14 Clever Tricks to Make Your Small Backyard Live Large

Outdoor seating area with couch and rug
Photo: David A. Land

Stretch a little square footage into a lot of room for outdoor living with these budget-friendly ideas. The right furniture, landscaping, lighting, and accessories will help you make the most of limited outdoor space. Try these simple tricks to make your small backyard live large.

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Small Backyard Seating

back patio privacy metal yellow chairs
Kimberly Gavin

You don't need an expansive yard to create an inviting outdoor dining and seating area. For small backyards, position your patio table and chairs against a fence or wall to take advantage of the privacy, but angle the chairs outward to create the feeling of more space. Containers with colorful blooms and an outdoor rug give the space interior-like comfort.

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Backyard Furniture Ideas

corner bench with pillows, blue table, lounger patio area
Kim Cornelison

Multifunctional furniture can help you maximize every inch of a small backyard and save money on outdoor seating options. An L-shaped bench, for example, can allow one person to stretch out or provide a perch for multiple people. Garden stools serve as side tables for holding drinks or stand in as extra seating for gatherings.

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Cozy Small Backyard Ideas

patio with draped cabana style fabric
Edmund Barr

Embrace the intimate atmosphere of a small backyard with a patio canopy or gazebo. These outdoor structures add shade and privacy to turn your yard into a personal retreat. Add the comforts of an indoor room with an arrangement of patio furniture, an outdoor rug, and accessories like pillows and decorative objects.

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Outdoor Room Views

flower garden back patio area outdoor table
Laurie Black

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. This helps direct the focus to make your small backyard appear bigger.

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Small Backyard Landscaping

pots with plants on steps
Cameron Sadeghpour

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. Place low-maintenance plants in lightweight containers so they can be easily moved around as needed. To give your backyard a sense of privacy, choose plants that grow at least 2 to 3 feet tall and arrange them to block the view from neighbors or the street.

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Outdoor Furniture for Small Backyards

Outdoor seating near brick wall
Rob Cardillo

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

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Small Backyard Decorating Ideas

Outdoor seating with stone patio and red seating
Edward Gohlich

Streamlining your outdoor color palette will help you avoid overwhelming a small backyard space. Pare down your outdoor decor and container plantings so they incorporate only a handful of colors. Having too many accents and different types of plants can make a small space feel disorganized, so stick to a few favorites.

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Outdoor Structures for Small Backyards

Garden with metal arch
Bob Stefko

An intriguing architectural detail, such as a trellis, arbor, or statue, can help take the focus away from the yard's small proportions. Position the structure at the end of the property or near the entrance to create a focal point that grabs attention. Add prominence with outdoor lighting or colorful planted containers for an even more standout structure.

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Lighting for Small Backyards

Outdoor seating with dining area and couch
Ed Gohlich

Landscape lighting plays a major role in how an outdoor space feels, so incorporate both task and ambient lighting to create the mood you want and to provide the amount of light you need. If you'd rather not purchase 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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Small Backyard Designs

Wooden chairs inside stone wall area
Matthew Benson

Add an elevation change to make a small backyard more dynamic. 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 seating areas.

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Ambience for Small Backyards

Outdoor table with wine and glasses
Scott Little

You might not have room to build a fire pit, but you can still give your outdoor room a cozy ambience with a tabletop fire bowl. 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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Small-Yard Tricks

Outdoor wooden seating with pergola
Waterbury Publications Inc

Keeping outdoor structures uncovered can increase the sense of space in a small backyard. 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. You can still add greenery in more subtle ways with low-to-the-ground plants or small container gardens.

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Soothing Backyard Sounds

Fountain made with two pots
Jay Wilde

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. Alternatively, outdoor sound systems are another 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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Design Tips for Small Backyards

Outdoor seating area with couch and rug
David A. Land

If you don't have the time or money to complete your perfect outdoor room this season, don't sweat it. Complete your small backyard 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 on just one or two high-quality pieces.

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