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Small Backyard Design

Small backyards can be found throughout Houston in neighborhoods like Upper Kirby, Rice Village, West U, and Bellaire. Houses in these neighborhoods can be very small, consisting of only one story and two or three bedrooms at the most. Many townhomes and patio homes are also found in these parts of town. These dwellings typically have very small backyards which require exceptional landscaping design skills to effectively develop.

The challenge inherent to working in a small backyard of any kind lies in the limited amount of space available for any type of landscaping design. Outdoor rooms and structures have to be scaled down to reflect the size and architecture of the home. Trees and gardens must be also be smaller so as to not dwarf the home and consume what little open space there is. Hardscapes and decorative elements must be built in such a way as to create the illusion of a much larger lawn than is actually present.

Perspective is the key to creating this sort of complimentary relationship between hardscapes, outdoor rooms, patios, garden design, and home architecture. In a small backyard, all landscaping elements are much closer to the house— and consequently bring a much greater visual impact to bear on its aesthetic. Patios are typically highly customized and tend to be constructed using very unique materials whose unique appearance will offset the smaller size. Furniture also tends to be smaller as a general rule, and walkways and pathways must be very narrow in order to enlarge the appearance of the surrounding lawn. For example, bisecting a small backyard behind a townhome with an 18”-wide, winding pathway will create the optimal illusion of a larger yard by dividing a single space into two.


In a similar manner, organic design must also be scaled down to proportions appropriate to the size of the house and surrounding lot. Certain popular garden styles such as French, Italian, or Mediterranean styles most likely cannot be installed in their purest, most traditional forms. Custom modifications have to be made to them so that they may be scaled down to the proportions of their environment. Large trees cannot be planted in a small backyard with limited space. However, a multitude of smaller species exist that will thrive in the Houston climate. These trees can be planted in rows to create organic walls of greenery, or they can be planted individually in key locations and areas of interests. When proportionally scaled against the home itself as a frame of reference, even smaller trees can be made to look like large ones if different species of different heights and foliage types are integrated into the landscape and garden design.

Another way to enlarge the look of a property is to build a decorative wall around its perimeter. While this might appear at face value to work against to the idea of optically expansion, the opposite holds true. Small backyards appear dwarfed when one can see beyond them into larger lots nearby. However, when these same yards are insulated by an enclosure, they actually appear much larger as a self-contained environments separated from the outside world. Design elements can then be used to further decorate these walls in any number of ways. Planters can be built into their sides that can be used to grow anything from herbs to seasonal flowers. Decorative urns and pottery can be used to punctuate wall corners and adorn adjacent patio areas, and wall fountains can be integrated into vertical hardscapes to add a sense of tranquility by day and illuminated movement at night.