Simple ways to make a small outdoor space feel bigger

Posted January 31, 2019 in Landscape Design

We have been trained to think that bigger means better, but that isn’t always necessarily the case.  For as many homeowners that love ample, sprawling backyards, there are other homeowners that can’t or don’t want to commit to the upkeep and prefer their backyard remain modest and manageable.  There are plenty of design techniques, styles and materials that seemingly trick the mind into believing an outdoor space is larger than what it actually is.  Careful design, planning and implementation can prove quite effective in creating beautiful and virtually ample outdoor living spaces out of not a lot of space at all!  Let’s explore a few ideas behind the theory…


Divide the space, are you crazy?  Though there may not be a ton of square footage in a small backyard, strategically dividing the space into destination zones to create different experiences will help the plan seem bigger.  Any comprehensive outdoor living space will contain 3 zones: cooking, dining and lounging; these three activities are essential to creating a functional and enjoyable backyard.  Given the amount of space you may have will dictate the level of creativity you and your landscape designer will need to achieve.  Perhaps your cooking destination remains as simple as a stately piece of bluestone off of the patio where a portable gas grill will sit, leaving a majority of the remaining space to dedicate to an ample dining table and lounge set with fire table.  Whatever your main priority, a shift in experience from zone to zone will provide a well-rounded experience for your family and your guests.  * Designer tip* Implementing long, narrow planters is an aesthetic way to “break up” each zone and signal a change in activity while incorporating a softer touch with pretty and fragrant flowering plants to touch upon the senses.

Think Vertical

It is easy to cram way too many indispensable items into a small space, making it feel that much tighter.  Instead, think vertical.  Expressing your need to utilize every square inch of your space will spur your landscape designer to provide creative yet functional solutions.  Wanting to grow your own herbs and vegetables?  Think vertical garden wall!  Longing to gaze into the backyard to see colorful flowers or even fruits ripening on the vine?  It is possible to train certain trees, vines and flowers to grow vertically flat against a wall, lattice or stake framework!  Craving the soft and subtle sound of trickling water?  Talk to your landscape designer about incorporating a hanging water feature!  Similarly, don’t be hesitant to explore your options for structure.  Precisely designed structures. like pergolas, can be made to fit and suit any area imaginable without sacrificing usable space, only adding to your property’s allure!  On the same note, surrounding walls do not need to feel like a prison and any open space can be transformed to beautifully implement vertical features, allowing passing breezes to filter through and enough room on the ground level for key elements.

Focal Point

Who wouldn’t want a key feature in the outdoor living space to draw the eye and create a topic of conversation?  Whether you choose a fire feature, water feature, majestic planter or sculpture to act as the focus, this piece will act as the anchor for the whole outdoor living space.  From this, you may find the material or hue inspiration to filter through the whole landscape design, creating a beautifully homogenous and cohesive space.  In the instance of a more modest backyard, a focal point should be placed further away from the point of entry so it can lead the eye further, making the space seem longer and larger.  To step it up a notch, have your landscape designer incorporate some warm LED lighting to highlight the feature…trust us…it’ll be worth it!


If we have said it once, we will say it a thousand more times, feature and landscape lighting naturally project a warm and welcoming atmosphere that not only beckons people outside but sets the tone of the space.  Lighting can evoke many emotions and moods, reminiscent of a soothing vacation resort or an edgy restaurant patio…the options are yours!  Altogether, lighting an outdoor living space brings the fundamental comforts of the inside, out, enveloping everyone in security.  Strategically placed lighting can create vivid dimension, highlight interesting organic or architectural features while simultaneously providing simple illumination for safe steps and home protection.


Keeping your outdoor plan simple, with a less is more mentality will most definitely make the space feel larger.  Now, this doesn’t mean you need to limit your furniture or go with smaller furnishings to save space…we mean the exact opposite!  Smaller pieces may seem like they are saving space, but in actuality, the area just ends up feeling cluttered.  When you figure out what furniture you would like to incorporate, select meaningful and well-made pieces; this will make the space feel substantial and inviting!  Also, try to stick to a neutral color scheme with one accent color throughout, this will offer the sought-after designer touch and keep the space from looking busy and distracting.

While you can’t change your square footage, there are always ways to play with what you have to create a space you always have wanted.  It takes creativity, intricate problem-solving skills, a keen eye as well as seasoned construction experience to transform even the smallest spaces into outdoor living oases, so don’t feel defeated if you need to call in the professionals to obtain the backyard you have always dreamed of!

Serving the Poconos, Lehigh Valley through the Main Line of Philadelphia and western New Jersey, MasterPLAN Outdoor Living would love to be the design/build firm to walk this transformational journey with you.  Partnering with our clients to create outdoor living spaces that are both functional and beautiful is our purpose and custom tailoring each unique space to fit each family’s needs and lifestyle is our passion.  When you are ready to open up the conversation about uncovering the full potential of your property, reach out to MasterPLAN, we would love to welcome you into the family!

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