Mistakes Everyone Makes Decorating A Small Backyard

It may be tempting to assume you can't do much to your backyard if you're working with a tiny patch of grass rather than an expansive, manicured lawn with an abundance of plants, shrubs, and other landscaping details. After all, those incredible inspiration photos you see on Pinterest and in home design magazines frequently feature multiple seating areas and eye-catching features that you know couldn't possibly fit in your smaller backyard.

However, don't get discouraged — there's a ton you can do to transform a small backyard into your own oasis. While you may not be able to replicate your dream super-sized backyard exactly, you can certainly take inspiration from what you want it to look and feel like and incorporate elements that will bring your dream backyard to life, no matter what outdoor square footage you're working with, as House Beautiful demonstrates.

Before you head to your favorite home decor stores and garden centers to get everything needed for your backyard makeover, you may want to read through a few common mistakes that many people make when decorating a small backyard. That way, you'll be armed with the knowledge you need to make decisions that will leave you feeling satisfied with your outdoor paradise rather than confused at how cramped it feels.

Failing to plan

It's certainly not a requirement to pay a landscape designer or design professional to create plans for you — that's often not in the budget for people looking to refresh their backyard. However, you should absolutely take some time to think through the layout and what exactly you want before you purchase anything for your backyard, as Homes & Gardens suggests. Those furniture pieces and plants look one way in the spacious areas where they're sold, but they may look entirely different in your own space.

One of the most important elements is the bigger picture decisions — what exactly do you want your backyard to achieve? For example, if you love to have guests over, you may consider a small outdoor bar or lounge area.

You'll also need to keep the logistics in mind, as HGTV recommends. If you know you're not the type to spend hours tending your backyard, you'll want to select low-maintenance plants and materials to make your life easier. If you have pets, you'll want to double-check that there are no safety issues with your plan and that any plants you select are non-toxic. Once you decide on the exact furniture, plants, and accessories you want, it can be helpful to sketch it all out with measurements to ensure you'll have enough space. They also recommend planning from the indoors by ensuring your outdoor oasis looks beautiful from any windows.

Forgetting about lighting

When envisioning your backyard, you may think of all the time you'll spend out there soaking in the sunshine or perhaps even sipping your morning coffee as you enjoy the sunrise if you're an early bird. However, especially if you like to entertain, there's a very good chance you'll be spending plenty of time in your backyard when the sun has already set — this means that lighting should be a key consideration for your backyard design, and for many people, it isn't.

MyDomaine suggests creating a "light landscape" with elements that add ambiance and illumination, such as bistro lights or even outdoor chandeliers if your backyard is on the glamorous side. In addition to specific lighting in areas you'll gather, such as a patio, you'll also want to sprinkle in some pathway lighting throughout your backyard to help create a cozy atmosphere.

While you may be able to plug in bistro lights and similar items into outdoor outlets near your home while lighting your patio or deck, even in a small backyard, there will likely be areas where you need illumination but don't have any electricity. Make things easy for yourself and opt for solar lights, as blogger A Piece of Rainbow advises — these can be peppered throughout your yard and will add a nice touch when the sun goes down. Plus, there's such a variety available these days that you can find solar lights that match your desired backyard aesthetic.

Not considering vertical space

When making your backyard plans, don't just think about the horizontal footprint of your small deck or patio or the limited amount of green space you're working with — when space is at a premium, you always want to think vertically. Any vertical surfaces in your backyard will maximize its function, as Grounds Keeper explains.

If you're trying to add privacy to your backyard, an easy way to do so while incorporating more vertical space to decorate is to add a privacy wall. These come in a huge variety of materials, from wood to stone to metal, as Next Luxury demonstrates, so you can find one that works with your chosen aesthetic. Architectural features like pergolas and lattice fencing also give you some added space to use for your decorating.

As for the types of items to incorporate, one of the most popular is string lighting or lanterns that will transform your backyard after the sun sets. If you're looking to get more plants into your space, you can find hanging planters or unique set-ups to create something like a hanging herb garden.

And, of course, you can freshen up your space with some accessories. You'll want to ensure they're very well secured if they're made of breakable or delicate material since even with a wall or fence to shield them, they're still exposed to the elements and could be jostled on windy days.

Picking any plants you want

If you've ever seen a massive desk in a tiny office or a giant couch that seems to take over a tiny living room, you'll know the importance of scale — and unsurprisingly, it's just as crucial for exterior spaces such as your backyard as it is for interior spaces in your home. While you will want to be mindful of your patio furniture scale, you also need to think about plant sizes, as Homes & Gardens advises.

This is because, unlike furniture, plants are living additions to your backyard space and will continue to grow. And, just as a massive piece of furniture can quickly overtake your deck and make it feel cramped, a plant that grows larger every day may become an issue in a smaller backyard (unless that is, you're purposefully going for an overgrown, secret garden feel). You don't want a small decorative plant to unintentionally become the main focal point in your backyard because it keeps growing and growing.

Avoiding this mistake is simple — Martha Stewart recommends that when selecting which plants you like aesthetically, you're also doing the research to find out how big they'll get. While some of that information may be available on the tags, you may want to consider making your selections at a nursery or greenhouse, where the staff will be knowledgeable and able to steer you in the right direction.

Not being strategic with your furniture selection

When you have a small backyard, not only do you need to consider the size and scale of all the furniture pieces and other accessories you bring into the space, but you also need to keep the functionality in mind. While those with huge backyards and endless space may select pieces based on what they find most aesthetically appealing, for a small backyard to feel much larger, you'll want to be strategic and find multifunctional pieces.

As Lifestyles Magazine suggests, items that can do double (or even triple) duty are fantastic in a small space. For example, you may find a bench that has hidden storage for all the extra blankets and pillows you want to keep tucked away, a fire pit that can quickly turn into a regular table when you're serving guests on a hot day, or a stool that can become an impromptu seat or table. Whenever possible, sprinkle in a few of these multifunctional furniture pieces that will help you get the most bang for your buck in terms of space.

There are also a few aesthetic considerations that can visually help create the illusion of more space — as Better Homes & Gardens explains, pieces with a narrow design or thin frame may take up less visual square footage, making it seem like your patio is more spacious. This is another reason glass-topped tables can be popular as well.