What To Do if You Have Just a Little Bit of Outdoor Space


If you live in a big city, or in a smaller house in a small one, chances are good that your outdoor space (if you have one at all) is pretty small. But just because you don’t have an expansive, suburban-style backyard doesn’t mean you can’t create a beautiful retreat, a place you’ll look forward to escaping to every day. Here’s a little inspiration from nine tiny outdoor spaces.

This space from The Style Files is actually the side yard component of a much larger yard, but it’s still good inspiration for creating a beautiful (and very low-maintenance) outdoor space in a very small footprint. (Well, it’s low-maintenance if you don’t include the pool, but also proof that it’s possible to shoehorn a pool into a small space.)

Even a little outdoor deck with no dirt can still feel like a secret garden, as evidenced by this outdoor space from Ben Pentreath, via Desire to Inspire. The key is using plants with a lot of different heights, to create a feeling of lushness.

Gentle steps and numerous planters help to make the most of the side yard of this UK home, spotted on the Wealden Times.

Here’s another side yard, this one in New Orleans, from Southern Living. Placing the garden in the middle, surrounded by a walkway, means there’s room for growing and also for meandering, even in a space that’s only 14 feet wide.

This 200 square foot ‘microcourtyard’, spotted on Dwell, features a smattering of plantings, a few benches, and a small but soothing water feature, where water cascades from level to level.

This side yard, from Houzz, is also great inspiration for a small backyard. I love the way the staggered pavers create a very natural, English-garden kind of feel, and the way the plantings increase in height as you move away from the path, which makes the space feel full and lush. You could make the terrace in the middle a little larger to provide space for grilling or dining.

This townhouse by Lubrano Ciavarra, in New York’s West Village, has a petite backyard, made slightly less cavelike by the walls of plantings.

Plants in different shades and heights create a feeling of lushness in this long, narrow townhouse backyard from Garden Club London.

It’s no secret that I love water features of any kind, so I’m especially impressed with the owners of this New Orleans home, who managed to squeeze a hot tub (and a few plantings, too!) into a very, very narrow outdoor space. It’s proof that it’s possible to create an inviting retreat in even the tiniest of spaces.

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