Small garden ideas: 42 looks to copy in your tiny garden space | Real Homes

Small garden ideas: 42 looks to copy in your tiny garden space

These small garden ideas prove that good design often comes in small packages. This is how to enhance your small garden space

small garden ideas
(Image credit: Ikea)

If you thought that your tiny outdoor space lacked potential, then let our small garden ideas prove you wrong. This gallery is full of big ideas, for small spaces, so whether you're dealing with a little piece of a courtyard, or even just a balcony, we have the inspiration that you need to make it work even harder at looking great

From planting and landscaping tips, to innovative layouts that will suit a small garden design perfectly, we've rounded up 41 ideas from the experts to help you create your perfect outdoor space.

Keep scrolling and be sure to visit our garden ideas feature for even bigger inspiration.

  • Check out our guide to garden design for loads more in-depth advice. 

1. Maximise every inch of your garden by zoning your space

a modern garden with three zones areas for lounging, playing on the grass and dining


(Image credit: @ohmymaison)

Do you find that you only really use one particular section of your garden? If so, dividing your space up into specific zones is a great way to maximise every inch. In this lovely modern garden by @ohmymaison there are three distinct areas for sunbathing, playing on the grass, and dining, ensuring that even the very bottom of the garden is used. Flooring is a really effective way to zone a garden space – see how the paving, grass and decking are used here. But if you can't change your flooring, look to screens, outdoor rugs or living walls, to create distinct 'rooms' within your garden. 

2. Use different materials to zone your small garden

Mill Hill Terrace project by Anna Carin Design

(Image credit: Anna Carin Design)

Small garden ideas can be quite subtle. Take this one, using zoning, a trick usually reserved for breaking up large indoor rooms into different areas – say, one for relaxing, and one for dining. The key to garden zoning is using different textures, colours or materials to differentiate between the areas. Flooring, for example, is perfect for doing this, and will create a larger-feeling, more interesting space.

This clever small garden design by Anna Carin Design combines decking and patio paving to achieve the zoned effect. 

Find out how to choose the best patio paving for your garden and browse more small garden decking ideas.

For advice on garden landscaping our feature will prove useful. 

3. Choose portable furniture for a flexible space

Maxine Brady transformed her small garden into a Moroccan-inspired haven

(Image credit: Fiona Walker-Arnott)

We use our gardens for many things, from dining, to exercise, to sunbathing, to socialising. If you haven't got room to adhere to all of these needs at once, choose portable furniture that you can easily bring out, put away and roll around as and when you need. This wheeled coffee table is great for social gatherings, and when it's time for your alfresco Pilates session, simply roll it aside so you can stretch out to the max. This table was painted in Dazzling Yellow by Cuprinol.

4. Create the illusion of a larger garden with an outdoor mirror 

small modern garden with a large wall mirror and a bistro set

(Image credit: Cue & Co )

You can't beat a good optical illusion for making your space look bigger. Just like inside our homes, large mirrors reflect light and space to instantly create the effect of a larger area. This large landscape mirror by Cue & Co stretches across the expanse of the wall for maximum impact. Ensure to position your mirror so that it reflects something beautiful, such as greenery, to visually enhance your space too. 

After something more traditional? We love this garden mirror from Not on the High Street. It'll look good indoors, too.

Garden mirror

(Image credit: Not on The High Street)

5. Stack garden pots in multiple heights to add dimension

container gardening display on shelves

(Image credit: @ Frances Lincoln)

Container gardening is one of the best small garden ideas, especially if your garden has a patio or decking. The trick is to go for as many different types and heights of garden as possible: this will help add dimension and texture to the space. For instance, mix and match large terracotta pots with tall and slender glazed pots. And if you have a really small space, stack them up like this or wall-hang them to pack more in.

Learn more about container gardening for small spaces. 

6. Remember you can grow veg almost anywhere

Ikea hack: plastic container with plants inside

(Image credit: Ikea)

Growing veg isn't limited to greenhouses, allotments and extensive gardens – almost everyone can have a go. Whether you have space on your window sill to grow a few herbs, or a spot on your balcony for a tomato plant or two, there are always options for growing (a bit) of your own.

And you don't have to invest in expensive planters either. Here the Samla Box, £6.50, has been used. But, you could just as easily upcycle something you already have at home.

7. Copy Nigel Slater and grow veg near the kitchen door

Nigel grows fruit, veg and herbs near the kitchen door. Right now, there are tomatoes and courgettes, the herbs are healthy, and figs are ripe. The lesson here? You can grow your own near to the house without sacrificing any of the loveliness from your garden design.

He also grows tomatoes in pots right outside the kitchen. The diminutive size of your exterior space will be a virtue when all you need to do is take a step outside to grab some sun-warmed tomatoes for your plate. Find out more about when to grow tomatoes, and how, don't miss our guide.

If your garden’s soil isn’t suitable for growing herbs, you’ll definitely want to get on board with this strategy from Nigel. His go into pots instead, and they’re grouped together on a table near the kitchen. Raising them up like this means grabbing what you need for your cooking is even easier than when they’re growing in the ground. 

Herb garden: planting ideas and advice on how to grow herbs

8. Line your entire tiny garden with raised beds

A little more all in, frame a small garden with raised beds and you will enhance the outdoor space you do have. We are getting all the Mediterranean vibes from @number_4_on_the_park's gorgeous small garden. If you have a backyard and not sure where to get your plants in, raised or built in beds are a great way to do it, especially if you blend them in with your walls or fences. Plant small trees for privacy and shade, and then fill out the rest with whatever plants suit your space and colour scheme. Keep the middle space clear of plants so it doesn't get too crowded and add some furniture to complete the look. 

9. Ditch the shed – go for garden storage that doubles up as plant display instead

Garden Trading SS19 Latchmere

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

If your outdoor space is really very small, an outbuilding, no matter how slimline, is likely to overwhelm it. So, think about garden storage a bit more creatively: ideally, you want items that will be useful and attractive, and provide extra room for container plants. 

If you do fancy a shed, choose a slimline one. We have the best small sheds in our buyer's guide.

The Latchmere range from Garden Trading has it all: the storage space, the good looks, and built-in planters. 

10. Add an opulent canopy to a small terrace or balcony

John Lewis & Partners Cabana 4-Seater Garden Lounging Set

(Image credit: John Lewis & Partners )

What small balconies and terraces lack in floor space, they can make up for with a sense of airiness and height. Emphasise these positives with an attractive pendant light or a hanging canopy. 

This beautiful draped balcony has been kitted out with a chair and table from John Lewis & Partners

We have lots more ideas for balconies that you'll love.

11. A small garden idea for cool nights: an outdoor fireplace 

Outdoor fireplaces are actually even better suited to smaller gardens than larger ones, for the simple reason you will really feel the cosiness in a smaller space. If your house won't permit the addition of a fireplace structurally, consider getting a chimenea or fire pit instead. 

We have the best chimeneas to heat up your outdoor space.

12. Create a covered area with a large patio umbrella

B&Q parasol

(Image credit: B&Q)

The easiest way to create shade and protect your dining area from rain? A large garden umbrella. Simply remove when you want to enjoy the sun (if it's out, that is). 

Consult our buyer's guide to the best garden parasols to choose yours. 

13. Or add a pergola

This lovely city garden isn't acres and acres but @this_e17_life proves how you can still squeeze a lovely pergola and decking area into the corner of a small space. Pop down some decking, string up the fairy lights and add an outdoor sofa and there's your little but lovely setup sorted.

Check out Wayfair for plenty of budget-friendly small pergolas or you could learn how to build a pergola yourself.

14. Enhance small garden landscaping with a central gravel path

Gravel is a great material for creating fluid, easy-going paths that are flattering in gardens big and small. To create an illusion of space as part of your small garden landscaping, build a central path surrounded by luscious borders. 

Find out how to lay a gravel path and how to choose the best gravel for your garden.

This small garden design is by Rory Andrews Landscape Design

15. Plant a garden tree to add height and interest

Little Greene exterior paints

(Image credit: Little Greene)

Think trees are only for large gardens? Not necessarily. Plenty of species will do fine in a small garden, or even in a garden container. The benefit of having a tree in your small garden is you are visually expanding your garden upwards, rather than keeping all the attention on the limited floor space. 

This garden benefits from a stunning plum tree. Find out what the best small garden trees are in our guide. 

16. Cheat a tiled floor with printed decking tiles

Ikea balcony

(Image credit: Ikea)

Balcony flooring seen better days? Or maybe you just want to go for a different look? Ikea sell decking that just clicks together and covers your patio or balcony floor, it's literally so easy. We like the patterned tile effect that the Mallsten tiles give (above) but there are loads of floor decking options at Ikea so check those out too to instantly update your balcony.  

17. Layer your garden planting scheme to save space

Layering is actually very simple, and has been used in small garden design for centuries. Just think taller plants in the background, herbaceous perennials and grasses in the middle, and annual flowers at the foreground. Try layering colour, too – you may wish to have gradations of just one colour, or classic colour combinations such as red and purple.

Find more garden border ideas in our feature.

18. Create a small but luxurious outdoor relaxation area

Even the tiniest garden can become a luxurious, relaxing sanctuary. You will have to decide what's most important to you – a fully planted up outdoor space, or a swimming pool/garden water feature, however small? Once you've decided what you want your garden to be, there's no reason you can't achieve it, with the help of a skilful garden designer or landscape architect. 

Learn more about adding a swimming pool and browse our beautiful gallery of luxury garden design ideas.  

19. Create a height-adding garden lighting scheme 

John Lewis & Partners Festoon Outdoor Line Lights

(Image credit: John Lewis & Partners)

Clever lighting is the perfect small garden idea for visually enhancing your space. To make your garden look bigger, you may choose upward-facing spotlighting or accenting a tree with fairy lights.

This garden benefits from Festoon Outdoor Line Lights from John Lewis & Partners visually enhancing its height. 

Get more garden lighting ideas in our gallery. Then browse more tips for making a small garden feel bigger.

20. Plant a green wall in a small garden

Farrow & Ball Yellowcake door in a garden

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

Another trick that emphasises the height rather than width of small gardens is planting a green wall. Choose fast-growing climber species such as jasmine, honeysuckle, and ivy. 

Find out more about creating a vertical garden or living wall in our guide.

21. Cheat a green wall with artificial plants

Garden screening ideas

(Image credit: Ikea)

If you aren't green fingered or just want some guaranteed all year round greenery this is a fab Ikea gardening hack – build a green wall just with fake flowers. This one has been made using Ikea's very handy faux plant wall panels

22. Maximise seating space with a garden corner sofa

garden furniture: corner sofa set

(Image credit: Sofa.com)

There's no hard and fast rule on where to position your garden furniture in small gardens, but generally speaking, it makes sense not to place any heavy, non-portable pieces centrally, because everyone will inevitably keep bumping into them. Instead, opt for a corner sofa and a compact coffee table. 

23. Blur the boundaries between indoors and outdoors

This indoor-outdoor space by Granit Architects uses continuous flooring to relax the boundaries between home and garden which is a really nifty small garden idea. You can maximise this with accessible glazing, and replicating the same decorating scheme inside and out.

Find out how to successfully link your indoor and outdoor spaces.

24. Enhance a small courtyard with elevated areas

Charlotte Rowe Chelsea courtyard

(Image credit: Light IQ/Charlotte Rowe)

Even the smallest courtyard can be made to look chic and inviting with clever use of materials, levels, and lighting. This Chelsea courtyard has been given a sleek makeover with multiple layers of light limestone paving. By Charlotte Rowe Design

25. Paint and plant garden walls and fences 

metal containers on a garden fence

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Just as you'd paint walls in a light colour in a small room to make it feel bigger, doing so in a small garden will make it feel larger. Another small garden idea? Think 'up' and 'out' by mounting your container plants onto a garden wall or fence. The effect will be especially stunning if you choose trailing plants (trailing pelargoniums are especially appealing). 

Learn more about choosing plants for your garden

26. Use limewash to create an airy and spacious look

cottage garden

(Image credit: Jody Stewart)

Talking of small garden ideas that make your outdoor space feel bigger and brighter, get that charming cottage garden look – and make your small garden appear larger and lighter in the process – by liming your exterior and your garden furniture. This traditional preservation technique is coming back into favour in modern homes too for a chilled Scandi look if cottagey is not your vibe.

Find out how to lime wood in our practical guide to go the whole hog with your garden furniture, too. 

27. Keep your lawn pristine, even if it's tiny

Shelley Carline has transformed her extended 1960s semi with her unique eye for decor

(Image credit: Richard Parsons)

Small garden design ideas that include a tiny lawn? Here's a great one. But don't neglect it; a neat and sculpted lawn, however small, will give your garden a smart and spacious look; like a large formal garden, but in miniature. To keep your lawn in top shape, mow it regularly. We have the best small lawnmowers in our buyer's guide. And for practical tips and techniques, consult our guide on how to mow a lawn.

Or, you can choose a fake lawn like the one below. Find more alternatives to laying a lawn in our guide.

28. Paint small garden fences to add extra colour

Patio with blue painted fence and painted garden furniture

(Image credit: Rust-Oleum)

Want to transform your small garden in just a weekend?  Bold move here, but we reckon painting your fences in bright, sunny colours for the summer can really improve your space. What's going to look nicer? A slightly faded, peeling wooden fence or a super stylish vivid colour? You can always soften the look by adding a trellis and growing climbing plants over the top. And see this furniture, below? That was plain wooden and a little worn looking – but was given a new lease of life with a lick of paint. Want to get the paint work done fast? Check out the best paint sprayers for speedy fence and furniture makeovers.

Head over to our feature on how to use paint in the garden for more easy updates. 

29. Make a small balcony feel like a Greek holiday villa

Garden

(Image credit: IKEA)

If you are on a budget or are trying to accommodate for a smaller, narrower space, don't worry, we have a few pointers. Painting doors and shutters is an easy and cheap way to brighten and add a modern twist to an outdoor space. Choose a bold colour you love that will draw the eye upwards, making the space feel longer. Using vertical shelves and shelving units in order to create loads of space to put plants and outdoors accessories (without taking up much floor room) is a great idea, too. And we LOVE the curtain, strung up to create privacy, shade and an extra splash of colour. See more of this IKEA set up on their website. 

30. Add a cheeky hammock for even more chilled vibes

The rug and the hammock help make the small space feel more like an outdoor room than a garden, which is a great option if you have a small back yard and are not sure how to make the most of it. You don't need to try to transform it into a green space, just see it almost like an extra room, with a few potted plants dotted about, too. Oh, and use paint to add some splashes of colour. We can't resist a bit of pink, so naturally, we are in love with @emeraldterrace's back yard.

For the best exterior wood paint head to our buying guide. 

31. Make room for an outdoor cinema

Ikea garden furniture

(Image credit: Ikea/Benjamin Edwards)

They're all the rage and we love 'em: outdoor cinemas. And yes, you can create your own without spending a fortune. Simply shine an outdoor projector on a white wall or hang a white sheet and use that as your screen instead. We have the best outdoor projectors to suit every budget in our guide. 

Then, you'll need good chairs – and we love these classics from Ikea. The Vago chair is for sure one of those indoor/outdoor pieces: great on a balcony, great in the corner of the kitchen. The design is just a classic. 

32. Go for modular garden furniture to suit your space

Ikea garden furniture

(Image credit: Ikea)

Modular furniture has always been a small space dweller's friend. What we like so much about the Solleron series is you can really create a shape of sofa that fits with your space. You can build up how many seats you want, add armrests, corner sections, pick colours and cushions to go on top – just a really versatile piece of garden furniture. 

33. Alan Titchmarsh's says less is more in a small garden

small garden: plant pots by Lagoon

(Image credit: Lagoon)

'In a small space, a few large features are better than many small ones. Two or three big pots will have much more impact and look far more stylish than a dozen ill-assorted smaller ones. One tree, if you can fit it in, is better than three shrubs of a middling size,' says gardening expert and TV personality Alan Titchmarsh.

34. Alan Titchmarsh also says to co-ordinate paving and hard landscaping

small garden courtyard

(Image credit: Lights 4 Fun)

Alan says: 'Choose paving and other hard landscaping that match or complement each other. This way, whatever else is going on in the garden, these will act as an anchor and provide a unifying theme.'

35. Alan Titchmarsh also says to create a focal point in a small garden

small garden: pergola with lights

(Image credit: Lights 4 Fun)

'Focal points are spots that draw your eye when you gaze into the garden. All gardens, no matter how small, ought to contain at least one good focal point, and preferably several of varying intensity – but cram in too many and they will all lose their impact,' says Alan.

Tips taken from Alan Titchmarsh's Small Gardens

36. Create a tiny outdoor kitchen 

Ikea outdoor kitchen

(Image credit: Ikea)

So when you have slaved away creating a lovely outdoor space, make sure you take time to enjoy it. And to us, enjoying an outdoor space means plenty of alfreso eating and drinking. We love this Ikea hack – creating a mini outdoor kitchen with just a kitchen trolley and a table top BBQ. This trolley is just £80 (£71 if you are an Ikea Family member). Store condiments and crockery underneath, and pop one of our picks of the best portable BBQs on top. 

37. Add a summerhouse to a small garden

Wildflower Summer House by Lights4fun

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

Summerhouses are not necessarily just for massive gardens – some are quite compact, as small as just five feet across. This small garden ideas with a summer house is by Lights4fun; see B&Q for small summer houses to buy. For more inspiration, go to our feature on outbuildings and garden rooms to see more on adding one of these to your space.

38. Go monochrome to enhance a small garden

Hopses Outdoor Pouf By B&B Italia, Chaplins Furniture

(Image credit: Chaplins Furniture)

And by monochrome we don't mean black or white; washing your entire small garden in a deep, vibrant colour will create a jewel-box effect that's very attractive, and it'll distract from the small size of your garden. This small garden idea is by Chaplins Furniture.

39. Don't be afraid to decorate a small garden table

Outdoor Summer Seating Area by Lights4fun

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

Just because you have a tiny bistro set in your patio, doesn't mean you have to keep it clear at all times. In fact, we think that draping your small garden table with pretty table linens and decorating with fresh flowers will visually enhance your outdoor space by creating a focal point. 

Find the best bistro sets in our buyer's guide.

40. Enjoy a hot tub even on the smallest patio

Luxurious Outdoor Lighting | Galliano Wall by DelightFULL

(Image credit: DelightFULL)

If your patio is way too small to fit in a commercially bought hot tub, consider having a bespoke one built, or even build it yourself (yes, it is possible). While it won't fit all of your friends, it's a clever use of a small garden corner. 

Think you might be able to fit in a larger hot tub after all? Check out the best hot tub deals

41. Really small garden? Go big on accessories

Galvanised Metal Lantern by Lights4fun

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

It's a misconception that small garden do best with smaller everything: actually, a couple of well chosen large ornaments, planters, or lanterns tend to look much better than lots of small ones. The Galvanised Metal Lantern is by Lights4fun.

42. Start a herb kitchen in a small garden

outdoor kitchen idea with herb garden, Ikea

(Image credit: Ikea)

If you have a small walled garden, use the walls! You basically automatically have extra space, it's just vertical. Choose the wall that gets the most sun and hang planters with herbs along the whole height of it, using hooks or a wall rack

This small garden idea with a herb garden is by Ikea. Find out more about DIY vertical gardening in our guide.

Watch the Real Homes Show for tips on reinventing a small space every week

See more about making the most of your home – whatever its size – on the Real Homes TV channel

More garden reading: