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Small Yard Design Tips

Barlow Tyrie outdoor seating table

Not everyone in the San Diego area is blessed with a large space for a backyard oasis. If you have limited square footage outdoors you can still turn the space into an area that rivals a high-end resort. Here are our small yard design tips to maximize and transform your backyard into a destination made for fun and entertaining.

Separate the Space into Zones

This back yard shows two different zones – one for your lounging and one for dining.

One trick to make your backyard look bigger and make it more functional is to separate it into zones. You may want one area dedicated to cooking, one for dining, another for lounging and a zone that encourages mingling at your next outdoor get-together. As discussed in a recent post about your San Diego side yard, consider reclaiming that space as a place for your barbecue and perhaps an outdoor refrigerator. Food can be prepared in that small, narrow space and then brought to the dining area.

Consider using furnishings and landscaping to separate backyard zones. Trellises, waterfalls, trees, rugs and even curtains can be used to create divisions within the space.

Light It Up

treasure garden umbrella light kit
This Treasure Garden umbrella light includes a Bluetooth speaker. It’s a great choice for illuminating a small area.

Smart lighting is an important part of small yard design. You will need a source of bright light next to the grill so you can easily see what you are cooking at night. Around seating and lounging areas, try scattering end tables with outdoor lamps. Strings of lights criss-crossed throughout the largest area of your backyard provides a subtle and playful form of illumination. Low-to-the-ground pathway lights help forge a brief trail through the space.

Gain Square Footage by Extending the Indoors

This deck is seamlessly integrated with the indoor space.

One way to gain a bit of extra square footage in your small yard is by opening an indoor wall to the outdoors. This is a really popular option this year. Many San Diego area homeowners are taking a dining room wall and opening it up with a sliding door or a roll up window that exposes a long bar with stools outside. You could even do away with a permanent wall that separates your dining or great room from the backyard and simply rely on sturdy blinds or shutters to close when the weather is inclement.

Use the Proper Scale

In a luxury backyard without a lot of space, keep furnishings small so they match in scale.

Our small yard design tips include a very important consideration: scale. In a small outdoor space, you don’t want to overwhelm it with large pieces such as bulky sectional sofas or broad outdoor fireplaces. Everything needs to be scaled down to look appropriate. Consider a cluster of chairs rather than a sofa for seating and occasional tables rather than a long coffee table. A couple scattered market umbrellas work well to provide shade, as opposed to a large shade structure. Remember scale when it comes to plants and trees, as well. A tree that will grow taller than your home will dwarf the surrounding space so stick with shrubs and bushes instead.

Create a Focal Point

teak furniture Tommy Bahama Outdoor
The durability of teak outdoor furniture makes it perfect for poolside. These pieces are part of the Tommy Bahama Outdoor Tres Chic collection.

Our final small yard design tip involves one focal point to draw the eye and minimize the fact that your outdoor space is lacking in square footage. The easiest way to create a focal point is by adding a water feature in the middle of the yard. Not only is this a mesmerizing focal point, it helps mask the noise from neighbors and street sounds.

We hope you find these small yard design tips useful for transforming your outdoor space. If you have any suggestions for features that you have incorporated in your own backyard oasis, please leave a comment below.