Great Ideas for Small Garden Owners

A small outdoor space could be seen as a challenge but with careful consideration and thought, size doesn’t have to matter. 

Kev Quelch of inovasis design provides some tips and design principles that will help you make the most of your garden, patio or balcony, no matter how small.

Firstly decide what the required uses are for the space, considering dining, cooking, seating and produce, and prioritize in order of importance. A clever design should allow you to include most, if not all, for even the smallest of spaces; however compromise is inevitable in a teeny area.


  • Create the illusion of a bigger space and blur the lines between indoors and out in transitional spaces using bi-fold or sliding doors.
  • Continue the interior flooring to the immediate outdoor space for a seamless transition.
  • Introduce a potted plant to any indoor adjacent room.
  • Repeat a color inside and out for continuity – this could be in the form of soft furnishings such as a cushion or in a piece of art, with a planned plant or flower.
  • If there are no large doors directly leading to the garden, use window boxes where a room overlooks the outdoor space, or install a green wall or plant a climber against a wall that’s directly opposite the window. Bring the greenery in.

Entry Point

Generally speaking in smaller gardens it’s most effective to have the immediate area stepping into the garden fully or partially enclosed. This not only allows ease of use during adverse weather, but maximizes the remaining space for other the other elements you've decided to include in the design. Outdoor lounges generally work best in a fixed position such as this.

  • Alternative options include a pergola or a fixed or removable shade sail.
  • Where space is particularly limited, or in other areas of the space such as over a dining table or casual chairs, umbrellas can provide shade as required. Cantilevered versions can rotate in various angles and fold away against a wall when not in use.
  • Include directional lighting and heating in areas that you plan to spend the most time so they can be used in the evenings and the cooler months.

Creating a boundary

  • Built in benches and seating ensure perimeter space is effectively utilized freeing up central areas. If you have a solid masonry wall bespoke folding benches provide even greater flexibility.
  • Factor any neighboring trees and plants into the design to visually extend your gardens own planting.
  • Where there is a desirable view beyond, make the most of it with low growing or clipped plants or hedging.
  • Where the use of dark walls on an interior can have the effect of closing in a room, outside the use of charcoals and black on boundaries have a receding effect making the internal area appear larger than it is, and make foliage and flowers pop when planted against it.
  • Planting small or fine foliage plants generally make a smaller space feel larger.
  • Use climbing plants where floor space is limited, either in narrow beds or troughs, or use wall mounted pots with cascading or trailing plants.
  • Using a mirror on a South facing or protected wall will not only to reflect light back into the space, but with clever placing of plants, extend the greenery and provide depth.
  • Outdoor art can provide a focal point and interest on small or large walls.


  • Large, light colored pavers will visually increase the size of the space.
  • Define zones by introducing an additional element such as decking or a patch of lawn, or an outdoor rug.
  • If possible introduce levels to break up a space.

Trick the eye

  • Horizontal lines can visually widen a space. Consider decking running from side to side, or a timber slat screen or fence across the rear of the garden to accentuate how wide your space is. A small deck across the entrance of a studio, granny flat or shed at the rear of the garden has the same effect whist freeing up all that’s before it for other elements and plants.
  • Introduce elements that partially dissect or cut into the space from the boundaries at intervals, such as timber screens, troughs or garden beds to add depth.
  • Use vertical lines to visually heighten. If you’re lucky enough to have interesting or uninterrupted views beyond the boundaries of your garden, vertical posts, fastigiate trees and upright plants will draw the eye up. Weeping trees and plants will naturally draw the eye back into the garden. Weeping plants are calming and also provide a sense of intimacy, rather than entrapment, in a small space.
  • Include a curved or weaving path. As well as slowing the journey through the garden, they will also trick the mind into thinking the garden is deeper. Ensuring the end of the path is narrower than the entry point will add to the perception.
  • LED lights transform a space at night. Hi-light feature trees or elements with stronger lights and soften boundaries with lower. Shadows will create depth and interest.
  • Multi functional and flexibility
  • Include elements that can have more than one use, such retaining walls or any required steps doubling up as casual seating.
  • Use stackable chairs or having seating and pots on castors – great for when any flooring maintenance is required, or you need a more open space for a party.

To view some of inovasis designs small spaces visit:

Want more? We thought you might like this video.

Like this artice? Subscribe to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered striaght to your inbox.

By registering you agree to our Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Privacy Notice


Sign Out

Join the Conversation

Please note, LifeStyle cannot respond to all comments posted in our comments feed. If you have a comment or query you would like LifeStyle to respond to, please use our feedback form.