Designing for small spaces

As a landscape designer, I love working on smaller spaces. While they might seem easier, they actually present an exciting challenge — working to realize the full potential of a natural space within a clearly defined set of parameters.

While space considerations should definitely be given when designing a compact space, that doesn’t mean that you need to limit yourself on creativity. Here are some tips for customers who want to make the most of their small space.

  • The sky's the limit! — Literally! Think vertically instead of horizontally. Play with the height of the plants and structures in the landscape. Tall, sculptural shrubs or ornamental trees can make a landscape feel more full. The same goes for larger flower pots or urns, or even a water feature or fountain. Structures like pergolas will draw the eye upward, creating an expansive feeling.
  • Extend your home’s interior into its exterior — Don’t be afraid to have your landscape’s living areas or social areas flush up against your home’s exterior. This way, the transition from indoor to outdoor space will feel more seamless. One client of ours actually installed a firepit and small patio right next to their front door! Sliding doors that open onto patios are great, too.
  • Have a focal point — Whether it’s a fire-pit, dining table, pond, or water feature, a piece in your landscape that is either striking or attention-grabbing will automatically draw eyes towards it instead of walls, fences, or property lines.
  • Create intimacy — Compact spaces often create coziness! You can take advantage of large walls, tall fences, and towering trees with how you furnish. With strategically placed gathering places, these fences, walls and trees can appear as if they’re embracing you. Your landscape will feel like a private, secluded oasis.

There are two particular projects that stick out in my mind when I think about designing landscapes for small spaces. We worked in tandem with two customers in the Atlanta Glenwood Park neighborhood who have backyards that border each other.

In the smaller yard, we installed a pergola, dining table, and outdoor grill. A short black steel fence created a visually appealing yet functional barrier between the two yards. In the second yard, which was roughly 50’ x 50’, we were able to put in a patio, a firepit a seat bench, a water feature and a koi pond! We even managed to install a set of steel spiral stairs that curled downwards from the house’s second floor balcony! Along with all of that, we were also able to incorporate irrigation and lighting.

While there are a lot of challenges that come with designing for a small space — where sunlight hits certain spots, how rules and regulations affect the design, fitting everything you want into a designated space — there is also a sense of freedom. When everything is predefined, we just need to get a little more creative and think outside of the box. Our team of designers at Plants Creative know more than just design — we also know what will work in specific areas. And, when all is said and done, you’ll end up with a customized and thoughtfully unique landscape that you can enjoy for years to come.