City dwellers are constantly scrambling to make the most of the decreasing green spaces available in modern cities. Just check out any city parkland space on a fine Saturday, from New Farm Park in Brisbane, Hyde Park in Sydney all the way to Central Park in New York. As the population and inner-city property values rocket sky high and the urban sprawl takes over, small block living incorporating a small garden is slowly becoming the norm.

Going are the days of sweeping green lawns, kidney shaped lap pools and space for the kids to kick a ball around. Smaller blocks and larger homes mean less garden space, so now more than ever the importance of maximising your small garden design is imperative.

Here’s 5 ideas for your small garden.

small garden design


The key is to design your small garden like an extension of your living space or an outdoor room. With walls, floors, and a smartly designed layout. Before you start, remove everything that is moveable from furniture, pots, and planters, toys. Even if you plan on using the item in your new design try to get it out of the space so you can see the space clearly.

If money permits, custom cabinetry or built-in furniture offers a great space saving solution both inside and out. Bench seats constructed and hung off side walls and fences. Simple benchtops incorporating your barbecue and some outdoor storage. Planter boxes doubling as casual seating or usable surfaces for drinks and nibbles. These solutions eliminate wasted voids and create a luxurious feeling.

Freshen up

Paint the walls, fences or screening in a light neutral tone. Bold colours such as red or blue can really enclose an area, so it’s best to leave the paint features in the 90’s. To create visual simplicity, continuing your internal paint scheme into your small outdoor space is a great option.

Most small gardens on small blocks crave light, which is at a premium. Bricks and unpainted wood absorb light and darken areas, white paint bounces the light back and brightens up the space.

tight corner garden with seating

Add nature’s colour

The best option for colour in a small garden is to use plants. Go with a minimal planting scheme in a small garden.  For maximum impact use large-leafed options with appealing shapes such as Xanadu, heliconias or larger philodendrons. They love shade and pots and make for striking features.

small garden lighting

Let there be light

The key to creating an outdoor room in a small garden that extends your living space is to ensure you can use it in all conditions, day & night, cold & warm, wet & dry. Make sure you have ample lighting to allow for year round entertaining and with the addition of heating be it an upright gas heater or open fire pit, you will complete that picture.

Well-placed garden accent lighting is what takes a small space to the next level. Lighting feature plants or trees and casting soft mood lighting from the ceilings is a great way to cheat a feeling of space. Lighting doesn’t have to be complicated nor expensive. An expansive low voltage system can be installed by a home handyman at a fraction of the cost of a professionally installed hard-wired system. Pea lighting or fairy lighting can also be used to great effect by simply hanging from the eaves or wrapping trees and plants.

small garden seating

Cheat more space

Finally, consider finishing touches with mirrors and faux doors. Strategically placed mirrors are particularly helpful, not only do they create an appearance of ‘more’ but they also bounce light back into a space.

Create multiple uses for other fixed elements within your space. A low timber retained garden bed could be capped and used as seating. Over-sized potted plants make for perfect room dividers or screens for air conditioning equipment. The hollow space in a large day bed could be used for extra storage.

Consider going vertical, green walls and vertical gardens are becoming increasingly popular and readily available. They offer a great alternative to traditional space hungry garden beds and allow you to cheat greenery into even the tightest of spaces.