The benefits to downsizing in retirement are plentiful: you’re forced to get rid of excess stuff to fit the reduced square footage, leading to a simpler and less stressful lifestyle. Downsizing might lead to more zen inside the home but what about your yard space? Squeezing all of your outdoor furniture, garden materials, and grill into a space the size of a parking spot can lead to a very cluttered yard.
So what to do to maximize a small yard? Here we offer some design tips to turn your small yard into a dream outdoor space.
Create Distinctive Spaces
The more uses your yard space has, the larger it will feel. Having designated spots for relaxing, gardening, and cooking greatly enhances the space, making the backyard feel more functional than cramped. Think of your backyard as a series of outdoor rooms that are separated by tastefully placed gates or shrubs.
Front Yard Garden
Enhancing your curb appeal is always a good idea, but it can also create the illusion that your yard is spacious. Having gardens on both sides of the front yard make it appear wider, while hedges create a sense of privacy (and they’re cheaper than masonry walls). In some active adult communities, the HOA has restrictions on what you can do in the front yard, so look at the covenants before committing to a renovation.
Don’t Skimp on Hardscaping
Some homeowners make the mistake of sacrificing large paved walkways in order to maximize green space. Not only does this create cramped sidewalks, it won’t scale appropriately to your home, making the yard space look even smaller. Generally speaking, paved walkways should be at least four feet across.
Blur the Boundaries
Nothing calls attention to your yard’s size more than clearly defined boundaries. If you must have a fenced-in yard, try to keep the fence as short as possible. Planting some trees and shrubbery that block a clear line of sight to the fence creates the illusion that the yard extends beyond its boundaries. For an even more dramatic effect, you could plant flowers and shrubs that match your neighbor’s garden so it appears as if your yards are fused.
Don’t Neglect Your Side Yard
Think of your side yard less as a connection between the front and the back but rather as a transitional space, where the noise of the street gradually gives way to your quiet and secluded back yard. Giving your side yard some love will not only provide another calming environment, but will also appear to be a natural extension of the back yard, making the outdoor space look larger than it is. Side yards are also ideal locations for vertical gardens, tasteful storage areas, or a meditation area.
Toss In Some Water
Having a small yard typically means being close to your neighbors. Very close. Although active adult communities are generally quiet places to live, traffic and neighborly noises can often be just enough to disturb your peaceful escape. Putting in a modest fountain or koi pond can help reduce the noises that come with close living quarters. Having a variety of water features that create distinctive sounds also helps create unique sounds that are associated with specific areas, giving each area a certain personality.
Manipulate the Perspective
Anyone who has studied photography or fine art has a fundamental understanding of perspective. Using lines of sight and placement of objects can fool the eye into believing a space is larger than it actually is. Paved walkways should be straight since parallel lines seem to “disappear,” giving the impression that it extends indefinitely. Larger objects placed far from seating areas appear smaller and give the space a greater sense of depth.