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The word “backyard” usually conjures up visions of summer cookouts, a lush lawn and a wiffle ball game, for some reason. (Just us?) For some of us, however, the reality is an underwhelming patch of ground that’s scarcely big enough to fit a kiddie pool. Fortunately, there are ways to turn even a size-challenged yard (or balcony or porch) into a place you’ll want to hang out all summer. 

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small yard with hardscape patio
Courtesy of Marie Flanigan Interiors

Limit Your Lawn

You might think leaving things as grassy as possible would be the best choice, but in a small space, you could be narrowing your options even further. Designer Marie Flanigan suggests opting for hardscape areas, which you can use for inviting seating arrangements. Bonus: less mowing and watering.

small yard with hanging swing
Julie Soefer Photography, Courtesy of Marie Flanigan Interiors

Think Vertically

You can’t change your square footage, but you do have another dimension you can work with: height. “Incorporate overhead lighting, climbing vegetation or suspended seating like a porch swing,” Flanigan suggests. And if you’re starting from scratch, building in areas of different heights—like, say, steps leading down to a shady patio—can work wonders in transforming the space.

small patio with lots of furniture
Julie Soefer Photography, Courtesy of Marie Flanigan Interiors

Don’t Under-Furnish

A less-is-more approach might seem like your best bet here, but “small furnishings can actually make a petite space feel shrunken and disjointed.” Figure out what you realistically have space for, whether it’s a couple chairs and a side table or a full dining set. The result should feel inviting and substantial.

backyard table with neutral theme
Courtesy of Marie Flanigan Interiors

Learn to Love Neutrals

Now’s not the time to indulge your love of vermilion: Bright colors can have a crowding effect. “A lighter, neutral color palette will contribute an airy serenity to even the smallest yard,” Flanigan says. For furniture, she recommends teak (which will patina gracefully over time) and simple hues like white and gray for any cushions or upholstery.

backyard with soft cozy accessories
Julie Soefer Photography, Courtesy Marie Flanigan Interiors

Soften Things Up

Make your outdoor space feel like an extension of your home (thereby making both spaces feel bigger) by incorporating elements like cushions, throw blankets and other cozy accessories. Rugs are especially useful for delineating different “rooms” within a space.

fun backyard
Courtesy of Marie Flanigan Interiors

Make It Fun

OK, while a fire pit, a water feature, a succulent garden or an outdoor bar won’t exactly create the illusion of more space, they will make your yard memorable, and by extension, a place you (and your guests) will want to spend time. And if you do feel like a pick-up ball game, there’s always the park.

RELATED: 50 Summer Entertaining Essentials (All Under $25)

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