Impactful landscaping ideas for small backyards that will transform your space — 10 ideas to inspire

Get ready for outdoor living with our landscaping ideas for small backyards

Backyard with grey floor tiles, wood panelling, banquetting area, grey chairs, wooden rectangular table, grey pillows, table set, planter,
(Image credit: Soucie Horner, Ltd)

As the months are warming up, it's time for new landscaping ideas for small backyards. Having a compact one doesn't mean you have to compromise on style.

It just means you need to be clever with how you landscape the small space you're working with outdoors. From new pots to stylish plant storage, and paneling to pergolas, our pros have you covered. 

We know that landscaping ideas can be challenging when space is tight, so our 10 expert-led ideas will inspire you to have a go, and you'll fall back in love with your small backyard in no time. 

Impactful landscaping ideas for small backyards 

Whatever your budget, our landscaping ideas for small backyards will help you add some style and practicality to your outdoor space. 

It can be overwhelming to know where to start but your work on this project doesn't have to be extensive, expensive or complicated. Even little touches such as a lick of paint or a new cozy nook can be all you need to transform this key outdoor area.

Prices were correct at the time of publication.

1. Add a single color

Exterior with stone colored walls, sky blue lower section and matching planters, view into house, grey window frames

(Image credit: Little Greene)

Got some spare exterior paint from a previous update? You don't need to paint a whole wall, you can pick and choose specific areas to update which can make for a striking focal point. 

Then, you can paint a couple of planters too for cohesion (the beautiful blue pictured above is Little Greene's Tivoli) – they'll blend in well which will give a contemporary look to your small backyard. Pop in some box hedge or herbs for texture too. 

We like Wayfair's Gethsemane Pot Planter that's available in white, charcoal and natural concrete as it's a great size and could be painted to match a scheme like our example image above.

2. Install wood paneling

Backyard with grey floor tiles, wood panelling, banquetting area, grey chairs, wooden rectangular table, grey pillows, table set, planter

(Image credit: Soucie Horner, Ltd)

The trend in kitchens is to create a banqueting area — this can also be done outside and we love this wood paneling space in this small backyard. 

"Outdoor dining areas often present two challenges: how do you make them feel intimate when you’re seated under the big blue sky, and how do you provide privacy from neighbors? Here, we created a built-in banquette out of ipe wood to solve both issues," say Shea Soucie and Martin Horner, co-founders and principals of Soucie Horner, Ltd.

Ipe wood is a fabulous option for outdoor paneling as it's highly weather-resistant. Shea and Martin add, "It will patina beautifully over time to match the tones of the blue stone flooring. As a bonus, it provides a bit of natural drama that makes eating outdoors at home feel like you’re dining on the terrace of your favorite alpine restaurant."

For similar gray patio pavers as pictured above, we recommend Amazon's Montauk Black 16" x 16" Gauged Slate Floor and Wall Tiles. The dark shade will ground your small backyard and give it depth, and if you've painted any area nearby, really make the colors pop.

Shea Soucie Martin Horner
Shea Soucie and Martin Horner

Shea Soucie and Martin Horner are principals and co-founders of Chicago and Naples, Florida-based Soucie Horner, Ltd, with three distinct business divisions aimed to design and create highly personalized spaces that defines, embody, and elevate each client's unique ideas of living well.

3. Invest in wall-mounted planters

Small backyard with tiled floor, off white corner sofa, stone walls, terracotta wall planters, trees, modern coffee table

(Image credit: Otto Tiles / Belle & Sky / @aycorn Garden Design / Nick Smith)

With a small backyard it pays to keep your color palette warm yet light on both your walls and floors. This will give you a good neutral blank canvas to play with plain shades and subtle pattern.

"Keeping to a neutral palette will allow you to build upon and layer with furniture, accessories and landscaping — inject some pattern and character into your outdoor scheme with en-caustic cement or artisan terrazzo tiles," advises Damla Turgut, founder and creative director of Otto Tiles & Design US.

A great quick fix is to use wall planters where possible and occasional planters on a coffee table — rather than using up valuable floor space and making it feel tighter than it is.

Damla Turgut, owner of Otto Tiles
Damla Turgut

Born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey, Damla Turgut turned her passions for art, design and her homeland into a career, launching Otto Tiles & Design in 2015. Her London-based company has 3 showrooms and the tiles she designs are handmade in Turkey by skilled artisans using traditional methods. She remains creative director at the helm of Otto Tiles & Design, now trading via a new US website.

4. Embrace bistro seating and vertical planting

Backyard with metal bistro table and chair set, gravel, vertical planting up the wall

(Image credit: Creative Tonic Design)

When all you may have is a single wall or a corner, it pays to be clever with your seating — we love bistro sets (such as the check  Wayfair's Hopwood 2-Person Set, which is vintage style and full of charm) combined with clever plant placement.

"This bistro garden (pictured above) is all about joining architectural and natural elements. Boxwood balls, rectilinear hedges, and rows of monkey grass under the wild magnolia trees keep the eye interested with their varying shapes but are united by their sharply delineated lines," says Courtnay Tartt Elias, principal and creative director at Creative Tone Design

"Vintage furniture with gentle curves underscores that the rectilinear two-toned gravel path perfectly illustrates the garden's inspiration: architecturally inspired nature," she adds.

Add to this some vertical planting and you can transform your space into a really beautiful green spot, Walmart's Varden Vertical Garden 36 Self Watering, 6 Row, 36 Plant Wall Mountable Garden Planter is a great buy. 

headshot of Courtnay Tartt Elias
Courtnay Tartt Elias

Courtnay Tartt Elias founded Creative Tonic Design in Houston, Texas in 2006 with a passion for weaving brilliance into her surroundings and composing vibrant environments that invite celebration. With a fearless use of color and decidedly inventive flair, Courtnay’s award-winning work has been praised by renowned editorial teams worldwide and can be found within the pages of several showcase coffee table books.

5. Add a water feature

A brown circle water feature with a light brown stone path around it and tall green shrubbery on the borders

(Image credit: Karen Darlow)

Water features are known for their calming properties and can be simple to add if you want to start small and DIY one yourself, or hire someone to do it for you. As far as water feature options go, the world is really oyster. 

Small is good though, and a shallow design like the one we've pictured above can be set into your paving with little disruption to your backyard. 

We like Target's Stone 3-Tier Pedestal Outdoor Floor Fountain as it takes up little space but you still get to enjoy the relaxing sounds. 

This is also a brilliant sustainable landscaping trend option.

6. Create an outdoor reading nook

Secluded spot in garden with chair, fire pit and greenhouse, plant pots, flowers

(Image credit: Nest / Trent McMinn)

One of our favorite landscaping ideas for small backyards is to create a cozy nook – we talk about these often with interiors, but there's no reason why you can't do the same outside. 

A couple of comfy chairs and a fire pit is all you need. Another great idea is to invest in a small greenhouse, they're ideal for small spaces as you can grow your own flowers and veggies too and they can act as a screen. 

To recreate this delightful space pictured above, shop our matching picks, below. 

7. Make a display with planters

Selction of oversized pots on paved area, one green, the rest stoneware,

(Image credit: OKA)

Grouping a range of pots and planters together in a small backyard is a sure fire way of adding volume, interest and texture to your scheme. Sue Jones, co-founder and creative director at OKA explains: 

"It’s easier than you think to create a charming space in a small garden or on a terrace – it’s all about maximizing what you’ve got and being smart about the accessories and plants you add to the space."

Sometimes what you choose can be striking enough without needing to fill them, Sue adds, "If you don’t have grass or borders to create a visually interesting display with flowers, this is where planters and pots really come into their own. 

"I'd suggest choosing a selection with different heights, textures and colors which will help add character and depth to the space, but also once planted with varied flowers and even trees, you’ll create a natural looking canopy of foliage."

expert headshot of Sue Jones OKA
Sue Jones

Sue Jones began her design career at Colefax and Fowler before going on to work for Jasper Conran for 10 years. She founded OKA in early 1999 with friends Annabel Astor and Lucinda Waterhouse. Since then, OKA has exceeded all expectations, growing into a fully-fledged omni-channel retailer operating 13 stores across the UK and three in the US

8. Use shelving for a plant display

Small backyard with galvanized shelving full of plants and outdoor accessories

(Image credit: String Furniture)

For a minimalist backyard that's tiny, think outside of the box — especially if you love gardening. 

"Modular shelving allows you to furnish your outdoor space with beautiful and timeless functional furniture that can be added to over time," explains Bo Hellberg, CMO at String Furniture.  

"When choosing a material that suits the outdoors, galvanized metal is a wonderful option that promises to withstand even the harshest of weather and bring a touch of Scandinavian style with it. Even the smallest of spaces need plenty of storage and with unique shelving, you will have a natural place to keep all your garden tools pots and other rough objects all year round."

Bo Hellberg
Bo Hellberg

Bo Hellberg is the CMO at String Furniture – the storage powerhouse hailing from Stockholm, Sweden. In 2020, String Furniture was awarded Furniture Supplier of the Year, but the basis of String's designs has shaped storage habits since 1949. In 1952, String shelves (now String Furniture) were ordered to decorate the newly built UN headquarters in New York City. 

9. Sit under the shade of a pergola

A backyard area with a gray bench with white and pink patterned throw pillows and a blanket, a side table with flowers on, with a pergola over it with beige curtains and a hanging rattan pendant light

(Image credit: Baked Tile Co.)

Pergolas give you an outdoor living experience but with the reassurance that you can stay dry and sunburn-free whilst enjoying being in nature. 

There are various types to look out for, some are like awnings and are fixed to the side of the house, others are freestanding. You can choose whether the roof retracts or not and what type of material it's made from.

They're great for zoning areas for different functions, a vital design trick for small spaces, and creating an outdoor living space for entertaining, plus it's a fabulous option for landscaping your small backyard. 

Have a look at our top three pergola picks below, there's something for everyone.

10. Embrace raised beds

The Smith family's garden has been transformed with raised beds and smart garden office

(Image credit: Rachael Smith)

Raised garden beds are the savior of small backyards because they create interest, they're practical and decorative. 

You can use them to landscape your garden to suit the space, and to create zones – an outdoor living area and a growing space. Use them for flowers, plants and veggies, they're also easy to maintain and of course, work fantastically in small backyards. 

There are some wonderful landscaping ideas for small backyards, some require more attention and time than others, but most can be done over a long weekend. 

The improvements will instantly make you fall in love with your space as it will give you an outdoor living area that's practical, stylish and functional.

Sophie Warren-Smith

Sophie has been an interior stylist and journalist for over 22 years and has worked for many of the main interior magazines during that time both in-house and as a freelancer. On the side, as well as being the News Editor of indie magazine, 91, Sophie trained to be a florist in 2019 and launched The Prettiest Posy where she curates beautiful flowers for the modern bride.