Small Yard, Big Style

5 design tips to make the most of your patio, porch or garden.

Many of Orlando’s longstanding neighborhoods are full of 1950s-era homes with modest backyards. College Park, Thornton Park and Conway are just a handful of locales known for approachable houses with charming, even if slight, property in front and back.  

Also, new construction in the planned communities that are sprouting up all over town have small-scale yards that at first glance might seem limiting, and not necessarily conducive to outdoor living. But look again: a tiny space can be as functional and stylish as Orlando’s grander gardens.   

Read on to discover relatively simple tips for helping you rethink your outdoor spaces with an eye toward creativity and functionality.   


1-Wonder Wall  
Pops of color and unexpected texture take the focus off the small size of your patch of grass. No matter how tiny your yard, a stunning garden wall improves your experience whenever you’re outdoors. A meal enjoyed around your picnic table is colored by an artful explosion. Suddenly, you’re picking up on all the other colors your yard has to offer, especially those complemented by the wall. Blooming plants, painted furniture and bright umbrellas become part of a symphony of color orchestrated by the wall.  

If you’re not ready to hire a contractor, consider the weatherproof materials available online like corrugated plastic sheets that can be attached to an existing tall fence or a concrete block wall. Another option is to build a concrete wall and paint it in a single, bold color or a pattern with three colors.  


2-Cool Collection  
The addition of a wall might be overkill if you’re already making good use of the wall you have: the exterior of your home. Design an outdoor room that uses the house’s architecture as an anchor, either in the back or on the front porch.  

There are so many ways to define
this wall as part of your outdoor room. Here are three: 

In Spanish and Latin American gardens, you’ll often see geraniums or other bright flowers in small terra cotta pots arranged on a wall, hanging from hidden hooks or latched to cast iron shelves. That tradition has birthed this fresh approach: the presentation of a collection of staghorn ferns. Orchids would work well on a porch where they can get shelter from the blazing sun.

Hang a large, ornate mirror on
your home’s exterior wall. Typically you only see mirrors indoors, so when you bring them outside, it definitely makes the statement: “This is a room.” 

Resurface the exterior wall with textured panels, or give it a coat of paint in a vibrant color.


3-Room Cues 
Once you've decorated your wall, think about the other elements you can add to make the patio or porch feel more like a room. Colorful planters, decorative pillows and tabletop decor have the effect of transforming the space into a cozy room where you will
want to hang out and spend time with family and friends—just as you would
in your home’s living room.  


4-Deck Dining  
Most of us have a small, paved patio just outside our back door. You might think of this as a storage spot for kids’ shoes or the rake that never gets put away, and we’re not saying that’s bad. Outdoor storage is a must. But what if you stow away the various objects cluttering the patio into a weather-safe container that doubles as a side table or foot rest, and build a modular outdoor room around it? Another idea is to perch a dining set here and enjoy
your meals alfresco.   

When your outdoor room is within view of your home’s interior, you’re more likely to use it. Remember the phrase “out of sight, out of mind”?
An outdoor space that’s further from the house is easily forgotten. Plus, the distance curtails your access to the things you want that are inside the house, like the refrigerator and bathroom. An outdoor dining room just beyond your back door is a recipe for indoor and outdoor living. 


5-Get On The Floor 
When you’re investing in your yard or garden, you want to make the biggest impact possible with the smallest amount of money. Plants, outdoor furniture and hot tubs are obvious places to invest, but go lower. All the way down to the ground. Creative paving sets the tone for a beautiful yard, and the paving shown here has an added benefit: it’s permeable. When water can seep into the ground, it prevents runoff during intense storms. Just as important,
moist soil is a filter that cleans pollutants and absorbs carbon. +

-Sarah Ristorcelli is currently writing a book on porches and patios for Timber Press, due out in Spring 2016. 

Categories: Gardening