small backyard with garden and potting shed

Applied Studio

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 a 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 al fresco 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.

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Erect a Sauna

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.

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Make It Count

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.

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Rethink Your Layout

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.”

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Incorporate Things You’ll Actually Use

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.

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Install an Outdoor Shower

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.

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Pick Statement Greenery

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.

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Make It Multipurpose

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.

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Embrace Coziness

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.

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Break Things Up With Levels

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.

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Compromise, Compromise, Compromise

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.

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Be Resourceful

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.

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Don’t Overdo It

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.

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Hang String Lights

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.

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Build a Small Fountain

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.

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Incorporate Greenery

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.

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Opt for Gravel

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.

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Make It Party-Ready

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.

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Hang a Hammock, Trees or No Trees

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.

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Add Some Statement-Making Chairs

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.

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Indulge Your Hobbies

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.

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Keep Architecture In Mind

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.

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Go Grayscale

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.

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Focus On Landscaping

The backyard is your space to reconnect with nature and unwind in the fresh air. So instead of saturating it with furniture and décor, focus on landscaping and florals.

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Lay Colorful Tiles

An eye-catching tile on the patio can make all the difference in tiny backyard. Choose a whimsical pattern with bright colors and then use more timeless and neutral furniture that won’t overwhelm the eye or take up any valuable real estate.

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Create a Pathway

In a small or narrow city yard, introduce greenery with a pathway surrounded by planting beds. Then enhance your vertical space by bringing in slim, tall trees, like at this Brooklyn home designed by Elizabeth Roberts Architecture and Design. The brick walls keep our eyes focused on the architectural details of the townhouse ahead and make the garden feel like a private oasis in the middle of the city.

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Treat It Like a Living Room

Consider a small back patio a fun design opportunity, not an annoying challenge. Hang a bench swing to keep the floor uncluttered, then set up the space like an outdoor living room with stylish accent seating, a rug, and a side table.

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Cultivate a Garden

Use your precious outdoor space to cultivate your very own garden if the climate allows. Grow flowers, herbs, and produce to beautify the yard. Plus, a garden will give you a reason to get outdoors more often.

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Don’t Leave It Empty

A small patch of grass can look awkward if it’s empty. If it’s too tiny to play games on or you don’t want to hire a landscaper, just use it as an extra lounging area. As seen in this Arent & Pyke–designed yard, all it takes is the right sofa, chair, and coffee tables. The tall hedge functions as a fence while also adding a whole lot of greenery.

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Choose the Right Lighting

Coordinate your throw pillows with the garden and hang a timeless pendant light to polish things off. Plus, swapping out your pillows is an easy (and cost-effective) way to upgrade your patio each season.

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