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Smart Design Ideas To Give Even The Tiniest Yard Big Style.

The ultimate outdoor living space

After gophers destroyed their backyard, Evelyn Huang and Jack Mangan of Pleasant Hill, California, set out to redo the scruffy plot. Topping their wish list: areas for dining, relaxing, and growing edibles, and all using easy-care, low-water plants. Landscape architect Joseph Huettl gave them that and more, turning the small yard into the ultimate outdoor living space. Now the two spend much of their time here. And for some mysterious reason, says Evelyn, “The gophers haven’t come back!”


A steel-and-redwood arbor shades the dining patio. Just beyond this main gathering spot, the square colored concrete pavers create another patio where guests can gather. Woolly thyme grows between pavers beyond.


Square bluestone pavers define this patio and blend with the ones that cross the pool. See-through screening of feather reed grass softens the low wall backed with bamboo, creating the perfect setting for reclining lounge chairs.


A built-in bench of ipe wood appears to float above a sea of crushed rock. Sitting in this serene corner—bordered by old redwoods and low-growing grasses and ferns feels like being in the forest.

Growing edibles

Raised beds of rusted steel hold tomatoes, chard, and flowers and keep the garden looking tidy. A low rosemary hedge screens this area from the sunning patio.

5 Tricks for a Small Urban Garden

Tiny oasis

Baylor Chapman loves living and working in San Francisco’s Mission District. But at the end of the day, the floral designer and owner of Lila B. Design wants a retreat from the surrounding busyness, so she transformed her deck into a plant-filled outdoor room. “My garden softens some of the urban ness of my neighborhood—it’s a little natural oasis off the street.”

Choose furniture that’s small space friendly

With space at a premium, a truck-bed storage box holds soil, fertilizer, and tools and doubles as a bench. When not used for seating, some chairs are plant stands.

Use a soothing palette

Baylor filled her rooftop with lots of lush, textured plants in silvers, purples, and blues. “I wanted it to feel serene—these are quiet colors for me.”

Plant on wheels

All of Baylor’s plants grow in containers for mobility, and she put casters on the largest ones. “I like to rearrange a lot, and this gives me the flexibility to move everything around as the sun exposure changes, or if I have a party.”

Make big pots light

To lessen the load of larger containers atop her deck, Baylor fills the bottom third of those vessels with plastic bottles and adds soil and plants on top.

Take advantage of others’ throwaways

City living means lots of castoffs, so Baylor trawls for furniture and other finds in places like her building’s recycling bins, salvage yards, flea markets, and even on neighborhood streets. A few of Baylor’s freebie scores: The love seat was a curbside find, her glass tabletop was a throwaway from her landlord, and the turquoise planter tubs (pictured) were slated for a neighbor’s trash bin.