Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pocket Gardens, Pint-Size Patios and Urban Backyards

A compact outdoor space can be a beautiful garden room with the right mix of plantings, furniture and creativity.

Whether you have a sliver of a side yard, a petite patio or a compact urban lot, limited size does not have to mean missing out on lush plantings or cool features — as these 15 creative spaces attest. Creating an outdoor space you love takes careful planning, but it starts with the spark of inspiration. See which of these outdoor spaces captures your imagination, and start planning your garden makeover now.

1. Modern and mirrored.

Horizontal wood panels can camouflage a neighbor’s siding mishmash while bringing a warm, modern look to the patio. A large mirror hung along one wall enhances the light and creates the impression that the garden continues into the distance.

2. Urban jungle.

Deep, wide planters of bamboo placed along the back wall have transformed this formerly bland urban backyard into a lush oasis. Layering plants with appealing foliage behind the seating area, as was done here, will make it feel like you’re sitting in a jungle.

3. Pint-size party patio.

This sliver of a yard in San Francisco’s Mission District could easily have been a forgotten space sandwiched between two tall buildings. But with the addition of a few well-placed climbing plants, a picnic table and string lights overhead, it is now a vibrant place to gather with friends.

4. Mini destinations.

As part of a flower show installation, this garden designer created a space with several small, connected seating areas. Built-in benches flow into a short staircase to a raised dining platform. Planting beds tucked between and behind the seating areas help the compact garden feel surprisingly roomy.

5. City balcony.

Every square foot has been put to good use on this New York balcony, with built-in planters and benches wrapping around the tight corner. A restrained palette of weathered wood and green is simple and elegant.

6. A bit of green.

Long to stretch out on the grass with a good book, but have only a tiny square of yard to call your own? Take a cue from this innovative space and build in a mini terrace with room for a cafe table and soft green grass.

7. Eclectic chill zone.

Embrace the shade beneath a mature tree with a platform deck where you can lounge away the afternoon. Mirrors and platters hung on the wall, and birdcages and lanterns suspended from tree branches create a whimsical, creative mood here.

8. Cook’s backyard.

This patio is packed with details an avid cook would love, from the wood-fired pizza oven and pocket-size kitchen garden to the overhead rack made to hold pots and pans. Ornamental flowers and flowering herbs mixed with the edibles make the garden as beautiful as it is useful.

9. Personal cafe.

A gravel-covered floor, rustic log seats and a simple cafe table make a charming spot to have a morning coffee or an afternoon croissant. Even if there is no ground to plant in, you can use a few large planters to bring in much-needed green.

10. Narrow garden room.

A long, skinny yard in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, got a redesign that emphasizes livability. At the foot of the stairs, a planter brings a spot of lush greenery to the ipe decking. The decking extends to a point surrounded by green grass — just right for an alfresco dining area.

11. Shaded lounge.

A courtyard garden with just a hint of grass makes for a relaxed and inviting space for chatting, reading or napping beneath the shade of a mature tree. The low wall doubles as a backrest for the built-in bench and ties the courtyard in with the design of the house.

12. Brick courtyard garden.

Even on a larger property, there is sometimes a small space that begs for a special treatment. Case in point: this gracious home and garden in Atherton, California. Away from the sprawling lawns, a path between formal hedges leads to a secluded garden bench beneath a wall of climbing roses.

13. Serene path.

Rather than being a purely utilitarian pass-through space, this side yard is an invitation to slow down and breathe a bit more deeply. Rich green ferns and other shade plants line the gravel path, while unique round “stepping stones” are ringed with Mexican black pebbles and filled with low-growing plants in shades of green from chartreuse to moss.

14. Side yard with a stop.

Whether your side yard is the only outdoor space you have, or you just want to carve out a more intimate spot as an addition to a larger backyard, adding a seating area can make the space feel more purposeful. Here, a gently curved path of concrete pavers widens just enough in the center to allow for two chairs. The tree on the street side helps provide privacy — and offers a lovely view.

15. Rooftop hideaway.

Between the built-in planters and benches, climbing plants and rich exterior wall color, this rooftop feels more like a fancy hotel bar than a makeshift city garden. Including a few large planters — big enough to hold something substantial — is key to making a bare rooftop feel like a destination.

source: houzz Tell us: Do you have a small outdoor space? Share a photo in the Comments!


  1. When there is a will, there is a way. Whatever size of your place, when you want a garden, there will always be space. Urban design really needs more greens.

  2. I live in a hdb flat (high rise apartment) with no balcony/veranda so there's absolutely no way I can get a small outdoor space. but I'll love to get one if I can! imagine having a cuppa 'outdoor' in the comfort of your own house. what a great way to spend a weekend morning!

  3. Wow some really great concepts for creating more from the space you have. My garden is looking great at the moment simply as I try not to touch it - not green fingered in the slightest.

  4. These are great ideas. I never imagined that you can do so much with a small place.

  5. truly a great and innovative concept for small space backyard. i would loved to have one of this soon. my garden is not as pretty as some photos here.

  6. Awww~~~ These are so lovely! I hope to have one when getting my own house in future. Thanks for sharing

  7. These are all great ideas Papaleng. And I am planning to have an Urban Jungle here at our backyard near our dirty kitchen.

  8. Wow, all these gardens look like the hotels I'm staying in! It's beautiful! Too bad, it's not really suitable for Singapore apartments :(

  9. I like all the backyard designs and some are spacious. The amazing construction and type of plants are important too.

  10. This can really give your backyard with a fresher look. The garden can also improve the air quality in the household.

  11. i love the look of these. i wouldnt know what to do if i had a small garden. this is great for ideas

  12. I need someone to do my backyard like this. Truly looks like an oasis and that's what I need. Somewhere to truly relax.

  13. Beautiful ideas! I would love to have my own contemporary backyard landscaping as well! :)

  14. First of all, I would want the eclectic chill zone! I would show this to my mom and for sure, she'll go gaga over them. Your post made me want to build a garden right away!

  15. love the designs, #7 reminds me of my eclectic space when I was young, always loved reading in my little garden nook under the jackfruit tree :)

  16. It makes the place like you are in forest but only you know what kinds of plants that grows in your yard, and you can definitely relax on this kind of ambiance.

  17. This made me dream we have a balcony. It is actually possible but it needs major renovation and we don't have moolah for it. Hahaha! Oh how we love greens and flowers! Having a garden is LOVE!

  18. It does not matter if we live in a small place or big as long as we can find things to do and enjoy. We lived in a country side and loving it here but missed the city life but will not trade anything else.

  19. That platform deck under a shady tree is my idea of a relaxing garden.

  20. I love looking at all the green yards above! Just that I don't have a green thumb. Lucky my Mum is here for the time being. She enjoys looking after her little garden ;-)