11 Considerations When Creating Outdoor Living Spaces in a Small Backyard

Published by Armstone

Australia’s warm climate is why outdoor gatherings are synonymous to our lifestyle.

Whether they’re low key gatherings with family and friends or big celebrations, having a deck, balcony, or outdoor kitchen adds functionality, variety, and enjoyment of your home and outdoor activities.

While bigger yards give you more space to work with, so long as you design your space by taking a few important things into account, you can still enjoy the benefits of outdoor living spaces in a small house.

In today’s article we explore the 11 most important aspects to consider when designing your outdoor living space for a small backyard.

1. Define the purpose

As with any project, whether you’re renovating your home or designing your backyard, the first step in the design process is to define how you intend to use the space you’re upgrading. Defining the purpose helps you prioritise the important elements to install in the space. For instance, if you intend to use your small courtyard for entertaining guests, you’ll need space for a barbecue, seating and potentially a fire pit. If, on the other hand, you intend to use the space as an outdoor escape from the daily grind, you might want to install a water feature, swimming pool and swing. Can you see how a slight shift in purpose can change the entire ‘to-do’ and ‘to-buy’ list? Of course you might need to make compromises along the way, but deciding how to utilise space helps with identifying what’s essential and what’s not.

2. Find the space

Next, it’s important to choose the right area for your backyard set up. You might already have an area in mind, but don’t limit yourself to the space behind your house. For example, if you live in a townhouse or unit, you could transform the pathway areas on either side of the house into small – yet comfortable and functioning – outdoor living spaces. You can also utilise walls and transform other vertical surfaces into feature garden walls and add extra character to your backyard. If you need any ideas or inspiration, check out this article.

3. Create a focal point

Another way of making use of whatever limited space you have, is by creating a focal point in your new outdoor space. Focal points are helpful because they add interest to the area while simultaneously bringing all the elements together. Items that can act as focal points include dining tables, coffee tables, fire-pits, sculptures, stepping stones, trees or fountains. The importance of choosing your focal point at the start is that it can help you work in your remaining elements around it to create a cohesive space.

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4. Use smart layouts for furniture

You may have heard the saying: “work smarter, not harder”. Fortunately, this phrase applies for design purposes as well and can be a handy way to make the most out of your small courtyard and furniture layout. For example, it’s best to keep doorways clear in narrow spaces and utilise chaises, club chairs, and other items in such areas. Additionally, if you want to block out neighbours from seeing into your balcony or yard, use boxed hedging and pot plants to cover your space from prying eyes and install a foldable umbrella to create pockets of shade in sunny spaces.

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5. Create designated zones

Zoning smaller spaces can seem counterintuitive, however creating designated areas can be a highly effective use of space for small backyards. By integrating smaller segments and intimate zones in larger open areas, you create the impression of spaciousness. Breaking up the zones with planters, small walls, a variety of ground surfaces such as pavers, stepping stones or bricks and positioning the furniture in unique formats all adds functionality to the space. So whether you want to sit alone and read quietly in one area or socialise in another, the one space can easily provide you everything you desire.

6. Use movable features

One way to make use of a small space to its fullest potential in terms of functionality and spaciousness is by utilising portable and  movable items as much as possible. These items can provide you the purpose you need and simultaneously not become an eyesore when not in use. For example, if you have a small backyard and during the week you enjoy sitting alone and enjoying the fresh air but on weekends you enjoy entertaining your family or friends, you can accomodate both lifestyles by investing in a portable fire pit, barbecue, or stove as well as foldaway tables and chairs. All these items can be easily stored in the garage when not needed.

7. Landscape in layers

When you have limited horizontal space, one of the tricks of the trade in creating a sense of spaciousness is by utilising vertical areas and landscaping in layers. How do you do this? Very simply with planting the tallest plants at the back, flush against the fencing and layering the smaller plants closer to the front row. Remember when you learnt about painting perspective in art class? You can utilise these universal principles in landscaping and create the illusion of more space.

8. Go minimalist

An easy way to utilise as much space in your small backyard is through minimalism. Choosing one or two key items of furniture to be the focal points and adding smaller items around it, helps avoid clutter and keep the place tidy. To keep your space as minimalistic as possible, we recommend avoiding complex designs and too much colour in your furniture choices. Pick one or two colours and use simple additions like a pot plant or a lantern to add variety to your space. With small spaces, remember less is always more!

9. Use vertical spaces

In smaller backyards, vertical spaces should be considered valuable real estate, so we recommend making the most of them. Lattice walls, pallet fences, and even wall fountains can make attractive decor elements in small inner-city spaces. Utilising your vertical spaces can help you enhance your outdoor aesthetics without the extra decorations taking up too much room.

10. Add a spot of colour to neutrals

An interior design trick of the trade is how to use colour in such a way that adds a sense of expansiveness to the area. The best way to do this is by choosing 1-3 neutral colours for your furniture, walls and flooring and then adding bright colours to accentuate a focal point. Too much colour for bigger items can make smaller spaces seem more cramped and cluttered. That’s why it’s best to avoid investing in big colourful objects and instead add a few colourful elements sparingly around the patio to liven up the space.

11. Apply smart furniture strategies

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No matter how you will be using your backyard, furniture is probably the most important element in your outdoor living space which is why it’s important to prioritise comfort and choose items that have multi-purpose functions. Below are some of the staple furniture pieces to consider:

  • Multi Purpose Furniture – Make the most of your limited space by investing in furniture pieces that offer double the functionality. For example, if you’re adding tables or benches to your patio, invest in ones that come with added storage drawers so that you can put things away when you’re not using them and keep the space neat and tidy.
  • L-shaped Pieces – L-shaped furniture allows you to make use of those awkward corners that are neither here nor there and has a huge advantage of helping you create more room on your deck or patio.
  • Small Tables – Sometimes compromising the size of your table is the best option. After all, you can always use the kitchen table for catering to your guests and simply use the outdoor table as a placeholder. This might be a long shot to say here, but when using your patio, you probably would rather sit in a big comfortable chair to enjoy your weekend coffee rather than have a clunky table block the view of your yard.
  • Tall Furniture – Remember how we recommended utilising vertical spaces? Installing high chairs and tables will help create long lines and free your space from looking cramped and cluttered.

Make a plan before you start

Even smaller properties can have aesthetically attractive, functional outdoor living spaces. The only caveat is that it takes some planning to get them right. The main way to do this is by creating zones, avoiding too much colour, and opting for minimalism where possible. Utilising all your space – especially the vertical real estate – and choosing your furniture pieces carefully can also help you create the illusion of spaciousness. Applying these tips will help you can make the most of whatever outdoor space you have available, creating a wonderful environment for entertaining family and friends or simply relaxing on evenings and weekends.

If you need any help bringing your backyard to life or choosing the best pavers, pool tiles, wall cladding or stepping stones for your space, reach out to our natural stone experts at Armstone online or at 1300 560 560. We have helped many people bring their dream garden and courtyard to life and look forward to helping you too.

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