Small garden ideas: 41 ways to maximise the potential of your compact space

Give these small garden ideas a go for a stylish update – your outdoor space will instantly feel bigger and brighter

small garden ideas: outdoor seating on decking go modern furniture
(Image credit: Go Modern Furniture)

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.

Want even more inspiration? Head over to our garden design ideas for more ways to transform your outdoor space. 

1. Save space in a small garden with hooks

small garden layout ideas: colour blocking blue outdoor seating

Hooks offer easy storage when you need more space

(Image credit: Habitat)

Making the most of small gardens is all about optimising 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 colour as the chair, for some colour 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.

2. Decorate steps with colourful pots

small garden layout ideas: colourful containers on steps

Adorn your stairs with colourful pots

(Image credit: Dobbies)

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. 

3. Up the ambience with a light-up water feature

small garden layout ideas: buddha light-up water feature

What's more relaxing than the soft sound of water?

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

With small gardens, especially 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.

4. Think vertically for log storage

small garden layout ideas: Garden Trading log storage

Aldsworth City Log Store from Garden Trading

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

Height can come in handy when it comes to storage in small spaces. 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.

5. Cram with patterns

small garden layout ideas: patterned indoor-outdoor living on small terrace B&M

Add layers of colour and pattern for a bold impact

(Image credit: B&M)

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 layouts can come to life when adorned in layers of texture and vivid colour. 

Embrace the boho-look with patterned outdoor cushions, rugs and throws, then match your planting, too, by choosing brightly coloured grasses and flowers. 

Such an explosion of colour is bound to bring joy and will keep your small space full of interest.

6. Go bold with flooring

small garden layout ideas: yellow wall and seating area Habitat

Pair bold floors with bright walls for a modern feel

(Image credit: Habitat)

With small gardens, 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 colours and potted succulents for a fresh feel to your own little sanctuary. 

7. Try stackable stools

small garden layout ideas: Skagerak Nest outdoor seating

(Image credit: Nest)

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, look for versatile options which can have their sides folded down when you need the space. It's a simple yet effective way to maximise the layout of your small garden's seating area.

8. Colour block your garden walls

colour blocking behind a garden dining area

Add a splash of colour to your courtyard

(Image credit: John Lewis & Partners)

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 this year, 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 colour to your surroundings, and who said colour 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. 

9. Bring life to a balcony with lots of container plants

balcony decor with container plants

Pots full of plants are an instant ambience booster for balconies

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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 pots and plants in all shapes and sizes. Herbs are a good choice to add to tables to introduce some added greenery – find out the best herbs to grow in your garden in our guide. 

10. Choose jazzy seating options

Tropical Bamboo Lounge Bench with Cushion

Look for unusual seating designs for extra interest

(Image credit: Dobbies)

Creating a cool and cosy space for reading, or enjoying a glass of something refreshing, is a must in every small garden space. 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 colours, 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.

11. Go for bold planting

dining area with bench seating surrounded by plants

Table and bench set from Limited Abode

(Image credit: Limited Abode )

Aim to create impact with a less is more approach. 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. 

12. Decorate a table with a mini herb garden

small herb garden by John Lewis

A herb garden makes a lovely addition, whatever its size

(Image credit: John Lewis)

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 colours and textures will add a whole lot of character to your outdoor space.

13. Go to town on soft furnishings

soft furnishing for small spaces Maisons du Monde

Recreate the look with Maisons du Monde's outdoor accessories

(Image credit: Maisons du Monde)

We should never neglect the need for soft furnishings outside – especially in a small space – as it's the ultimate opportunity to inject colour, 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.

14. Zone your space

The best small garden ideas

Woburn concrete indoor/outdoor bench from Rust Collections 

(Image credit: Rust Collections)

Work out how best to use your space. 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 maximise 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. 

15. Use patterned tiles to liven up decking

Patio ideas

This porcelain MÄLLSTEN floor decking by IKEA is weatherproof, so perfect for all types of outdoor spaces

(Image credit: IKEA)

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.

16. Be inventive with plant displays

garden storage ideas

Try using hooks and shelves for extra plants

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Getting creative with shelving and hooks is a great way to maximise 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.

17. Add a summerhouse and make it multi functional 

Summer house ideas

Turn your shed into a haven

(Image credit: Lights4Fun)

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. 

18. Use light reflecting tricks

patio area with light coloured paving slabs

Materia Blanco Slab Tiles from Walls & Floors 

(Image credit: Walls and Floors)

Think about your paving ideas to make a garden feel bigger. Light coloured 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 one of these 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.

19. Go wild and plant your own jungle

bright garden corner sofa

Go big on greenery

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

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.

20. Paint life into garden furniture

painted garden seating

This gorgeous canary yellow paint is by Farrow & Ball

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

When you’re working with a tiny garden, balcony or even courtyard, colour is your friend. Add a pop of a vibrant colour by investing in bright furniture, or paint your own, as done in this corner seating area. 

Be sure to complement your colour choice with similar tones in accessories to make your colourful corner really come to life. 

Head over to our guide to painting garden furniture for all the tips you'll need. 

21. Layer up on garden lighting

small garden courtyard

Recreate the look with the Malvern outdoor lighting bundle from Lights4Fun

(Image credit: Lights 4 Fun)

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.

22. Camouflage your bistro set

small pastel green bistro set by John Lewis

Bistro table and chairs from John Lewis

(Image credit: John Lewis)

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. 

23. Create a secluded area

wooden pergola over a dining area

Slatted pergola from Forest Garden

(Image credit: Forest Garden)

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 neighbouring 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. Fast growing climbers 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. 

24. Create a lived-in living room setting

Modern garden ideas: outdoor sofa, rug and coffee table with string lights and lanterns

Transform your plot into a cosy outdoor living room

(Image credit: John Lewis)

What better use of a small patch of lawn than to turn it into a veritable outdoor living room? Create a cosy setting 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 colours really add energy to this set-up. We could stay here for days...

25. Choose fabulous foldable furniture

luxury foldable garden dining set

We love this pretty set-up created by John Lewis

(Image credit: John Lewis)

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! 

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.

26. Add height with tall plant stands

tall plant stands by Made

Noor collection from Made.com

(Image credit: Made)

Styling your small space using height is a surefire way to max out its potential. These tall galvanised 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 colourful backdrop.

27. Be bold with a bench

painted garden bench and planter by Farrow & Ball

Charlotte's Locks and Calke Green paint from Farrow & Ball

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

A contrast of colours is a great way to exaggerate space, so including key pieces of colourful furniture, like this painted bench, against the dominant colours in your garden will create a striking look that's larger than life. Paint your own furniture using peppy colours, as seen here. 

28. Introduce a focal point

courtyard space with a water feature

Add personality to your space

(Image credit: Nick Rennie)

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 a small garden seem bigger by drawing the eye. The best garden designs are always the ones with personality and this is your opportunity to customise your space with your own mark.

29. Add a garden mirror to double your space

garden mirror by Rockett St George

We're loving this crittall-style mirror with a distressed finish by Rockett St George

(Image credit: Rockett St George)

It's no secret that garden mirrors 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 favourite garden mirror ideas for more clever ways to cheat the feeling of space. 

30. Keep it zen and zone your areas

garden zoning with trellis

A beautiful small set-up by La Redoute

(Image credit: La Redoute)

Zoning is key in large spaces where you can easily get (figuratively) lost, but it's also so important in small garden spaces 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 neighbours, this'll do the trick.  

31. Garden shelving is everything

clever garden shelves

'Puck' painted wall by Little Greene

(Image credit: Little Greene)

From placemats at the ready for another garden party, to decorative plants and more, garden shelving is creeping into so many small outdoor spaces 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.

32. Use natural materials, including the roof

painted outdoor living room set up

Add an element of the tropics

(Image credit: Little Greene)

Creating a covered outdoor space will help exaggerate the room you have, bringing all the beach cabin vibes to your garden – 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.

33. Add an outdoor kitchen that's a dream to cook in

outdoor kitchen dining set from john lewis with barbecue

Enjoy the sunshine with an outdoor kitchen

(Image credit: John Lewis)

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!). 

34. Focus on teeny tiny details

summer flowers

Consider your planting carefully

(Image credit: Getty)

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 coloured flowers to add an element of fun to your space, 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 favour a mismatched approach and team small flowers with herbs, taller planting and even trailing plants to help achieve the wow factor.

35. Add a cosy fire pit

small garden layout ideas: fire pit in centre

A fire pit is a perfect focal piece

(Image credit: Colin Poole/Future Publishing)

Using a main feature as the focal point in a small garden 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.

36. Use all your levels

container plants by Cox & Cox

These fluted zinc planters by Cox & Cox are a favourite of ours

(Image credit: Cox & Cox)

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.

37. Choose multi-tasking pieces

garden storage

(Image credit: La Redoute)

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.

38. Opt for a brightly-coloured bistro set

bistro set

This brightly-coloured bistro set has the wow factor

(Image credit: Habitat)

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? 

39. Make the most of an empty corner

garden sofa

(Image credit: Ella James)

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. Genius. 

40. Go large with containers

garden planters

Bold containers look great in a small space

(Image credit: Sweetpea & Willow)

Big pots suit small spaces, and are a great way to add some contemporary styling to your garden. 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.

41. Look up

garden lighting

These fairy lights from Lights4fun help to bring the garden to life in the evening

(Image credit: Lights4Fun)

The space above your garden can be put to good use too. As well as being a handy structure for plants to scramble over, a contemporary looking pergola 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?

small garden ideas: small ikea balcony with outdoor chair

Even the smallest plots can feel inviting, as shown by this set-up from Ikea

(Image credit: Ikea)

There are lots of ways to make your small garden look nice for cheap. Try these budget-friendly ideas:

  1. Paint old pots to give them an update
  2. Have a look online for second-hand garden furniture
  3. See if your neighbours have any plants going spare
  4. Get plants for free by discovering how to take cuttings from plants 
  5. Create a smart new space with inexpensive gravel
  6. String up festoon lights
  7. Give your fence a lick of paint
  8. Learn how to clean your patio to instantly smarten it up
  9. Add a few outdoor cushions and maybe a rug
  10. Add shelves to outdoor walls to make extra space for plants
  11. Hang up bunting for a country-chic vibe

How do you make a small garden fun?

small garden layout ideas: hanging outdoor chair gardenesque

(Image credit: Gardenesque)

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? 

An 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!

More ideas for small gardens: