23 Small Backyard Ideas to Make the Most of Your Space

Not everyone is blessed with a big backyard, but there are plenty of small backyard ideas to make your property look and function at its best. For those who live in places with tighter outdoor spaces, it’s just a matter of practicingsmart designon a smaller scale. Whether you live in an apartment, condo, townhouse, loft, or house that has more indoor than outdoor space, you can still carve out a yard with soil, trees, plants, patios, seating, and even water features.We’ve found 23 diverse designs and solutions for small backyards and outdoor spaces, from urban to suburban and everything else in between.The Best Landscape Design Software 01 of 23 Tucson Small Yard Design Kathryn PrideauxKathryn Prideaux works magic with small spaces in Tucson and other Arizona cities, infusing the colors of the sky, surrounding terrain, and nature into her landscape designs for patio homes and condominiums. She expertly fuses styles and materials: rejuvenating midcentury modern outdoor furniture, adding rustic materials, finding innovative uses for colorful tile, and incorporating sculptural forms and succulents.Although Tucson’s Skyline Springs condominium complex has a swimming pool, the owners of this unit wanted a private pool. Prideaux Design, with the help ofCimarron Circle Construction Company, designed a stunning blue glass mosaic-tile pool as the yard’s centerpiece, with a ledge for in-pool lounge chairs when desert temperatures spike. Additional features include a poured-in-place etched concrete patio, rusted steel panels and walls, original adobe block walls, and a revitalized vintage Brown Jordan patio dining set.Continue to 2 of 23 below. 02 of 23 Yard for a Historic Home Jacobs GrantGerman Village in Columbus, Ohio, is a neighborhood of brick row houses built in the 1800s by German immigrants that has been undergoingpreservation and revitalizationsince 1959. A small backyard in the districtthat had faded concrete pavers and an oversized iron table was transformed byJacobs GrantDesigninto a functional, enjoyable space for its new homeowners. Jacobs Grant divided the space into two areas: an outdoor living room and a dining area, surrounded by hornbeam and boxwood hedges to create intimacy and structure. Designed in collaboration with Pots Abilities, the spaces include brick and bluestone, materials used on the facade of the historic house.Continue to 3 of 23 below. 03 of 23 Spanish Bungalow Dig Your GardenFor decades, lawns have been the go-to ground cover without anyone giving it much thought. That is until the ongoing drought in California and other dry regions forced landscapers and homeowners to rethink water-guzzling grass and come up with alternatives, such as xeriscape landscaping.Dig Your Garden’s solution for the small yard of an older Spanish-style bungalow in San Anselmo, California, was to replace the grass with creeping thyme and other low-water ground covers and plants. A new Arizona flagstone pathway was added, along with a small patio that repeats the terra-cotta tones found elsewhere on the home’s exterior.Other features, kept to a minimum, include an orange Fermob armchair, colorful pottery, and drought-tolerant plants like tibouchina, lion’s tail, lavenders, rosemary, yarrow, sunset hyssop, dwarf strawberry tree, and various succulents and ornamental grass.TipA xeriscape garden is designed to use minimal water. Though typically practiced in dry, arid climates, it’s also becoming popular in other types of climates as a way to reduce water usage while saving money and time on landscaping.Continue to 4 of 23 below. 04 of 23 Turning the Front Yard Into the Backyard Catherine BoslerWhat do you do when your house has no backyard? You borrow space wherever you can find it. In this case, landscape designer Catherine Bosler looked to the 560-square-foot front yard for this Los Angeles area property.Inspired by the nearby coast,Bosler Earth Designadded a wood deck painted in a distressed grey to create a living room with a fire pit. An outdoor dining area has decomposed granite (DG) underfoot and features a grill and prep counter. Bosler also incorporated a tall fountain to mask street noise and attract birds, added built-in benches of wood and stucco, privacy hedges, and a trellis with jasmine for its appealing fragrance.”The challenge was to fit everything into such a small space without feeling contrived and overdone and to make the space very private,” says Bosler.Continue to 5 of 23 below. 05 of 23 Backyard With a Hot Tub and Barbecue Land Studio CAn old deck and a desire to eliminate their lawn prompted the owners of this San Francisco home to enlistLand Studio C. Measuring about 1,500 square feet, the backyard now features a hot tub with a custom bench and vertical planting (back corner), a fire table, built-in barbecue, Corten (weathering) steel accents, and string lights.In this view of the yard, we see a pathway of concrete pavers set in pea gravel, a lounging area with an umbrella, and a delineated hardscape. The hot tub’s screening wall, bench, and a side yard screen were made from the old redwood deck.Continue to 6 of 23 below. 06 of 23 Another Part of the Yard Land StudioYes, this is the same yard in the same fairly small space, designed by Land Studio Cfor a house in San Francisco.Viewed from the middle of the yard toward the house, you can see the outdoor living room with the fire table, dining area, and small back porch.Continue to 7 of 23 below. 07 of 23 Asian-Inspired Backyard Change of SeasonsSacramento-based design firm Change of Seasonswas inspired by the dividers of a bento box for its remodel of a backyard that features stone-lined sections or compartments to add interest and structure to an eco-friendly contemporary garden.Continue to 8 of 23 below. 08 of 23 Tiny Toronto Backyard Beyond LandscapingWorking with limited space,Beyond Landscapingwas able to create a low-maintenance retreat in the backyard of a home in Toronto, Canada, that features a small fiberglass pool, composite decking, a horizontal fence for privacy, and artificial turf.Continue to 9 of 23 below. 09 of 23 Family-Friendly San Francisco Backyard CreoThe challenge: To design a backyard for a young family in San Francisco that could include room for dining and seating along with space for two little boys to let their imaginations run wild. Creo Landscape Architectureplanted bluegrass andno-mow fescue on a berm for the children to play, along with interactive sculptures. Creo used durable redwood to build the fence and bench, whilePodocarpus(plum pines) provide softscape and privacy. When not in use, the kids’ outdoor toys are stored inside the redwood benches.Continue to 10 of 23 below. 10 of 23 Neat and Vertical Backyard Megan MaloyEmma Lam and her design team at A Small Green Spacespecialize in small yards: the bulk of their clients are in Jersey County, New Jersey, and nearby New York City. This 16 by11.5-foot urban backyard is shared by three condos, making it a challenge for the designers to access via three private flights of stairs that lead to the yard. Since there is no outdoor water supply, the plants chosen are drought-tolerant. Among the upgrades to the neat, symmetrical design include:Lightweight furnitureNew fencing that includes vertical plantersA bluestone patioAn artificial lawnContinue to 11 of 23 below. 11 of 23 Small Backyard With Planters KL DesignsThe owners of this small yard in the San Francisco Bay area hired KL Designs to redesign their outdoor space to accommodate raised wood planters in which they can grow vegetables and herbs. Building the raised beds allow the plants to grow in quality soil, keeps them away from city-dwelling critters (such as squirrels and mice), and provides easy access for maintaining the vegetables.TipYou don’t need to compromise on growing vegetables even if you have a small backyard. Many veggies grow exceptionally well in containers, such as tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplants. For fast-growing container veggies, consider peas and lettuce.Continue to 12 of 23 below. 12 of 23 Organized Backyard Layout Blue HibiscusFor symmetry and organization, a patio made of irregularly shaped Arizona flagstone was replaced by designersBlue Hibiscus Gardenswith rectangular bluestone tiles in an ashlar pattern. A matching side patio was added using base rock and pre-cut pavers. A cozy deck features built-in seating and a concrete-top natural gas fire pit with prism fire glass. New plants include a Japanese maple and Pittosporum ‘Silver Sheen’.Continue to 13 of 23 below. 13 of 23 Reimagined Brooklyn Brownstone Irene Kalina-JonesWhen their children outgrew the kid-oriented yard, a Brooklyn couple, both professors, decided to renovate the garden of their Brooklyn brownstone. With the help ofOutside Space NYC, the backyard was divided into three areas with different levels. A geometric pergola provides shade and creates a comfortable seating area on the ipe deck. Raised stacked-stone beds are planted with a mix of low-maintenance shrubs, perennials, and ornamental grasses. The homeowner added a modern, lightweight outdoor sofa and coffee table for a midcentury feel.Continue to 14 of 23 below. 14 of 23 Brooklyn Bluestone Amber Scott FredaAnother backyard in Brooklyn was redesigned byAmber Freda Landscape Designas a space for entertaining and relaxation. A bluestone patio, custom horizontal planter boxes with casters for mobility,and fencing made of Ipe complement the outdoor kitchen and seating area with a fire pit.Freda’s challenge for this space: using the right plants for the widely varying pockets of sun and shade throughout the yard. In addition to a lush mix of flowering annuals and perennials, Freda used sweet potato vine, trumpet vine, Japanese maple, ornamental grasses, and dogwoods. Everything is equipped with automated low-voltage uplighting and drip irrigation lines.Continue to 15 of 23 below. 15 of 23 Gazebo Focal Point FernhillA stunning wood pergola is the centerpiece of a backyard in the quaint town of Lititz, Pennsylvania, designed byFernhill Landscapes. With upholstery, pillows, and flowering plants that harmonize, the space is intimate and appealing.Continue to 16 of 23 below. 16 of 23 Downtown Chicago Pad Reveal DesignBesides Wrigley Field, the next-best place to enjoy a Chicago Cubs game is your own backyard, right in downtown Chicago. Created byReveal Design, the linear design features a patio made with Technoblock pavers, Ipe, black steel and frosted-glass fencing, aluminum powder-coated planters, and the fire table and grill area are framed with Ipe. The illuminated orbs can be adjusted to change colors for holidays or sports on TV.Continue to 17 of 23 below. 17 of 23 Natural Berkeley Backyard Green AlchemyGuided by the belief that gardens should blend seamlessly with the lives of their owners, Deborah Kuchar ofGreen Alchemycreated a casual outdoor space for a house in Berkeley, California, that features natural materials like stone along with plants that create a lush, private space. Simple, classic butterfly chairs and a fire pit are surrounded by angel’s trumpet and lavender, among other growing things.Continue to 18 of 23 below. 18 of 23 Luxurious Lissoni in Miami RitzItalian architect and designer Piero Lissonicreated the namesake Villa Lissoni atThe Ritz-Carlton Residences, Miami Beach, a seven-acre property with more than 100 condominiums and a limited collection of 15 standalone properties. This upscale condo features a small, lush yard with tropical landscaping (including orchids), a private infinity pool (the property also has pools on-site), and patios that are accessible via floor-to-ceiling glass doors.Continue to 19 of 23 below. 19 of 23 Yard With Zones Land AestheticSan Diego enjoys one of the most ideal climates in the United States (or anywhere), which is why the owners of this home in Encinitas sought assistance fromEnvision Landscape Studioto make the most out of their backyard space. Divided into zones or sections, the yard includes a lawn for pets and children, a fire pit with casual seating, a covered outdoor living room, a dining area, and a water feature, all surrounded by low-maintenance landscaping.Continue to 20 of 23 below. 20 of 23 Planter With a Purpose Bradford AssociatesPeeking through the gate of a backyard in Providence, Rhode Island, remodeled by Bradford Associates, you can catch a glimpse of new fencing, a patio with lightweight furniture, and a raised bed that not only allows its owners to grow plants but helps to screen an adjacent raised filtration area.Continue to 21 of 23 below. 21 of 23 Corner Backyard in Virginia Heart’s EaseTucked into a corner of a backyard, a composite-decking bench was placed in front of a mature hydrangea bush to create an appealing nook. Designed by Peggy Krapf of Heart’s Ease Landscape and Garden Designin Toano, Virginia, the space features abench that is set on a stone pad to create a level surface. Urns planted with annual color can be changed out seasonally.Continue to 22 of 23 below. 22 of 23 Clean-Line Backyard Design Christy WebberSymmetry, geometric design, and organization are often key to designing small backyards.Christy Webber Landscapeswas inspired by this Chicago homeowner’s recent interior renovation—modern and using clean lines—to extend living space to the yard. The patio is paved with bluestone with blue-chip joints. A privacy fence is softened with medium-sized trees, like Japanese maple trees, along with birch and spruce trees, while boxwood, rhododendron, arborvitae, and pachysandra add year-round interest.Continue to 23 of 23 below. 23 of 23 Super Small Backyard Turned into a Dream Magic LandscapingAndrew Shepherd of Magic Landscaping was tasked with creating a backyard for a historic home in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. The challenge: “It had absolutely no backyard. What was there was about 20 feet deep and about 100 feet wide.

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