Smaller backyards, bigger ideas


Australian houses are shrinking, according to CommSec data released in November last year, with the steady decrease in property sizes often translating into smaller backyards and entertaining areas.

Luckily, whatever sized space you have to work with, from vertical gardens to built-in furniture and water features, there are countless ways to create an exceptional outdoor room to entertain, relax and spend time with the family.

Canberra interior guru Gina Ciancio from Style Curator recently updated an inner city terrace in Erskineville, NSW with an outdoor courtyard. Her top three tips for making the most of a small space are:

Maximise usable space: The previous courtyard had awkward and overgrown garden beds that limited the ability to have outdoor seating. By removing these and installing a new, level floor surface, we increased the usable space which enabled us to create both an outdoor dining and outdoor lounge area.

Create the illusion of space: Bulky and heavy furniture has a visual weight that can make spaces look and feel smaller than they are. We opted for stylish furniture pieces from Early Settler with slim legs that allow you to see more floor area and trick the eye into feeling like the space is larger.

Utilise vertical space: We often just think about what’s happening on the floor level but there’s a lot of vertical space you can take advantage of to create your outdoor oasis. Tall plants or hanging planters introduce greenery at eye level, and a mirror or wall art can also add interest to the space.

DIY landscaper and Adbri Masonry ambassador, Jason Hodges also suggests choosing space-savvy furnishings and clever storage solutions to form a practical outdoor space.

To get the most out of the space you have, it’s important to use it creatively. Use all available surfaces, look for opportunities to transform walls, unused corner areas and even pillars into features! Supplied image.

There are two key points when choosing furniture for small spaces. Firstly, choose furniture that will suit how you will most often use the space. If that’s entertaining four people, pick a four person setting – too often people ‘go big’ to accommodate the two or three times a year they have guests over and lose that precious space during the remainder of the year.

The other key idea for outdoor settings is looking for opportunities to create “build in furniture”. For example, a garden wall with capping stones which also serves as a seating wall or consider opportunities to add storage under or behind your pieces when you’re designing.

TOP TIP: Gina says it always pays to invest in the fixed materials, such as your flooring and fence, and the larger furniture items as these are the things that need to have longevity. You can have fun with smaller decorative elements like festoon lighting and outdoor cushions and accessories to continually give the space a new feel.

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