Big Design Ideas for Small Outdoor Spaces

One of the hottest trends in housing right now is the inclusion of outdoor living spaces. Most articles and photographs online show huge yards with generous outdoor spaces. Do you dream of the perfect outdoor living space, but are afraid your yard is too small to fit the bill? Never fear! Our ideas for small outdoor spaces will help turn your small yard into the oasis you’ve always dreamed of.

Plant Wisely

If you don’t have a lot of yard to work with, you’ll want to choose your plants wisely. Be mindful of how much space plants take up, and avoid anything that’s known to spread out and take over. If you want to go big, go tall, and choose trees and plants that will grow up without having to grow out.

Break It Up

One trick for maximizing a small yard is to break it up into smaller sections. Have a clearly defined patio or outdoor living room, and design obvious boundaries for other areas, such as gardens, play areas, or cozy little nooks for reading or relaxing. You can create clearly defined outdoor spaces by elevating patios and landscaped areas. Use different materials or colors in each space.

Build a Pergola or Patio Cover

Even in a small yard, a pergola or patio cover can help to define a space and set them apart. These structures maximize the square footage by utilizing vertical space, drawing the eye upward and giving your outdoor spaces a sense of importance and grandeur . With a covering, you also increase the usefulness of the space available to you, making it into something that can be used in any weather. Such a structure declares that your small yard was a choice, rather than a burden.

Use Visual Tricks

Optical illusions are the decorator’s secret weapon for dealing with small spaces. There are many visual tricks that you can bring out-of-doors to fool the eye into thinking this space is bigger than it really is. Here are a few ideas for small outdoor spaces: 

  • Design on the diagonal: Using the diagonal makes the space look bigger. For small patios, placing paving tiles on the diagonal will create an optical illusion that effectively stretches the space. A diagonal path can also make a space look larger, since it is longer.
  • Use perspective to your advantage: Forget about curved, meandering paths. In a small space, this will only serve to emphasize how few curves the path can make before it runs out of space. Instead, use straight lines and paths, especially with something at the end to draw the eye. This will fool the brain into thinking something is larger than it actually is due to perspective.
  • Draw the eye to the foreground: It may sound counter intuitive, but sometimes the best approach is not to draw the eye to the background, but to make the foreground more interesting. Vivid colors, dramatic landscaping, and a focal point such as attractive furniture or a fountain will relegate everything else to background, causing the space to look larger.

Take a Minimalist Approach

Cracking down on clutter is another way to create the impression that an outdoor space is larger. Even an excess of decor can make an already-limited space feel more cramped. Choose your decor carefully, selecting pieces that are both useful and attractive. Keep the spaces clean and open, and there will be less to interrupt the eye and make you feel crowded.

Broaden Your Horizons

Just because you have a limited amount of space doesn’t mean that what you can do with it is limited, too. There are many ways to make small outdoor spaces into the yard you’ve been dreaming of. All you need is the right design, the right materials, and a bit of earth.

Get Inspired

Find even more outdoor living inspiration and ideas in our project gallery.