Multiuse Outdoor Space

Photo Credit: Canva

Think Vertically

Just because your backyard’s footprint is small does not mean that your design has to be contained to that square footage. The sky’s the limit (literally)! Incorporating vertical elements in your space can help it feel immersive and even cozy. This can be in the form of a trellis, climbing vines, hanging pots, string lighting, or even veggies planted in vertical containers. Think of your backyard in three dimensions and utilize all that you’ve got.

Verticle Small Backyard Design

Photo Credit: Megan Maloy

 

Be a Good Neighbor

In the case of many small backyards, your neighbors may be close and/or behind a fence. Keep in mind your relationship with your closest neighbors when planning for your backyard:

  • Notify them of any work being done
  • Keep in mind your and their privacy, i.e., no balconies near their windows, no outdoor showers within view!
  • Install fencing that provides both adequate privacy and looks good from both sides! The fencing you install will be an integral part of your space as well. Do not overlook its importance.

No matter what size your backyard is, we truly believe it can be a great backyard. Get creative, and think big! Have you figured out a space-saving solution within your yard?

 

Small Backyard Garden Ideas

Photo Credit: Thomas J. Story

 

It is rewarding to work with client’s with small backyards. We love helping them extend their living space through a functional and smart design. This can help your home feel larger and complete.

Check out a few fabulous backyards Tilly has created:

 

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