13 Fantastic Small Backyard Ideas

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Whether hosting a Fourth of July barbecue in the yard or sipping your morning coffee on the patio, it can be tricky to fit all your outdoor wants and needs into one tiny backyard. But, no matter the size of your yard, patio, or balcony, it’s easy to create an outdoor oasis perfect for spending time with friends and family. Start by making a list of priorities for the space, then find ways to personalize it for your lifestyle.

Sometimes living large means thinking small. If your outdoor space lacks square footage, it might seem like your outdoor entertaining dreams are far-fetched—but with a bit of creative thinking, solid design advice, and clever additions, you can make the most of your yard.

Matthew Benson

1. Add a Multifunctional Outdoor Bar Cart

If your yard or patio is too small for an outdoor bar—fear not. Create a portable drink station with a weather-resistant cart. Add your favorite drinkware and beverages for easy access during backyard get-togethers. The beauty of it is, this small backyard idea isn’t permanent—you can roll the cart into the house or garage when you aren’t using it. When planting season arrives, use it as a garden cart. Or, load it up with snacks if the kids are hungry from a long day of playing outside.

Kritsada Panichgul

2. Go Green

Greenery can liven up a deck or concrete patio, but you may feel reluctant to give up precious square footage for landscaping. With this small backyard idea, you won’t have to. Utilize every inch of space in your backyard by installing vertical planting boxes. Attach them to the back of your house or a fence, then grow flowers, greenery, or seasonal plants in this low-maintenance, space-saving option. If you choose to create a succulent garden, make sure you can bring them inside when the temperature gets too cold.

Bob Stefko

3. Bring the Heat

Whether it’s a warm July night or a chilly October evening, entertaining by a fire is a small backyard idea that always works. Keep it safe and manageable by creating a small cement fire ring. This makes it an obvious focal point for gatherings and prevents the fire and heat from damaging the rest of your space and your home. For a more portable option, buy a standalone fire pit to get all the perks of having a fire pit with none of the commitment.

John Bessler

4. Build a Bistro Nook

A bistro set is a charming way to include seating in a small space. Although it only sits two, it makes a cozy spot to have coffee with a friend, read a book, or enjoy some sunshine. Whether perched on a tiny patio or an apartment balcony, any space can be elevated with this seating arrangement.

Greg Scheidemann

5. Cook Up Some Style

Fill your backyard with laughter, friends, and good food by creating a designated grill area. Whether you’re cooking for friends or whipping up a simple grilled chicken dinner for the family, it’s a great way to enjoy the outdoors and keep the kitchen cool. To bring this small backyard idea together and make meal prep simple, dedicate a corner of your backyard to a grill and side table in an L-shaped layout.

Tria Giovan

6. Make Different Zones

This small backyard idea relies on divvying up the landscape to best suit your family’s needs. So, think about what you want and how your house and yard work together. Then, create different zones for play, dining, and gathering. A play area away from the entertaining space prevents accidents (and headaches), and designated seating areas keep the patio from looking cluttered. Keep in mind the area’s traffic patterns—if it’s hard to navigate, people will probably use it less.

Peter Krumhardt

7. Plant a Vertical Garden

Gardens take up space. So, when growing out isn’t an option, try growing up! If you have a small backyard, a giant vegetable garden may not be possible—but that doesn’t mean you have to forget the idea entirely. Our small backyard idea for gardening includes using a wooden pallet for hanging plant pots. Place a bench below to stack larger garden boxes. Prioritize planting your favorite garden goodies and pick fruits and veggies that do well in containers and small spaces.

Editor’s Tip: Smaller garden boxes and containers require less maintenance than a traditional garden.

Kathyrn Gamble

8. Find a Focal Point

Especially when space is limited, it’s tempting to give everything in a landscape the same importance—but that’s not how design works. Think about your living room. Usually, a central piece of furniture or artwork serves as the room’s main focus, with smaller pieces supporting it. That principle is true with landscaping, as well. Make a statement in your space with a seating area, flower bed, or grill area, then fill in with potted plants or functional decor items.

Editor’s Tip: A picnic table works great for entertaining a crowd in a small area!

David A. Land

9. Brighten With Pops of Color

Just because your backyard is petite doesn’t mean you can’t decorate it! Functional decor pieces like patio furniture sets, outdoor rugs, and colorful planters create an inviting, comfortable outdoor area, no matter how small. Look for bright colors to make the space feel alive and welcoming. Add some colorful cushions to make even the smallest gathering space feel cozy and functional. And don’t forget the shade! An outdoor umbrella is all it takes to keep the scorching days at bay.

Kimberly Gavin

10. Streamline Small Spaces

The smaller the space, the more streamlined your yard or patio should be. Clutter and a lack of functionality will make an outdoor space unpleasant to use. So, prioritize what you want. Do you prefer space to entertain or play areas for kids? Do you need room to grow a thriving veggie garden? Consolidate things that function together. Stage your entertaining and outdoor cooking spaces close together. Keep gardening supplies near your flowerbeds and confine kids’ toys and play equipment into a single spot.

Edward Gohlich

11. Let the Materials Do the Work

Use paving or landscaping materials to guide the transition from one zone to another in small backyards. Mulch and gravel are inexpensive materials; so put them to work defining a space for kids, an area for entertaining, or a spot for grilling. Or, if you’re looking for easier-to-maintain materials, consider concrete slabs or pavers. They are easy to clean but more expensive to install. You can also use these materials in unconventional ways to create seating, garden beds, fire pits, and even drink stations.

Marty Baldwin

12. Decorate with Multipurpose Furniture

Small rooms inside a house need furniture that works harder—and the same can be said for small backyards. Compact outdoor spaces need double-duty benches, chairs, and tables. Find seating with hidden storage to stash pillows or a table that expands for larger gatherings. Build a drink station that doubles as a potting bench when the party is over.

Adam Albright

13. Utilize The Front Yard

The backyard offers plenty of desirable aspects, including privacy for get-togethers. But if you’re short on space, look to the front yard for some extra square footage. Try incorporating a reading nook under a shady front yard tree, add an outdoor swing, or group a few chairs together for an intimate conversation area. Take advantage of all your outdoor space, and join in the hustle and bustle of life on your street.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can I make my small backyard space feel more private?

    To make a small outdoor space feel more secluded, break up the line of sight with a simple lattice wall or trellis. Plant shrubs or use potted trees to create a natural screen. If you prefer a softer, breezier look, hang curtains or bamboo shades.

  • How can I make my small backyard feel cozy?

    The tiniest backyard nook can transform into a welcoming hideaway with comfortable seating and some string lights for ambiance. Add a weather-resistant rug to make your outdoor retreat a comfy place to slip out of your shoes.

  • How much backyard space do I need to grow vegetables?

    You can grow vegetables on the tiniest patio with the help of hanging baskets, containers, or vertical gardens. Or, if you have a few feet to spare, consider square-foot gardening. With a 4×4-foot raised bed (and some careful gridwork) you can grow one extra-large plant per 1×1-foot square, four large plants per square, nine medium plants per square, or 16 small plants per square.

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