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Designing for Small Spaces

Whether your property is expansive or small, you likely have a spot that is short on space. Perhaps there is a deck, courtyard, passage or corner of your garden that is being underutilized? Here are some thoughts on how to optimize limited space...

1. Control the views.

Frame beautiful views and shield unwanted views. No one wants to rest their eyes on the neighbor's messy shed. Instead, lure your guests with a lovely entrance to a space enclosed with something beautiful at every glance.

2. Choose Furniture Carefully.

Choose seating and tables that have a small footprint and an open structure to allow sight lines through the space. Beware of boxy, clunky pieces. Consider built-in seating around the perimeter of the space.

3. Plantings

Careful here. Too many or overflowing flowers and foliage can read as messy and chaotic, reducing the feel of the size of the garden. Stick to one or two flower colors. Keep small spaces meticulously maintained and clutter to an absolute minimum. Explore ways to include plants without taking up too much real estate: espaliered plants (above) can create a garden room, window boxes will add a pop of color and use no floor space, and sedum in cracks of a flagstone courtyard can add softness and green where using larger plant material is not feasible.

4. Keep the Eye Moving

Encourage folks to look around the space by emphasizing the diagonal and placing larger plants behind smaller ones. De-emphasize corners, which tend to interrupt a visual flow. Use raised beds, art, containers, and climbing plants to encourage looking up. Choose exceptional details. Change levels and materials to create distinct areas. Be sure to have something of interest in all seasons.


This private garden room was created by an enclosure of plants, a new stone wall and gravel "floor," and a new stepping stone walk to access the space. The chairs are positioned for enjoyment of a perennial garden inspired by a love for bees, butterflies, and birds.

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