Do you love your home and its location, with its good neighbors, schools, neighborhood and community, but don’t want to leave it because you have a tiny yard? Often our clients add larger detached garages or put on an addition, leaving a postage stamp-sized yard. Or maybe you live in a standard residential lot in Chicago, where its 25’x125’ lot size may have you thinking there’s little room for landscaping.

We like to think having a small yard means you can dream big to incorporate the elements you want in your outdoor space. With some ingenuity and some visual tricks, you can get what you want out of your garden. Here are some of our projects in which we utilize clever solutions to maximize usage of a small yard.


Small Garden Strategy #1: Maximize its function.

This Logan Square backyard is 25 feet wide by 25 feet deep. The existing backyard consisted largely of concrete squares laid on soil, which over time separated and became uneven trip hazards. Our clients wanted more usable space without sacrificing garden color. We increased patio space on all sides, adding paved circular insets for visual interest. Cutouts were made for planting, where Halcyon Hostas, Little Lime Hydrangeas and Hakone Grass brighten this shady garden located under a large tree.


Small Garden Strategy #2: Work the angles.

This photograph shows what a typical Chicago bungalow garden in Mayfair Park looks like. The homeowners wanted to do away with the plain concrete slab and desired a beautiful setting with a grill and bar area, dining space, raised garden and a small play area. We conceptualized an angled hardscape design which accommodated all of these elements, plus lush, colorful plantings. They implemented most of the design, and phased the remaining.

Mayfair Park small backyard


Small Garden Strategy #3: Think “front and center”.

When space is a premium, making the front yard usable is a sensible option. The homeowners of this Edgewater home did not like their small and muddy front yard, in which grass was difficult to grow. To make it inviting and functional, we paved it completely with warm, natural Crazy Quilt  Bluestone, and distinguished the front walk with concrete pavers in a bluestone color. A beautiful Paperbark Maple was left in place. New aluminum fencing adds privacy and security, and creates a space to run for the family dog.

Edgwater-Chicago before-after


Small Garden Strategy #4: Bedeck the walls.

Some city backyards are bordered by the sides of their neighbor’s houses, making the space feel walled in. To create tranquility in this Lincoln Park garden, we added 8-foot tall cedar lattice screens. The screens are freestanding, with posts set in concrete, and flowering vines ramble up and accentuate the rest of this intimate, inviting garden space.


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