Do you have a small yard and wish it could look bigger?
Luckily there are design tricks to fool the eye and make any small backyard appear more spacious, and I put the most effective right here in this guide.
Keep reading to learn the six best methods to visually expand a tight backyard and make it look and feel bigger!
6 Design Tricks to Make a Small Backyard Look Bigger
1. Define Spaces
The first way to make a yard look bigger is to break it into smaller sections. Each section should highlight the outdoor activities you enjoy most while at home.
Map out the square footage in your backyard and try to divide it into at least three areas.
For example, if you love to grill and entertain, one area can be for cooking, another for seating to converse with guests, and another for a stand-up bar for mixing cocktails and mingling.
For families with small children, ideas may be a section for climbing and playing, space for watchful adults to hang out, and possibly an outdoor kitchen and movie area.
Once you lay out the best areas in your yard for each “space,” create a meandering path from one area to the next. The more steps you need to take to reach another space, the larger your yard will feel.
2. Go Vertical
It may seem counterintuitive to block sightlines by constructing tall walls, but doing so fools the mind into thinking there is more to see “right around the corner.”
Thin lattice walls provide space for light and air to penetrate yet bring a cozy feel to each custom-designed space they enclose. If possible, find spots to add points of interest along the paths to a separate area.
These spaces can be as small in footprint but can offer a spot to install a surprise water feature or sculpture that provokes thoughts that supersede time and space.
While you don’t want to create a confusing maze of walls in your backyard, enclosing parts of seating or dining areas and partitioning off some walkways brings a “secret garden” optical illusion that expands the overall feeling of space in even the smallest of yards.
3. Add Dimension
Scenery that appears flat also feels more compact.
While you may not have space for large pieces of outdoor furniture or wide patios, it’s critical to add dimension by way of artwork, hanging planters, textural stone paths, stacked-block low walls, birdbaths, water features, and arbors.
Mix elements such as wood, metal, glass, and stone in such a way that they draw the eye slowly around each space, which increases the feeling of size.
Use “teasers,” such as a single bright flowering plant, to “pull” the eye to a curving pathway just waiting to be explored. Build an archway that doubles as a “door” to a new area.
Don’t overcrowd spaces with random items. Be thoughtful when selecting and placing pieces; they need to either have a distinct function like a set of comfortable chairs for conversation, or a definite decorative appeal.
4. Use Creative Lighting
Lighting is another key feature in creating dimension, especially during evening hours. Harsh lights can flood a small backyard and bring the actual reality of size into clear focus.
Soft lighting allows for safe traversing of the yard while keeping boundaries in the shadows, making the whole area feel larger.
Use solar lanterns hanging from a tree branch or set into a patio corner to brighten an area on the outskirts of your backyard.
Yellow-tone fairy lights around a conversation pit or blue waterproof LED lights inside a pond can entice the eye to linger, making any unique feature feel spacious and inviting.
Get creative and hide uplighting in low-laying plants or set a gentle spotlight on a focal point such as an outdoor fireplace.
These tricks bring yet another layer of depth that visually pushes the darker elements behind them further back, which increases how large your backyard feels.
5. Maintain A Color Scheme
For small spaces, keeping a cohesive color scheme throughout the backyard is a trick many designers like to keep up their sleeves when they want an area to appear bigger.
Expect plants to set the tone with their many shades of green foliage, then add in one or two analogous colors that you especially enjoy. Stay with the color you select and use various shades in each section of your backyard.
For example, a beige and blue color scheme can use softer shades on upholstery, lanterns, curtains, or pillows in a relaxing seating area.
Intensify the colors in areas where you would like a more playful or upbeat atmosphere, such as a kid-zone or grilling center. Use only shades of blue or purple flowers along pathways or in pots.
The more cohesive the colors are, the brain will react as every new area being part of the last, which creates a more expansive feel.
Too many colors in a small space jolt the eye and overwhelm the senses, so keep your color selection to a minimum so you don’t perceive the yard is crowding in.
6. Layer Plantings
To increase the visual size of a space, place plants at a variety of heights and depths. Start with ground-level foliage, then place potted flowers, palms, or grasses strategically to raise the eye upwards.
Continue by setting plants along the top of a terraced wall, or use hanging plants from fences, posts, trellises, or trees. Two or three layers up and two or three layers deep creates a lush landscape that appears to go on and on.
I have spent a lifetime transforming small backyard spaces into perfect family hideaways, cozy couple retreats, fun party pads, and an oasis of peace for single adults.
By using the tips above, you can convert your small backyard into a welcoming and useful space that feels way more spacious than it actually is!