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Here at Tilly we can tell you with absolute confidence that a landscape design is NOT one-size-fits-all. That is why our designers take the time to get to know each client’s style, desires, needs, and constraints during their one-on-one consults. A common hurdle to design can be prioritizing space in your yard. Reimagining a space that you have either inherited or lived in and become used to can be difficult. We tend to get stuck in our ways or not realize when our landscape needs an update!

One thing you can do to make sure your space is working best for you and your family is prioritize the space in your yard! This means allocating more area in the landscape for things that will be used frequently and less space for low-priority uses. Below are some tips on how to think about and prioritize the space in your yard so that it’s maximized and being used optimally.

Prioritizing Space in Your Yard

Programming Your Space

Consider the different ways you use your yard and the ways you’d like to use it. For some families, a backyard is exclusively play space for the kids. For others, it is primarily used to entertain guests. You may hardly use your outdoor space, but want it to be an attractive view from a window or balcony. To many of us, yards function as a site for diverse programming: to play, host, view, lounge, etc. Identify what your programming needs are. We recommend making a ranked list to help sort out your priorities.

Photo Credit: Jude Parkinson-Morgan

Layout of the Yard

Do you have a basketball player in the family who needs practice space and an herb garden that you use daily? Great. But you probably don’t want balls bouncing into your lemon basil, followed by careless feet running after it. The programming in your yard should relate well spatially. That means putting compatible activities together (like grilling talking to guests) and keeping competing activities apart (like that ball court and herb garden). This may seem obvious, but when you start laying out space, asking these sorts of questions will help to realize the logic of the landscape. 

Scale of Importance

Here is where some real prioritizing comes into play. When we purchase a home that was previously owned, the yard will reflect the priorities of the last family that lived there. It can be hard to see beyond what already exists. But when rethinking the layout of a space consider and prioritize how big each different element should be. 

For example, if you are someone who frequently entertains large groups in your backyard, dedicate a lot of space to it! You may need a large deck or to incorporate multiple seating areas and space for social games. On the other hand, if you are someone who has a few guests only once or twice a year, a cozy patio with a fire pit may suffice, leaving more space open for other sort of uses. Just be sure not to dedicate huge swaths of your property to something that isn’t significant to your family. Your outdoors should be an extension of your home and make sense to your lifestyle.  

Convertibility, Collapsibility, Put-Away-Ability

There are many reasons to be charmed by the tiny-house movement’s call for minimizing our lives. One of the most fantastic things it has done for design is a new appreciation and more access to products that convert, adapt, collapse, and dissapear. What is more satisfying than finding a clever method of storage that works for your space? This can be applied to your landscape in ways that make your space more useful. 

For example, there are great clever products out there like outdoor benches with storage under the seats or fold-out bars. Even simple folding chairs have seen some serious improvements over the years. For those secondary and tertiary uses of your space, why not make them something that can be folded up or put away discreetly?

Photo Credit: Wayfair

Create Rooms within Your Design

Once you’ve decided the what-goes-where of your space, you may want to reinforce these different areas of programming. This is similar to the idea of creating rooms out of your outdoor space. A few ways to delineate space are:

  • Use different materials on the ground. Mulch may signify a play area, pavers show the extent of the outdoor dining space, while planting beds are cleanly edged. 
  • Use different methods of screening – planting, walls, or fencing – to emphasize the separate areas of your lawn. 

Now that we’ve got our priorities all sorted out, re-envision your space and make it happen. Or if prioritizing space in your yard still sounds overwhelming, Tilly loves rethinking your layout for you

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