By Camille Dubuis-Welch published
The best small garden ideas need to be practical, stylish, and easy-to-implement. A bit of design know-how can transform a cramped courtyard or an urban square of lawn bordered by dull fencing. In fact, it’s surprisingly simple to create a successful space that’s both attractive and functional, even on small plots.
Every good garden design needs to take the surrounding area into account. This is particularly important with small gardens, where neighbouring houses can affect the end result. Be realistic about what you can achieve. Whether you’re planning a complete overhaul or a few tweaks, we've put together some design tricks that will help you nail it.
From a little trompe l'oeil to fab foliage, garden furniture, lighting, clever garden storage and more, these small garden looks are easy to achieve and will help turn your space into the ultimate spot for outdoor living. And, it doesn't matter if you're working on a tight budget – we have clever tips to let you save as you go. Get ready to see your city balcony, tiny country garden, shady patio area or even that lacklustre patch of lawn be transformed into an extraordinary small garden space.
1. Save space in a small garden with hooks
Making the most of small garden design ideas is all about optimizing the available space. And, whilst storage units are great, they often take up valuable room on the floor.
So, what’s a brilliant storage solution which takes up zero floor space whatsoever? Hooks! Especially when it comes to ones that are sturdy enough to hang furniture on (because foldable furniture is another small-space win, see below).
Place them up high on a sturdy wall or fence and you can tuck those chairs out of the way when they’re not in use for instant extra space. Double win if the wall is the same color as the chair, for some color blocking goodness.
And whilst we’re admiring this blue-hued vision, check out the table too, which has a built-in trough for plants, saving space for extra containers. A perfect choice for your small garden ideas.
2. Go bold with garden structures
Small garden ideas don’t have to be shy and retiring and simply fade into the background. Big and bold can work wonders for adding a touch of drama to your layout.
This contemporary take on a pergola is a striking way to frame the patio space, and the overhead structure creates subtle shade for the dining space beneath. We think it’s the perfect match for our modern garden ideas.
3. Mix and match landscaping materials
It can be tempting to stick to just one landscaping material in an effort to make a small space feel bigger, but it can often have the opposite effect. Introducing subtle changes in materials throughout your space can add interest and create different zones, all of which will actually enhance the feeling of space in your garden.
Here, the timber boards on the patio complement the exterior of the extension to help blur the boundaries between indoors out, while the traditional brick pavers used for the pathway introduce different color and texture to the space.
And if you’re short of planting space, why not look up for your small garden ideas? Green roofs are a brilliant way to introduce more planting areas to a small garden, plus you’ll benefit from a leafier outlook from the first floor of your home too.
4. Add a decked patio on a diagonal
Your decking ideas don't need to be large to be effective. Often a disused corner, which might not seem large enough for a patio, could work with a small patch of decking.
A clever space-saving option to is try a diagonal corner shape which won’t cut into too much of your lawn. As long as you can fit in a small outdoor dining set, that’s all you need.
5. Prioritize an entertaining space
In a small garden, you may not have the space for separate dining and living areas, and rather than try to cram too much into the space, choose one key area and make that the focal point of your space instead.
If outdoor dining is really important to you, and you frequently host garden get-togethers for family and friends, then giving over the majority of your space to a large dining table and chairs can be a sensible move.
You can always opt for folding chairs or an extending table if you don’t want your furniture to dominate the outlook when it’s not in use.
Here, the covered terrace provides the perfect spot for a lazy evenings alfresco. Get more ideas on creating a similar set-up in our covered deck ideas.
6. Lay a gravel floor
Gravel is a low-maintenance and purse-friendly material for a patio area, making it a particularly good option for small garden ideas. It’s easy to fill in to fit the shape you want and you can lay it yourself without too much trouble. This way you save money on hiring a tradesperson to lay it for you too.
There's more money-saving options in our cheap garden ideas feature.
7. Go for a micro potting station
People with small gardens will know it’s not always easy to find enough space for planting up your pots. But a small potting station will look quaint and can keep your seedlings organized. Have it up against the wall so you can make use of the vertical space. Attach hooks and shelves to keep the potting area clear of clutter.
8. Decorate steps with colorful pots
Steps can be pretty unspectacular, right? They get you from A to B, and if there are lots, they’re not that fun to climb. But if your small garden features some, then why not include them in your carefully-curated miniature haven?
If they’re wide enough, add interesting containers or colourful pots bursting with blooms and foliage on each one. We can guarantee that those steps will then bring joy whenever you use them! Just be sure to push them all to the side of each step, and remember they’re there when the sun goes down so that you don’t accidentally trip.
Why not paint the adjacent wall a sunny colour too, such as this deep ochre, for extra warmth? You might then be tempted to perch on them for a morning cuppa, to admire the brighter backdrop.
Head over to our garden steps ideas for more ways to make yours stand out from the crowd.
9. Up the ambience with a light-up water feature
With small garden ideas, especially for balconies or courtyards, ponds are often a no-go. But, that doesn’t mean to say that you can’t still add some water feature ideas to your plot.
Small designs which can be tucked against walls have all of the benefits of a larger version (relaxing trickle, a lovely focal point, even attracting nearby birds). But, did you know you can get illuminated water features, too?
Add one of those, and not only are you adding a zen-enhancing feature, but you’re also offering a lighting solution to the mix. Perfect for upping the ambience in the evening.
10. Think vertically for log storage
Height can come in handy when it comes to storage to complement your small garden ideas. If you have a log fire indoors, or perhaps you’ve invested in one of our best fire pits, then you will likely need somewhere to stack logs in the garden.
A simple, narrow storage unit can provide a place to store your logs whilst keeping them dry. It also makes an attractive garden feature. You could give it a lick of paint, too, to complement your theme, then pop it near the backdoor for ease of access on really wintery days.
Take a look at our garden storage ideas for more clever solutions.
11. Cram with patterns
If you’re more maximalist than minimalist, then don’t let size stop you. When it comes to pattern, go big! Go bold! Small garden layout ideas can come to life when adorned in layers of texture and vivid color.
Embrace the boho-look with patterned outdoor cushions, rugs and throws, then match your planting, too, by choosing brightly colored grasses and flowers.
Such an explosion of color is bound to bring joy and will keep your small space full of interest.
12. Invest in pretty outdoor furnishings
A beautifully laid table is an easy way to boost an outdoor table setting. Pick a matching set like these from Walton & Co in a traditional bee moss print, give a cottage garden feel to your outdoor space.
There are so many different styles available, you're sure to find one which fits with your own taste. So whether it's a classic look like the one pictured, or something a bit more vibrant and contemporary. Adding furnishings to your outdoor dining ideas will really give a boost to a small space.
13. Go bold with flooring
With small garden ideas, every surface provides an opportunity for design. So why not arrange your garden around an eye-catching floor?
Try bold-patterned tiles, soft-textured rugs, or how about artificial grass for low-maintenance greenery? It’s a stunning way to create an indoor-outdoor feel, especially when space is restricted.
Pair with bright colors and potted succulents for a fresh feel to your own little sanctuary.
14. Try stackable stools
Be extra savvy when it comes to storage, by using stackable stools. Their clean lines and simple design will also offer a breath of fresh air in a smaller space. Go for powder-coated aluminium styles – they will be durable and lightweight.
When it comes to tables to suit your small garden ideas, look for versatile options which can have their sides folded down when you need the space. It's a simple yet effective way to maximize the layout of your small garden's seating area.
15. Color block your garden walls
There’s nothing quite like a lick of paint to bring vibrancy to your surroundings, and as holidays have been off the cards for many of us for a while now, it’s the perfect time to bring a taste of the Med into your outdoor space.
Painting tired walls is a quick way to introduce color to your surroundings, and who said color blocking was just an indoor trend? Complement your walls by painting plant pots in more contrasting brights and all you need is a glass and a jug of sangria.
16. Bring life to a balcony with lots of container plants
If you have a balcony garden, there are still plenty of options for your space. There are so many gorgeous plant pots available right now, and so many plants that thrive just as well in containers as they would in soil, so your balcony can pack more punch than you may expect.
Soften the edges of your space and railings with lots of container gardening ideas in all shapes and sizes. Herbs are a good choice to add to tables to introduce some added greenery too.
17. Choose jazzy seating options
Creating a cool and cosy space for reading, or enjoying a glass of something refreshing, is a must for your small garden ideas. And finding something a little different will make your space pop.
We love the low lounge bench by Dobbies as it screams contemporary comfort and the tropical print instantly transports your imagination to a dreamy secluded holiday spot somewhere warm.
Be sure to pile any seating high with blankets and beautiful cushions for added comfort. Then opt for a variety of colors, patterns and textures to add more personality to your corner.
Planting and precise positioning of containers (for plants and/or drinks) around your seating area is also a great way to make this spot stand out.
18. Go for bold planting...
Aim to create impact with a less is more approach in your small garden. Limit the number of different types of plants, as too many can look crowded and fussy. Use bold structural plants to form the framework and help define the space, including a good range of evergreens for year-round interest.
Try tree ferns, bamboos and fatsia, which are great for creating lush tropical garden ideas in a small space. All will thrive planted in supersized pots that also create impact. Consider uplighting for night time drama.
19. ...and enhance your planting with lighting
If you're looking for ways to enhance your planting, lights are a great place to start. When the sun goes down foliage can take on a new dimension with string solar fairy lights. Or stake lights positioned in your pots and beds. They will add drama to a small space in the evening.
20. Decorate a table with a mini herb garden
Herbs are both fragrant and tasty, plus most don't require a lot of space so it's the perfect choice for those who are green fingered but have limited garden space.
You can start small, simply using what you have container-wise, and the different colors and textures will add a whole lot of character to your small garden.
21. Go to town on soft furnishings
We should never neglect the need for soft furnishings outside – especially in a small garden – as it's the ultimate opportunity to inject color, pattern and personality into your environment.
We love the mixture of prints and textures going on in this tiny outdoor setting. From the mismatched cushions to the pouffe (everyone needs a pouffe in their garden!) and the bamboo lanterns, it's a small space with so much character. It just goes to show that detail is key when it comes to the most successful small garden ideas.
22. Zone your space
Work out how best to use your space when planning your small garden ideas. Trying to squeeze in too much will often leave the final design feeling busy.
Creating a separate streamlined dining area (near the house for practical reasons) and lounging area (in the most secluded spot) helps to maximize space and works even in the smallest garden.
Aim to incorporate an element of surprise with a ‘big reveal’, where a secluded space that can’t be seen from the house is there when you turn a corner.
23. Use patterned tiles to liven up decking
Using patterned tiles on a balcony is a really modern way to make a small space feel bigger. The busy detail adds character and is the perfect backdrop for simple garden furniture and plants – lots of plants.
There's more options for giving your space a new look with our modern paving ideas.
24. Be inventive with plant displays
Getting creative with shelving and hooks is a great way to maximize on floor space, especially in a tiny balcony setting.
Trailing ivy from hooks in the wall and stacking wooden crates, filled with potted plants, herbs and more is an easy and affordable way to add endless interest to even the smallest of spots.
25. Scatter seeds to fill the gaps
Wildflowers are an easy choice for bringing extra interest to unloved spaces in your small garden. Wildflower company Seedball do scatter bags of varieties so you can sprinkle around to fill any boring gaps you might have in your flowerbeds.
Check out our feature on how to plant a wildflower meadow for tips on spaces big and small.
26. Add a summerhouse and make it multi functional
A bright summerhouse or she shed is a gorgeous addition to a small patio. It will not only be the perfect canvas for gorgeous seating, accessories and lighting, but it’s also an ideal shady retreat for long summer days.
Your options are limitless with a summerhouse or small garden room. Turn yours into a garden office so that you can work from home in peace and quiet, or keep it as a snug for balmy evenings when only a book and a glass of wine will do.
Head over to our she shed ideas for more ways to create your perfect garden hideaway.
27. Use light reflecting tricks
Think about your paving ideas to make a garden feel bigger. Light colored natural stone and porcelain pavers can help create the sensation of space in a small area by making it feel lighter and brighter.
Painting walls with pale exterior masonry paint works in the same way to enhance a cramped space. Try incorporating garden mirrors into your design too. These will bounce light around to create the illusion that a garden is more spacious. Surrounding them with plants adds to the magic by introducing movement in the reflections.
28. Go wild and plant your own jungle
The thought of being surrounded by a little jungle in your own garden is a great idea for a touch of escapism – something we’re all looking for right now. You can still let grand plants into a small garden space and have them border your seating corner with their spectacular leaves.
Trachycarpus and ferns work well (even in shade) and are ideal for low-maintenance gardens.
What's great about this particular look is that the seating makes the best use of an awkward small area, turning it into a cosy nook, fit for relaxing and entertaining in.
29. Paint life into garden furniture
When you’re working with a tiny garden, balcony or even courtyard, color is your friend. Add a pop of a vibrant color by investing in bright furniture, or paint your own, as done in this corner seating area.
Be sure to complement your color choice with similar tones in accessories to make your colorful corner really come to life.
Head over to our guide to painting garden furniture for all the tips you'll need.
30. Layer up on garden lighting
Garden lighting ideas are key in outdoor spaces of all shapes and sizes, and in a small garden space lighting can enhance the area in a natural way. The combination of different sized lanterns dotted on the floor, on a side table and garden border, plus the fairy lights nestled within the rosemary bushes creates ambience like no other.
Add festoon lights up above and you have a three-layered lighting scheme in play which makes this tiny garden space dynamic and, we’re sure you’ll agree, a little magical.
31. Camouflage your bistro set
A quaint seating set-up manages to make this tiny patio corner look polished.
The pastel colour of this set complements the surrounding planting, and the essence of camouflage creates the illusion of more space – perfect for when you've not got much to start with in the first place!
The cherry on top of this look is that this bistro set is foldable, so even storage is easy.
32. Create a secluded area
If your outdoor space is overlooked consider including some garden privacy ideas. Boundaries should be light and airy to make the space more welcoming.
A row of pleached trees in a raised bed creates an airy screen between you and neighboring properties, as does a ‘wall’ of tall bamboos.
Use screens and plants that act as veils to divide spaces rather than solid walls that can’t be seen through. The best climbing plants can be used to green up fences and walls. Small trees in large planters or adding a slatted pergola are alternative ways to create seclusion.
33. Create a lived-in living room setting
What better use of a small patch of lawn than to turn it into a veritable outdoor living room? Create cozy small garden ideas with outdoor sofas and even a coffee table, then complete the look with an outdoor rug and parasol (of course) as you never know what the weather has in store!
Shiny planters and some accents of light and bright colors really add energy to this set-up. We could stay here for days...
34. Choose fabulous foldable furniture
Foldable furniture might make you immediately think of childhood holidays spent in a caravan, but trust us, foldable tables and chairs have come a long way since then in terms of style and quality. And, thank goodness for that, because they are beyond useful for your small garden ideas!
Add a gorgeous wooden furniture set to your small outdoor space for an alfresco dinner by night, and fold the chairs up by day for quick storage and to clear the passage for easy watering of plants and general meandering around your outdoor space.
Check out our garden furniture ideas for more stylish options for your space.
35. Add height with tall plant stands
Styling your small garden using height is a surefire way to max out its potential. These tall galvanized iron plant stands add drama and draw the eye up, making the area seem bigger.
For added impact, choose luscious plants with exotic leaves and keep them against a bold and colorful backdrop.
36. Be bold with a bench
A contrast of colors is a great way to exaggerate space, so including key pieces of colorful furniture, like this painted bench, against the dominant colors in your garden will create a striking look that's larger than life. Paint your own furniture using peppy colors, as seen here.
37. Introduce a focal point
Add an eye-catching design feature to provide a distraction from small dimensions. This could be a sculpture, decorative planter, water feature idea or architectural planting, up-lit at night to create an atmospheric backdrop that can be enjoyed from indoors too.
It will make your small garden ideas seem bigger by drawing the eye. The best garden designs are always the ones with personality and this is your opportunity to customize your space with your own mark.
38. Add a garden mirror to double your space
It's no secret that garden mirror ideas help create the illusion of space with the added reflection, so it's a no brainer to try it out in a small garden too. After all, why would you just have two container plants, when you could have four?
This mirror adds a charming touch to the space, all while tricking the eye into thinking there's a little more room.
Check out our other advice on how to make a small garden feel bigger for more top ideas.
39. Keep it zen and zone your areas
Zoning is key in large spaces where you can easily get (figuratively) lost, but it's also so important in small gardens as it's a unique way of creating dedicated areas for eating and relaxing.
You can achieve this, even on a small balcony, by using planters and even plants, while we love the use of the trellis in this simple garden.
Why? The trellis not only helps create a distinct dining area, but it also creates the opportunity for a vertical living wall and adds a little more privacy, too. If you share a garden space or you feel like you need a little extra separation from your neighbors, this'll do the trick.
40. Garden shelving is everything
From placemats at the ready for another garden party, to decorative plants and more, garden shelving is creeping into so many small garden ideas because it's useful and easy to style.
Add a couple of shelves to your garden walls to enhance and transform your space in a very modern way. In this outdoor room, we not only love the shelves against the gorgeous green wall, but also the trailing ivy from above which adds another level of interest to this small garden.
41. Use natural materials, including the roof
Creating a covered outdoor space will help exaggerate the room you have, bringing all the beach cabin vibes to your small garden ideas – especially if you choose the right materials!
Go for light wicker or reed to add an element of the tropics to your set-up and you'll be able to spend many a balmy or even drizzly evening outdoors.
42. Add an outdoor kitchen that's a dream to cook in
Outdoor kitchen ideas aren't just reserved for large gardens. We love how the above set-up has everything you could need, but remains compact and not overwhelming. This is down to a well-thought-out design, including the light-coloured decking that helps open the space up a little.
Try to keep a small BBQ close to your dining or seating area, and choose nifty storage for firewood, utensils, drinks and the like (shelving is a great option if you are really tight on space!).
43. Focus on teeny tiny details
Flowers and planting can transform all types of spaces, big and small, so when you're having to squeeze everything in, make sure you pay attention to detail.
Choose light and brightly colored flowers to add an element of fun to your small garden ideas, plus it will improve the chances of seeing a little wildlife around your garden.
And, variety is everything to help create an interesting display, so favor a mismatched approach and team small flowers with herbs, taller planting and even trailing plants to help achieve the wow factor.
44. Add a cosy fire pit
Using a main feature as the focal point in your small garden ideas will make more of your space. Whether that's a coffee table, fire pit or other, gather the chairs around to create a unified feel and for (quite literally) more warmth.
Check out our outdoor heating ideas for more inspiration on keeping warm after dark.
45. Use all your levels
If you have low walls or steps, use them to display more container plants, pots, lights, ornaments and the likes. Having objects at different levels will add height and exaggerate space in a brilliant way.
If you don't have natural different levels available to you, then think about adding shelves or using tall planters as mentioned above to achieve the drama.
46. Choose multi-tasking pieces
Even the best garden furniture has to earn its place on the patio if you’re short on space, so look for furniture that doubles up, such as an outdoor storage box. This storage box comes in two sizes and can be used to stow away cushions, then put into action displaying plants, or as a table or extra seat as needed.
47. Opt for a brightly-colored bistro set
Every small garden should have a bistro set. They take up very little space and are a must if you like to move around the garden following the sun or love to invite friends round. Nothing says high summer like shades of hot orange and it’s a great way to add an uplifting colour pop too.
Choose a design that can be folded up when not in use, and you can free up floor space for other garden activities. Zoom yoga class anyone?
48. Make the most of an empty corner
Choose modular outdoor seating in an L-shaped design to transform a corner of your patio. Style it up with outdoor cushions and other accessories to make it feel like a second living room.
We love this multi-purpose outdoor table which has a plastic planter beneath the lid that can also be used as a drinks bucket. A genius touch for your small garden ideas.
49. Go large with containers
Big garden planter ideas suit compact spaces, and are a great way to add some contemporary styling to your small garden ideas. Look for lightweight options that are easy to move around for maximum flexibility.
Plant up with low-maintenance greenery such as grasses, for a laidback look you can layer up.
50. Look up
The space above your garden can be put to good use too. As well as being a handy structure for plants to scramble over, contemporary looking pergola ideas like this black painted one can be used to add all-important lighting to create the right mood.
How can I make my small garden look nice for less?
There are lots of ways to make your small garden ideas look nice for cheap. Try these budget-friendly suggestions:
- Paint old pots to give them an update
- Have a look online for second-hand garden furniture
- See if your neighbours have any plants going spare
- Get plants for free by discovering how to take cuttings from plants
- Create a smart new space with inexpensive gravel
- String up festoon lights
- Give your fence a lick of paint
- Learn how to clean your patio to instantly smarten it up
- Add a few outdoor cushions and maybe a rug
- Add shelves to outdoor walls to make extra space for plants
- Hang up bunting for a country-chic vibe
How do you make a small garden fun?
You can make your small garden fun with the addition of accessories and outdoor furniture. How about giving it a boost with some on-trend lights, tucked amongst your plants?
Adding the best outdoor projector is also a fun idea. It will transform your plot into a private cinema – just layer on the blankets and grab bowls full of snacks for a night to remember. You could also invest in a swinging chair. Not only do they look stylish, but they are also super fun to sit in!
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