Small Backyard Ideas

Small Backyard Ideas for An Elegant Patio or Backyard

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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Backyards aren't always meant to be bigger and better. Our dream houses don't always come with an expansive rose garden or that Olympic-sized swimming pool, either by our choosing or as fate would have it. But that small backyard (even if it's a rooftop terrace or modest balcony) still counts as a backyard, and you'll need great small backyard ideas to turn that stone patio into a delightful outdoor space.

With the right backyard ideas, you can create a charming space for an alfresco entertaining, beautiful dining area, romantic garden, or a reflective seating area where you are one with nature. A tiny yard will mean that you'll have to be more intentional with the design that you pick. When you factor in including large fixtures like pergolas, swimming pools, and fire pits, small backyards can be a little tricky to work with.

So how about you started working smarter and not harder to make the most of your outdoor footprint and have your own little tropical oasis where you and your family can soak up the sunshine all summer long and also entertain guests.

Where to Start?

Your petite backyard will benefit from some inspiring small backyard ideas with simple and stylish tricks including, clever placement patio string light ideas to help set the mood around your outdoor bar, or some innovative ideas that include a water fountain or two. To add visual interest, small backyard ideas might include getting the best yard plants, healing plants, or great ground cover flower beds and pea gravel.

But if you haven't really been blessed with a green thumb, there are plenty of backyard solutions that won't need you to get your hands dirty, pruning, or gardening. Additionally, if you're short on backyard storage, there are plenty of solutions, from sheds to built-in benches to keep your gardening tools. And the good news is that making your very own little oasis doesn't always need you to break the bank.

All these small backyard ideas are simple ways to maximize your outdoor space. A mix of beautiful landscaping ideas, decorating tricks for a rustic or modern look, and some gardening how-tos that'll give you the inspiration for the ultimate backyard.

There are two main approaches to do this: stick with small statements like rolling bar carts, potted greenery, and container gardens, or go all-in with a new outdoor seating area or dining area patio furniture and major small space renovations like a hot tub, fire pit, concrete pavers, etc. Either way, it's amazing how easy you can to transform a traditional lawn into your little haven.

1. Start With An Outdoor Table

Modern outdoor coffee table ideas – an elegant decor for garden or patio

Whether it's a petite city balcony or that sprawling poolside yard, there’s plenty you can use to infuse your preferred style and functionality into your outdoor area. Here are some ways to dress your outdoor table, if you already have one;

  • Spray on a new paint coat
  • Use Turkish towels to infuse color
  • Use sheepskin to soften things up
  • Add onto the classic flair with Cabana stripes
  • Have an evergreen centerpiece using succulents
  • Create some height and delineate using new plant stands

2. Get A Little More Cozy

All it takes is an outdoor table to match your sophistication and viola! A little extra polish for an outdoor indulgence or just a family dinner that's a little nicer-than-usual. With the Alfresco season dawning in on us, you can start to spruce up your outdoor dining area with a simple little twist.

The best part about having a small backyard is that it's inherently super cozy. Well-designed sitting space is all you need for that dreamy little haven. You can get your inspiration from the different fire pit small yard area ideas or ones set beside a lush, verdant landscape to complete that stunning picture-perfect seating area for multiple outdoor rooms or dreamy patio.

Achieving a refined outdoor space will need the same attention as your indoor living area would. Think of these spaces as 'rooms,' and the last thing you need is an awkward furniture configuration with outrageous patterns competing with the surrounding greenery. Instead, to have linger-worthy outdoor spaces in your small backyard, consider reclaimed furniture in lively shades or rustic and antique faux-bois furniture that welcome your guests to lounge as they soak in nature's spectacular delights.

3. Get Hanging Planters

How many throw pillows and succulents can you possibly use until you run out of easy small backyard spruce-up options? Welcome to the hanging planter world. These are decorative pots that you can suspend from your wall or ceiling to elevate colorful plants, herbs, small flowers, even your favorite fruit!

There’s a whole array of unique hanging planter options that are perfect for the tight space in your tiny backyard. They are ideal for any type of home aesthetic, whether you want a minimalistic copper look to complement the more contemporary spaces or colorful glass-blown iterations for a more experimental style. In addition, there are plenty of hand-painted splatter ceramic pots that give you a subtle yet chic decorative accent that's ideal in any small backyard.

If you like getting your hands a little dirty, you can have some fun making your own DIY hanging planter at home from an old gift basket or a particularly attractive take-out container. You can also use plastic wine glasses and cotton twine to come up with your own crazy chic, affordable planter. All you'll need after is some paint and a simple knot tying, and there you have it- your planter.

But if you'd rather not, there are plenty of places to get hanging planters that feature everything from macrame details to rustic galvanized steel. So just get some and put in your new plants.

4. The Right Lighting for Your Small Backyard

You don't need a big backyard or more space for a magical patio. Hanging outdoor lights above outdoor dining or the sitting area will create the ultimate mood. With the right lighting, even your small city patio can take you elsewhere. String lights above rustic patio furniture layered with cozy fluffy pillows and sheepskin throw all set beside a fire pit- quite the dream.

Perusing through lighting small backyard ideas will help you make the best call that suits your space. Other than string lights, you can coordinate your throw pillows with your outdoor garden and hang a timeless pendant light that polishes things off. Plus, you can always swap out your pillows or outdoor rug as an easy and cost-effective way to upgrade your yard every season.

5. Stir Things Up With Levels

A multi-level small backyard landscape design on your backyard will help you create the illusion of larger square footage. Visually breaking up small space allows you to designate each of the levels to a different purpose.

You can use the bottom level either as your sitting area or dining space, while the border helps transition to the upper yard. This small backyard divided into different sub-areas will serve different functions to help you get the most out of your space.

6. Your Backyard Focal Point

Stacked curved paving stones put in a circle have always been used to make a statement-a worthy fire pit. Alternatively, you can venture out and use stucco to give your small backyard garden a sleek exquisite appearance. 

To make your space more inviting, you can scatter some rustic metal chairs and potted plants nearby. A patio heater is a classical way to create your outdoor focal point and extend the outdoor entertainment at any time of the year.  

7. Small Water Features

You might want a water feature, but don't think small backyards give you enough room to get one, right? Well, not anymore. There are plenty of smaller-scale fountains that will create that elegant garden looks in your backyard space, and that will not take any extra space any more than your small backyard can give. You can place the fountain in the unused space in your backyard.

There are plenty of small backyard ideas and water fountain designs that introduce the relaxing sound of soothing water for such a calming effect despite their modest size.

8. Hang A Hammock or Swinging Chair

Taking advantage of the fresh air outside in your own backyard will include hanging a slim hammock and then making it pop with a comfortable jute rug, some fun throw pillows. You can also throw in some floor cushions for extra seating space, with or without trees.

Alternatively, you can make a statement by hanging a swing chair from your backyard ceiling or deck cover. Finally, you can use your geometric tiling or backyard outdoor rug for additional space.

9. Is It Party-ready?

If you don't have room for a fancy bar, then you can consider installing a Murphy bar outside, which can simply fold down into a table when you need one. The shelves also make for perfect storage, and you can always stack up some cute plants on top.

Spruce up your backyard with a well-styled Wicker bar cart that also adds to an English garden feel.

10. Outdoor Living Room

A small backyard could be a fun design opportunity for you to get your creative juices going and not such an annoying challenge. So here's a chance to create your stylish outdoor living room right in your backyard. You can start with all the right components in seating, rug, and table, then build the rest on that.

Have your backyard turned into a living room right in the middle of a tropical oasis by having your yard furniture straight on the grass, then fill out the yard space with patterned blankets, plush pillows, and lanterns.

Frequently Asked Questions on Small Backyard Ideas

1. How can you make a small backyard space look fuller?

Grow plants with broad or coarse leaves that add a lush look to your limited space; for instance, you can try Hostas. You can work on colorful plants for a tropical garden with lush greenery and large shiny leaves on a small yard portion or on a vertical garden. There are many budget-friendly ideas you can incorporate, including a small herb garden or ornamental grass that adds height and fills up small spaces quickly.

2. What colors make small backyards look bigger?

Generally, lighter colors such as light blue are more reflective, but the hint of blue also helps to add some depth, and in turn, helps make a small yard feel bigger. A light blue fence will work particularly well with neutral-colored outdoor furniture. Light blue is also a symbol of luxury and a contemporary feeling that you can include in your garden accents.

3. What are the best colors to paint a small patio fence?

Your fence and private space exterior don't have to match, so you can choose a color that visually enhances your home. Generally, painted fences are neutral in tone: white, black, or gray. If you don't want a modern black fence, you can also work with muted colors such as brick red or even deep green can also work. Of course, if you feel like going a little fun, you can also do a sunflower-yellow fence.

4. What plants should you plant in a container garden to add greenery in a small backyard?

Ideally, vegetables are suited for growing in a container; these include eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, green onions, beans, squash, radishes, lettuce, and parsley. More specifically, pole beans and cucumbers do pretty well in this type of gardening but note that they also require a considerable amount of space because of their vining growth.

5. Should you paint or stain your fence?

Not only does painting or staining a wood fence help it look better, but it also lasts longer. However, of the two ways, staining your fence is more ideal rather than painting it. This is because the wood will absorb stain much deeper than it would paint.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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