20 Small Backyard Ideas for a Dreamy Outdoor Oasis (2024)

When it comes to our backyards, I think we all want them to feel like a permanent vacation—especially come summer. From cozy places to catch an afternoon snooze on the weekends to the perfect spot for sunset happy hours, a backyard escape that feels transportive shouldn't be considered out of reach, no matter how much (or how little) room you have at your disposal. Still, small backyard ideas necessitate more creativity, and you may need to think outside the box to fit everything your heart desires into your space. To help you get started on your journey toward backyard bliss, we've curated 20 of the most creative, inventive, and downright inspiring small backyard ideas from professional designers, bloggers, and style experts. Get ready to make this the summer you truly enjoy your small outdoor space.

How to Create a Cozy and Inviting Outdoor Space

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Bring Your Entertainment Outdoors

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The summer months practically beg for streaming under the stars, but fear not—you don't need to have some sort of elaborate setup in place before inviting friends over for a movie night. Case in point: This cozy backyard scene from Whitney Leigh Morris of The Tiny Canal Cottage. She made the most of her petite backyard with a comfy couch, ambient lighting, and a convenient yet casual television "screen" made from a computer monitor set atop an outdoor table. In your own small backyard, consider borrowing this idea or using a white bed sheet and outdoor projector to fashion an at-home outdoor theater.

The Best Outdoor Movie Screens for Ultimate Outdoor Entertaining

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Build in a Dining Bench

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If your family is the type to eat every meal outdoors once the warm weather arrives, you'll need a sturdy and spacious spot to do so. The problem? When it comes to a small backyard, every inch must do double (or even triple) duty. To make the most of a dining nook for dinner—and make it functional the rest of the time—consider adding a built-in bench as Laura Sima did (you can check out her handy DIY here). The table can be moved out of the way when not in use—swap it out for a small wood-burning fire pit—while the bench will provide extra seating and a natural barrier for the patio.

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Paint a Patterned Patio

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A pop of stylish design is always a welcome addition to backyards big and small. There aren't many opportunities to infuse the outdoors with your personal style, so it's important to take advantage where you can. Take this stunning backyard patio from Jenna Sue Designs as an example. Homeowner Jenna LeBlanc stenciled this medallion pattern onto her stone patio for a major upgrade that also saved major bucks.

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Add the Comforts of Home

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One surefire way to make life outdoors as comfortable as life indoors? Incorporate some creature comforts. Styling up your patio space with decor reminiscent of your home decor style—like Sara Toufali of Black & Blooms did in this charming and cozy space—is a great way to ensure your backyard feels layered and dynamic. There are many great places online to buy patio furniture that are both stylish and durable. Plus, with so many brands now creating gorgeous blankets, rugs, and accessories in outdoor-friendly materials, you'll be able to find stylish decor that can stand up to the elements. For more ambiance, string up some outdoor solar lights.

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Create a Place to Hang

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Even the most understated patio nook can become extraordinary with the right additions. Take, for instance, this sweet reading chair from DIY and design influencer Amanda Walker. She made the most of an unused corner of her patio by hanging a rattan egg chair (and painting the ceiling a standout shade of black!). With the addition of a few pillows and a cozy throw, this forgotten spot is now a reading zone the whole family can enjoy.

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Transform a Shed

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Many rely on a shed to house unsightly necessities like gardening tools, lawn mowers, and extra outdoor furniture, but what if it could be something more? Amanda Nadeau of the Ever Hopeful Gardener considered just that, choosing to build a charming shed out by her garden, where she and her daughter could hang. Complete with a comfortable bench, pillows, and ample shade, it's a great alternative to a traditional patio space, especially if your yard gets full sun. Stash gardening tools elsewhere, like under a tiered raised garden bed. Also, neatly tuck away your garden hose in a space-saving vertical hanger hose reel instead.

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Swap Out Your Grill for a Pizza Oven

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If your cooking style skews more cucina than steakhouse, don't feel beholden to posting up a grill in your backyard. Instead, make like Clair Wainwright from the Green Eyed Girl and allow a wood fire pizza oven to take center stage instead. Part entertainment, part outdoor kitchen, it's a piece that is worth every square foot—even in a small backyard.

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Roll Out a Party-Ready Bar

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Ensure your small backyard space is ready for fun at any moment by rolling out a bar cart stocked with all manner of entertaining essentials. Influencer Alicia Lund did just that, outfitting hers with all the makings of an epic co*cktail bar. Not your vibe? Deck it out with essentials meant to make outdoor life even more enjoyable, like light throw blankets, bug spray, water bottles, and more.

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Stick to a Color Palette

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When working in a small space—and surrounded by nature's beauty—sometimes simple decor is necessary. Take this neutral-but-better patio designed by DIY blogger Hayley Stuart, for example. She married terracotta and white floors with pops of emerald green and rich doses of leather and wood for the ultimate escape that both blends in with and stands out from its surroundings.

Add a Stock Tank Pool

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Want all the perks of lounging poolside, without the major price tag? Look no further than a stock tank pool—yep, we mean those oversized, galvanized vessels typically used for livestock to drink out of. The answer for smaller backyards can be surprisingly stylish, as Bri Moysa of Emerson Grey Designs proves here. She painted her pool a rich black and surrounded it with a custom "pool deck" that makes the whole setup look like a mini version of some stylish hotel pool.

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Create Some Subtle Privacy

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If you live up close and personal to your neighbors, you might feel like the elusive enclave of your dreams is just that—a dream. The good news: Privacy is totally a possibility, and it can be stylish, too. For her deck, blogger Rachel Hoback of Sprucing Up Mamahood made a cedar slat wall, a half-wall, and a pergola to help insulate her family's chill zone from the rest of the neighborhood. The result is a space that feels private and intimate, yet the design doesn't block too much sunshine or a gentle summer breeze.

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Hang a Fancy Fixture

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There's just something about having traditional light fixtures in a backyard that feels like an instant upgrade—it's fun, a bit whimsical, and will help light up the night. The next time you feel like your porch is missing a little something, try a pendant light on for size. We love the way it completes Brit Arnesen's space. The DIY blogger behind Brit Dot Design chose a summer-ready rattan style to complete her simple-yet-stunning outdoor living room, which also plays host to a coffee table she designed and made herself. When selecting a light fixture, find one that's rated for outdoor use, or place it in a spot that's protected from rain and wind.

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Install a Swing

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A small backyard doesn't mean you have to sacrifice spots to play—you just have to get creative about where you sneak them in. Take a page from blogger Brittany Goldwyn Merth's book and tuck a swing under your deck so the patio below doubles as a playground.

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Fake an Outdoor Kitchen

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A full-blown outdoor kitchen may seem like the ultimate luxury—but the fact of the matter is, many of us don't boast the outdoor space necessary to pull it off. Instead, why not fake the look with a strategic setup, like Jennifer O'Brien did in her backyard? The blogger behind City Farmhouse tucked sturdy shelving up close to her grill, lending the illusion of a built-in setup and offering whoever is on grill duty that evening ample room to prep, store, and serve the night's delicacies.

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Skip an Umbrella (and Still Get Shade!)

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When it comes to living life under the sun, California-based design influencer Kelly Mindell of Studio DIY knows a thing or two. When the time came to transform her family's petite backyard, she opted to skip an umbrella—which can take up serious floor space and only covers a small portion of the yard—and instead decided to DIY a sunshade pergola. The result is a breezy "roof" that guards against afternoon heat, while leaving the floor open for entertaining.

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Add a Mirror

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By now, you've probably heard the design trick that a mirror can make a small room appear bigger and brighter, right? Well, the same holds true for small outdoor spaces. Mirrors may be an unexpected addition to your backyard, but they can certainly do wonders in making your space feel airier and more open. Hang one on your fence near a bistro table, or lean one against an exterior wall, like influencer Sophie Elkus spotted in Tulum. Look for mirrors that are intended for outdoor use, or place one under an overhang so it's out of the rain.

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Build Your Dream Garden

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If gardening is your favorite way to spend time outdoors, then allow your backyard to reflect that. Fill your backyard with a garden plot that is accessible from several angles so that you can easily tend to your plants and crops. Adding a curved walkway through space will increase the charm factor. Bonus points if you throw in a quaint garden bench.

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Divide Up the Space

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A backyard with multiple different sections for different purposes may be seem like a luxury that's only possible with sprawling land. However, the same method of dividing the space into separate "rooms" can be effective on yards with smaller footprints, too. Even if you only have space for two separate sections, try dedicating one side to dining and another side to lounging or playing games. This will add more excitement to the yard and allow more people to spend time in the space at once, without feeling like everyone is on top of each other.

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Add a Multi-Purpose Greenhouse

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Greenhouses aren't just for growing things. These structures can also double as an extra hangout spot in your backyard, allowing you more possibilities for spending time in your yard even when the weather isn't quite perfect. Add in a table and chairs and some mood lighting for a romantic dinner spot, or furnish the outdoor room with a cozy loveseat for the perfect reading nook. (Lean-to greenhouse styles also make for a great sunroom when you don't have room for a full patio.) And, of course, you can throw in a few plants to spruce the place up.

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Play Around with Lighting

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Lighting can significantly transform any space—indoor and out.So, don't skip this step when designing out your backyard. String lights are a tried-and-true option for adding charm (and, of course, light) and lanterns can up the whimsical element even more.

20 Small Backyard Ideas for a Dreamy Outdoor Oasis (2024)
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