13 Fantastic Small Backyard Ideas for Fun and Function

Use our small backyard ideas and design-smart landscaping tips to help your outdoor space live big.

Whether hosting a Fourth of July barbecue in the yard or sipping your morning coffee on the patio, it can be tricky to fit all your outdoor wants and needs into one tiny backyard. But, no matter the size of your yard, patio, or balcony, it's easy to create an outdoor oasis perfect for spending time with friends and family. Start by making a list of priorities for the space, then find ways to personalize it for your lifestyle.

Sometimes living large means thinking small. If your outdoor space lacks square footage, it might seem like your outdoor entertaining dreams are far-fetched—but with a bit of creative thinking, solid design advice, and clever additions, you can make the most of your yard.

outdoor sitting area with bar cart and artwork
Matthew Benson

1. Add a Multifunctional Outdoor Bar Cart

Fear not if your yard or patio is too small for an outdoor bar. Create your own portable drink station with a weather-resistant cart. Add your favorite drinkware and beverages for easy access during a backyard get-together. This small backyard idea isn't permanent—you can roll the cart into the house or garage when you aren't using it. When planting season arrives, use it as a garden cart. Or, load it up with snacks if the kids are hungry from a long day of playing outside.

vertical gardens wall hanging wood boxes
Kritsada Panichgul

2. Go Green

Having room to grow can be tricky with a small yard. In a backyard with a concrete patio or no space for plants, added greenery can help liven up the environment. You may not want to give up precious square footage for landscaping, and with this backyard hack, you won't have to. Utilize every inch of space in your backyard by installing vertical planting boxes. Attach them to the back of your house or a fence, then grow flowers, greenery, or seasonal plants in this low-maintenance, space-saving option. If you choose to create a succulent garden, make sure you can bring them inside when the temperature gets too cold.

outdoor covered area with chairs and fire pit
Bob Stefko

3. Bring the Heat

Whether it's a warm July night or a chilly October evening, entertaining by a fire is a big or small backyard idea that always works. Manage your outdoor living space by creating a small cement fire ring, which makes an obvious focal point for gatherings. For a more portable option, buy a standalone fire pit to get all the perks of having a fire pit with none of the commitment.

Closed in porch with bistro set
John Bessler

4. Build a Bistro Nook

A bistro set is a charming way to include seating in a small space. Although it only sits two, it makes a cozy spot to have coffee with a friend, read a book, or enjoy some sunshine. Whether perched on a tiny patio or an apartment balcony, any space can be elevated with this seating arrangement.

stainless steel grill with wooden work table
Greg Scheidemann

5. Cook Up Some Style

Fill your backyard with laughter, friends, and good food by creating a grill area for simple dinners with easy cleanups. This small backyard idea is perfect if you're cooking for friends on the weekend or whipping up a simple dinner like grilled chicken for your family. Dedicate a corner of your backyard to a grill and side table in an L-shaped layout.

Colorful back patio
Tria Giovan

6. Make Different Zones

Think about how your house and yard work together and decide how to divvy up the landscape to best suit your family's needs. Then, create different zones in your small outdoor space. Here, a play area away from the entertaining space prevents accidents (and headaches), and designated seating areas keep the patio from looking cluttered. Keep in mind the area's traffic patterns—if it's hard to navigate, people will probably use it less.

various plants in planters against wall in garden
Peter Krumhardt

7. Plant a Vertical Garden

When growing out isn't an option, think about growing up! Gardens take up space. If you have a small backyard, you might not be able to have a giant vegetable garden that allows you to preserve all the produce you'll need for a year. But that doesn't mean you have to forget the idea entirely. Our small backyard idea for gardening includes using a wooden pallet for hanging plant pots. Place a bench below to stack larger garden boxes. Prioritize planting your favorite garden goodies. Make sure to do some research to pick fruits and veggies that do well in containers and small spaces.

Editor's Tip: Smaller garden boxes and containers require less maintenance than a traditional garden.

outdoor kitchen with stone patio and picnic table
Kathyrn Gamble

8. Design an Entertaining Space for Everyone

There can be a rush to give everything in a landscape the same importance—but that's not how design works. Think about your living room. Usually, there's a central piece of furniture or artwork that serves as the room's main focus, with smaller pieces supporting it. That principle is true with landscaping, as well. Make a statement in your space with a seating area, flower bed, or grill area, then fill in with potted plants or functional decor items.

Editor's Tip: A picnic table works great for entertaining a crowd in a small area!

Outdoor seating area with couch and rug
David A. Land

9. Brighten With Pops of Color

Just because your backyard is petite doesn't mean you can't decorate it! Functional decor pieces like patio furniture sets, outdoor rugs, and colorful planters will help to create an inviting, comfortable outdoor area, no matter how small. You and your guests will likely use your backyard with these cozy details. And don't forget the shade! An outdoor umbrella is all it takes to keep the scorching days at bay.

outdoor patio gardening table pots mirror
Kimberly Gavin

10. Streamline Small Spaces

The smaller the space, the more streamlined your outdoor area should be. Clutter or lack of function will make a yard or patio unpleasant to use. Prioritize what you want. Do you prefer more space to entertain outdoors or room to have a thriving veggie garden? If you can, consolidate your flowerbeds, zone the kids' play space into a single spot, and keep entertaining and outdoor cooking opportunities together.

backyard patio furniture gravel ground cover
Edward Gohlich

11. Update Backyard Landscaping

Transitioning paving or landscaping material can help shift a small backyard from one zone to another. This could be a space for kids, an area for entertaining, or a spot for grilling. Mulch and gravel are inexpensive materials to define different spaces in your backyard. If you're looking for easier-to-maintain materials, concrete slabs or pavers are easy to clean but more expensive to install.

private modern patio tropical plants rock black furniture
Marty Baldwin

12. Decorate with Multipurpose Furniture

Just like small rooms inside a house need furniture that works harder, small backyards need double-duty benches, chairs, and tables. Outdoor decor is a budget-friendly way to refresh a deck or patio. Find seating with hidden storage to stash pillows and throws or a table that expands for larger gatherings.

Cushions on swing hanging at porch
Adam Albright

13. Utilize The Front Yard

The backyard offers plenty of desirable aspects, including privacy for get-togethers. But if you're short on space, look to the front yard for some extra square footage. Try incorporating a reading nook under a shady front yard tree, add an outdoor swing, or group a few chairs together for an intimate conversation area. Take advantage of all your outdoor space, and join in the hustle and bustle of life on your street.

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