Make the Most of a Small Backyard

Stretch a little square footage into a lot of room for outdoor living with these budget-friendly ideas. We'll show you how to make the most of limited outdoor living space.


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Outdoor Room
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Capture the Widest View

    Positioning an outdoor room against the house isn't always the best choice, especially if a section of your home or plantings obscure your yard's most expansive view. Instead, locate sitting areas so they provide a clear view of your yard's longest dimension.

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Add a Change in Elevation

    Steps or small platforms are a subtle way to create multiple outdoor rooms in a tight space. Increase the visual separation by changing flooring materials between rooms.

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Simplify Your Plantings

    Part of living large means enjoying your outdoor retreat to the fullest, and that means spending less time on chores such as watering and weeding. Put low-maintenance plants in containers 2-3 feet tall so they can be moved easily, and they'll create instant privacy.

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Use Small-Scale Furniture

    Pieces with thin frames and petite bodies make a small space feel roomier. Compact bistro sets are perfect for a garden corner or porch. Built-in benches can multitask by maximizing seating and storage in a minimal space. Also, comfy outdoor living requires shade, so make sure to include a sun umbrella, canopy, or pergola above any seating area.

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Keep the Color Palette Simple

    Keep the outdoor decor and container plantings simple. Having too many accents and different types of plants can make a small space feel disorganized. Select a few colors and accessories and carry the theme from room to room.

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Keep It Clear

    Keep an outdoor structure uncovered to increase the sense of space. Instead of draping a pergola in climbing roses and vines or closing it in with walls, keep it open so the space feels bigger and yard views remain intact.

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Light It Up

    Lighting plays a major role in how a space feels, so incorporate both task and ambient lighting to create the mood you want and to provide the amount of light you need.

    Money-Saving Tip: Rather than purchasing expensive lighting that requires installation, light your deck with affordable candles, torches, or solar lights. You can tuck them into planters, hang them from latticework, or install them around the perimeter of a deck so they won't take up much space.

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Construct a Vista

    An intriguing architectural detail, such as a trellis, arbor, or statue, at the end of your property adds an instant attention-getter, taking the focus away from the yard's small proportions.

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Create Ambience

    You might not have room for a fire pit, but you can still give your outdoor room a cozy ambience with a tabletop fire bowl.

    DIY Project: To make this bowl, place a 13-ounce can of clean-burning gel-alcohol fuel in a 10-inch-diameter terra-cotta container. Surround the can's bottom and sides with recycled glass.

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Add Soothing Sound

    Don't have the space or budget to include a pond in your backyard? Add the pleasure of sound and motion to your outdoor room with a tabletop fountain.

    Money-Saving Tip: Outdoor sound systems are also a great way to bring soothing sound into your outdoor room, but consider a portable music player that won't cost any money to install.

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Build in Stages

    If you just don't have the time or money to complete your perfect outdoor room this season, don't sweat it. Complete your outdoor room in stages, focusing on building the deck or patio in one season and outfitting the space in another. Be inventive with room furnishings and splurge only where you can.

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