10 Rules for Small Outdoor Spaces


These ten simple rules will ensure your small outdoor spaces always look amazing and remain up-to-date

Keep it Simple

Clean simple lines and a minimalist approach to design will always provide the illusion of space more than a busy appearance

Less is best

A few large pots or planter boxes will look less cluttered than numerous small ones.

Integrate and unify

Treat the small outdoor space as an extension of the home by thematically linking a courtyard to the indoors. To establish this link, use similar colours on walls, similar paving materials and similar decorations both inside and out.

Colour wisely

Light-coloured paving, plants and walls along with mirrors, upright plants and layering of plants will create an impression of greater space. On the other hand, a brightly coloured wall, plant or sculpture will help draw the eye to a feature but may shrink the space.

Look to the edges

Consider the perimeter and corners for planting in a small garden. If a tree or feature was positioned in the centre of a small space, it would affect the usability of the space for relaxing or entertaining.

Keep garden art simple

Don’t overdo the garden art. One sculpture or water feature is more than enough for the average small outdoor area. Unless you intend to update the feature regularly, ensure you select something timeless.

Be mindful of paving patterns and directions

Paving patterns can change the focus of a courtyard. A circular pattern may focus the paving inwards, diagonal lines may be used to extend the space outwards and increase the apparent size.

Light it up

Lighting is very important in small space design. Consider both functional and mood lighting. Ensure lights are placed in locations that are high enough so you don’t look directly into them when in the courtyard.

Consider flower colourings

In small courtyards be aware that flowers with strong red, yellow or orange colours tend to “advance” towards you, thus shrinking a courtyard. Soft tones such as blue, purple and grey recede and are not as dominant.

Add a small pool

There are numerous styles for small pools including plunge pools, lapping pools, courtyard pools, swim spas with swim jets and oversized spas. Maximise their use by ensuring they also server as water features in small space design.