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8 Tips for Styling and Maximizing Your Small Backyard

small backyard ideas

Design: Turquoise & Tobacco

Outdoor space is always high on our list of desired attributes when we're house or apartment hunting. But, when stacked up against other non-negotiables—updated kitchen and bath, at least one workable closet, the list continues—it tends to be the first thing we're willing to reconsider. There are just too many boxes to check on the home wishlist, and when it comes down to it, oodles of outdoor space is one we're willing to pass up if it means getting modern appliances or a little more counter space.

We're finding in recent that outdoor space isn't just a "nice to have." It's something that can actually boost your mood and help you get more enjoyment out of your home, whether alone or when entertaining. Even a small amount of outdoor space, like a minuscule balcony or a little patch of grass by the front door, can be impactful if you make it count.

Thinking your space is too small for a little outdoor enjoyment? Think again. These are our favorite tips for styling up a breezy outdoor paradise when you're short on space. 

01 of 08

Stow and Go

small backyard ideas


When investing in outdoor furniture for a small backyard, keep two things in mind: flexibility, and portability. Butterfly chairs or other folding chairs are a great place to start, because they let you pull out extra seating—or at least, as much as you can accommodate in a given space—when guests arrive, and stow things away easily when you need to, say, let your dog out on that patch of grass.

Plus, items you can literally grab and take with you on non-home outings and adventures will give you more mileage to support your purchase. Those butterfly chairs have a secret double life as your favorite amateur sporting event seat or beach lounger.

steele canvas butterfly chair
Steele Canvas Butterfly Sling Chair $350.00
02 of 08

We Have Liftoff

small backyard ideas

Design: Cortney Bishop, Photo: Katie Charlotte

Seating suspended from above can be a great way to take advantage of whatever real estate you have available. Think of the classic tire swing as an easy example—it relies on something that's already there, that big backyard oak tree—and go from there.

This love seat is much more chic and grown-up than the swings of your youth, but the same principle applies. It's legless profile keeps it feeling floaty, rather than weighing down the space, which means it can easily feel at home in a small area that would otherwise look cramped with a couch.

03 of 08

Fence Sitter

outdoor seating

Blanco Bungalow

Another way to make use of what you already have is to build upon an existing fence to create a little added seating without taking up much more space.

Not only does the natural character of the wood add a nice element to this outdoor environment, but the slim profile of the bench fits in nicely in these surroundings—and, unlike individual chairs, a bench can always squeeze in a few more folks if your guest list expands suddenly. 

04 of 08

Divide And Planter

small backyard ideas

Cathie Hong Interiors

In a more naturalistic, expansive backyard, plants situated in the ground can create natural delineations of different spaces—flowers along the fence, a few shady trees in a sitting areas, and so on. But, in a smaller environment, it's just more practical to make use of planters.

Use potted plants to sketch out boundaries in your space or define the space in a way that feels more intentional. Shift them as needed depending on who you're sharing your outdoor area with, and opt for vessels that incorporate a variety of heights so you can make "walls" if space allows.

Best of all, you can you move planters indoors so you get more enjoyment out of your plants year-round.

flatform planters
CB2 Flatform Planters $129.00
05 of 08

Privacy Please

small backyard ideas

Turquoise & Tobacco

You know what they say about good fences: they make good neighbors. Another challenge of having a small outdoor space is that it can feel like you and your pals next door are using up the same air. Creating a bit more of a boundary between the respective spaces is often a matter of optics and sealing off the yard in a meaningful way.

This homeowner added a wooden topper on her existing brick wall, adding a bit more privacy. Whereas everything was right in the line-of-sight before, this small and stylish tweak worked wonders for creating a vibe that feels more like an oasis

06 of 08

Floor Show

small backyard ideas

Cottage & Sea

Indoors, many spaces are defined not only by walls, but with what's on the floor, too. If you've ever used a small area rug to create a cozy "conversation space," you know what we're talking about. The same can be done outdoors—and it's actually a great way to warm up the feel of a patio, deck, or balcony.

The smallest outdoor-friendly area rug can make great strides in defining exactly where the space starts and stops, and lends a homey, well-thought-out element to the space. Look for natural materials, like woven grasses, or recycled materials that mimic the look of more organic fibers.

Even if a rug is labeled as "outdoor," it's probably a good idea to bring it inside in the off-season to guard against fading and weather-related wear. 

round jute outdoor rug
Serena and Lily Round Jute Rug $148.00
07 of 08

Gallery Walls

small backyard ideas

Arbor & Co

You wouldn't leave big expanses of the wall bare in your living room—so don't do it outdoors, either. Whether it's a fence, a strip of lattice, or even the outside of your home, there's plenty of opportunity to affix some artful accents to the "walls" of your outdoor space. 

08 of 08

Light Em Up

small backyard ideas

Dazey LA

Making your outdoor space feel more like an added room in your home can be a great way to get the most use out of it—but you can't exactly borrow your interior furnishings and move them to the yard. That said, many new outdoor décor options are stylish enough that you might be fooled into thinking they were designed for your interior.

Lighting is a great example—and since it's a piece of décor that doesn't take up any floor space, it's tailor-made for a small outdoor area. Think beyond the classic string lights and opt for something more statement-making, like a pendant light. The warm glow overhead will help you dial into the perfect entertaining vibe when the sun goes down, and the additional accent might just make your backyard feel as comfortable and chic as your living room.

Kokoro pendant light black
Troy Lighting Kokoro Pendant $458.00 $366.00