Design for small spaces


Evaluate what you have: Measure your yard, draw to scale on graph paper or a computer, then
identify negatives and positives and note them on your map.

Identify spaces:
Think about who will use the yard and what areas are needed.

  • Entertaining
  • Dining/Cooking
  • Reading and relaxing
  • Flower beds
  • Vegetable beds
  • Play spaces
  • Shed or storage
  • Work or project area
  • Greenhouse or potting area
  • Compost
  • Chickens

Pick locations for each activity:
These will look like bubbles on your map. The goal is to pick the best place in the yard for each activity.

Create sizes and shapes for each space:
Keep shapes simple. Create a theme such as organic / curving, rectangular / geometric, intersecting circles, diagonals, etc. Geometric shapes work great in small spaces.


Limit hardscape materials:
Stick to one or two hardscape materials throughout the property to tie spaces together visually.

Use edgers:
Brick, wood, or stone help to define spaces. Having clean, clear edges is an easy way to make a space feel planned, well designed, and well maintained.

Create enclosures:
Use plantings, trellises, fences, and walls to create garden rooms, shade, and privacy; to partially obscure views; and to add a sense of enclosure. Creating openings like “doorways” from one space to another establishes a sequence of spaces, adds interest, and makes a yard seem larger.

Add visual cues when you move from one space to the next:
Use containers, hardscape, bold plantings, or symmetrical plantings to clearly direct visitors towards the entry and indicate changes of space or stopping points.

Repeat architectural features:
Use elements of the house in fences, walls, or arbors to visually connect the house to the landscape and add interest.

Vary the elevation:
This increases a sense of depth in a small space 

Bring down the scale:
Step down the size of the house in steps by incorporating trees, large shrubs, and medium sized shrubs. Use several large containers rather than many small ones.

Widen the front walkway:
Also add stopping points to slow down visitors and create natural resting places. Make spaces large enough for multiple people to stand and talk.

Create depth:
Alternate between hardscape and plantings: for example, place smaller plants in front of the fence, and medium and large plants behind the fence.

Details like bulbs, small edging plants, rocks, containers, fountains, garden art, decorative house numbers, a unique gate, etc add interest and personalize a space.