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It's not the size that counts.
We can't all have a sweeping rose garden, Olympic-sized swimming pool, or a state-of-the-art tennis court in our backyard—but a small backyard is still a backyard (and even rooftop terraces and modest balconies count in our book). Indeed, you don't need acres on acres to create a charming space conducive to alfresco entertaining, gardening, romance, and pensive solo hangs in the great outdoors. We gathered a plethora of beautiful and small backyards to prove it. So keep reading for small backyard decorating and landscape design ideas that'll help you get the most out of yours.
A small two- or one-person sauna will transform a small, lack-luster backyard into a luxurious oasis. Plus, installing a free-standing sauna outside will allow you to avoid of all the fuss of sufficiently ventilating your interiors. You can buy one prefab or you can take notes from this outdoor sauna by Alexander Design and create a more architecturally unique structure that beautifies the garden.
This exquisitely-designed patio by Robson Rak proves that you don't need a ton of square footage to make an outdoor space memorable. Choose outdoor fabric in an offbeat, sophisticated color and then spotlight chic materials.
While this backyard definitely isn't pint-sized, designer Jenn Feldman tells us it was difficult to fit the pool in given regional restrictions regarding property lines. So she made it work by planting ficus trees to tighten up greenery (other plants would be too deeply rooted to work with the desired pool depth) and opted for smaller floor cushions instead of loungers. She also installed a swimming jet so the occupant could still do "laps."
This modestly-sized London backyard by Applied Studio manages to pack in a ton of functional value, from the small herb garden to the footpath and picnic area. The real highlight, though, is the indoor/outdoor structure. One half is a little relaxation and meditation area and the other is a small sauna.
A pergola enhances the intimacy of a small space and allows you to get more use out of it since it lets in just the right amount of sun. Twisty branches and flowering vines scale this pergola on Wendy Wurtzburger's 1840 property, making the structure feel like it grew from the ground beneath it. The mossy brick ground contributes to the flow and proves that brick really only gets better with time.
Think of your garden as an organized procession, advises Hollander. Stone steps will give your outdoor space some structure and lead your guests in the right direction, no matter how big or small your garden is.
Ditch grass and instead opt for a natural stone for an old-world charm, like Wendy Owen did here (especially if you can incorporate greenery through climbing ivy and a hydrangea bush). Not only will it be easier to maintain, but it will also make it easier to use furniture, whether you opt for loungers or a patio dining set.
A corner fountain puts the finishing touches on this idyllic brick patio by Kingston Lafferty Design. Blue patio furniture breaks up the warmer tones from the exposed brick.
What is now a beautiful patio used to be the parking area! If you don't need the extra space for a car, then convert it into something you'll actually want to look at and use. Gary McBournie gave this saturated red brick patio a second life with a central sculpture and plenty of lush gardens. The red hue warms up the gray shingles and blue shutters on his Nantucket property.
If you want to carve out a stylish hang area that feels truly transporting, opt for a backyard gazebo. This one from April Powers is also a post-swim hang area—the ideal compromise when you don't have the room, budget, or desire to build a full-blown pool house. The crawling vines, sheers, and camouflaging paint color allow the gazebo to blend right in with the garden environment, while the bench and coffee table ensure comfort and function.
Leanne Ford built this A-frame garden shed to function as an outdoor playhouse for her daughter and plans to turn it into a greenhouse once she outgrows its current use-case.
A treehouse and a skateboarding ramp? Talk about landscaping dreams come true for a family home with active kids. Designed by Cuff Home in Los Angeles, this backyard is both a beautiful garden and a fun park. And they both fit in the relatively small backyard!
If you only have room for one exciting thing in your backyard, make sure to choose something you'll really love (and that could drive up resale value). Outdoor showers can dramatically increase the value of your home—according to a 2018 report from Realtor.com, homes with outdoor showers tend to list for nearly double the asking price of others. Take a cue from this small backyard by Akin Atelier and its rustic yet luxe outdoor showering area.
If you only have a small patio, use smart furniture that's super comfy and can seat a several people. Here, a simple daybed does the trick. Then, add greenery and a couple of outdoor throw pillows for color and impact.
If you can't fit a separate garden, greenhouse, and dining space into your outdoor area, design your backyard in a way that makes all of them possible in one contained spot. Take notes from this patio designed by Studio Ashby. This terrace is a dining space, a romantic relaxation spot (hello, hanging chair), and a garden all at once.
The best part about a tiny backyard is that it's inherently cozy. One well-designed sitting area is all you need for a dream backyard. Get inspired by this fire pit area at a property designed by Alexander DB.
A multi-level landscape design can create the illusion of a larger backyard. It breaks things up visually and allows you to designate each level to a different purpose. In this 2LG studio–designed yard, the bottom level is a dining patio, and the shrubbery border helps transition to the upper yard.
So you would love a swimming pool, but there's not enough room... You'd love a sprawling outdoor lounge, but simply don't have the space... A well-designed deck and tasteful freestanding hot tub can be just as covetable, as proven by this outdoor area by Regan Baker Design.
When your backyard is actually a small balcony, you'll need to get crafty. Turn it into a small garden with plenty of plants, but leave space for a coffee table (or bistro table if that won't fit) and a small settee or stool with throws and pillows to warm things up.
In this backyard designed by Arent & Pyke, a sleek garden bench under the trees is enough to complete the look. If you have a nice shady spot, simply pull up a bench, add a colorful throw pillow, and call it a day.
It doesn't take much to make a backyard feel magical, no matter the size. Even a small city patio can transport you elsewhere if you hang romantic string lights. Rustic wooden furniture becomes cozy when layered with pillows and sheepskin throws and set beside a fire pit.
Consider building a small fountain that beautifies the area without taking up a ton of room. At this home designed by Amber Interiors, the patio's small concrete fountain introduces style and has a calming effect despite its modest size.
Transform unused space on your back patio into a gardening opportunity. Case in point? The flower beds on this terrace's stair ledges, which beautify the area and help break up the sea of brick.
Create an outdoor area that doesn't require a ton of upkeep, even if that means forgoing grass. Consider setting up an al fresco dining room on a bed of gravel instead. This dining area is rustic and relaxed—best of all, you won't need to cut the grass.
Blogger Alicia Lund spruced up her backyard with a well-styled bar cart. Extra perk: Since it's on wheels, you can easily roll it back into the kitchen for refills. The brick paving and pots of herbs also add an English garden feel.
If you have a tiny outdoor space, you can still take advantage of the fresh air in style. Hang a slim hammock and then make it pop with a jute area rug, fun throw pillows, and floor cushions for extra seating—no trees necessary. At DIY fence adds to the island vibe while also enhancing privacy.
This patio is both approachable and design-forward, laid-back and put together. For a similar vibe, opt for sling chairs that make a statement. Or if you're crafty, find some affordable sling chairs and paint the canvas yourself.
If you love taking care of plants, build a tiny greenhouse in your backyard. A small glassed-in space will allow your plants to flourish and let you enjoy them rain or shine.
Use the architectural elements of your home to your advantage. At this house designed by Arent & Pyke, an indoor bench extends outside. This removes the need for patio furniture and opens up more space for tiles and greenery. It's also a great way to create a flow between indoors and out.
Though this backyard is tiny, it feels like a practical and stylish space. The heat lamp promises warmth on chilly nights and the floor cushions are great for extra lounge seating. The whitewashed wood deck keeps the tonal color story alive and well.