New Image Lawn and Scapes

Small Yard, Big Ideas

Small backyard spaces

Last week I had a friend share their lawn design dilemma with me. She’s a single mom downsizing to a condo close to her previous residence and needed some ideas on making the new smaller yard appear and feel more like home. Moving from a 3’900 square foot single family home with pool to an 1’800 square foot condo is quite a jump for her and her 13 year old son. So what can be done to upgrade the existing condominium yard space, typically between 293 – 1400 square feet to make it more fun?

  • Try watching HGTV or similar shows. One of my favorites is “Big Dreams, Small Spaces” on Netflix. It’s a fun, educational way to get savvy. Compare your reasons for creating a backyard space with other adventurous folks and see what solutions they found.
  • Talk to friends about their backyard ideas. For sure someone you know has done a been down this road in the past or is in the process. This is an excellent way to get first hand information that can save you money and headaches. Nothing beats seeing it in person and also having the opportunity to ask questions about the process.
  • Consider your style of living and what you and your family call fun!

Creating a backyard space is in some ways the same as creating an indoor space, especially when it comes to the planning part. For the best results, create the best plan. Start with a list of reasons for creating your backyard space. This will decide more or less every move you make from start to finish. Take your time, work through each area as a team, and reach agreements on each other’s reasons. Next, make a smart list of To-Dos!

Decide what can be DIY before you begin the demolition work.

  • It’s wise to decide what you are qualified to do yourself before beginning. Though you can save money by doing some of this work yourself, you may also create bigger issues resulting in high dollar repairs. Preparation is often 80% of a successful project.  

Get the opinion of an experienced contractor friend.

  • Most of us have a friend in the construction business and if not, a friend may have a friend in the biz. Ask for their help in exchange for a return favor or maybe a free lunch. This is a short visit from an experienced contractor to provide a overall assessment of your plan of attack, not an in depth quote. That may come later depending on what the “friend” has to say. You’ll be surprised at what you don’t know and how much time you can save with this one.   

Be honest about when to bring in the PROS.

  • It’s a fact that we think we know more than we do. Yup, but we all do, so it’s ok. It’s also a fact that a few well spent dollars in the professional contractor area can save you lots more cash and years of regret in the future. Time may be on your side and that can make all the difference but expect some tasks to take three times as long as you expect them to. Get the names of a few well-known professionals and have them quote the parts of your project that you “honestly’ shouldn’t attempt to do yourself. Compare their prices, personalities, experience, and professional approach to your dream idea. Finally, get references from each of them before making your final decision. Remember price matters but it may be worth a little extra in the end to have peace of mind and a great finished product.

Set the budget and stick to it.

  • There are too many wonderful ideas to have them all in your backyard. The best ideas work well together, simply, and easily. Choose carefully and stand your ground… this is it! Once you’ve made your final design choices and have a price breakdown you’ll need to get tough. Over spending can create dept regret and sometimes ruin the experience. Go back to your list of reasons, prioritize each idea, and decide how you plan to pay for it. Now add 20% for the unexpected and you have your budget number. Don’t budge, just get creative when the going gets tight.

Details, Details

It’s indeed important to consider the big-picture when creating your outdoor space, however, don’t forget the little things like landscaping, lighting, and finishing touches like mulch and ground covers. Experts say that great lighting and landscaping are often traded for a great pool or barbecue. While these are not expensive upgrades, they show off the home very well, and provide real value.

Lighting entertaining/play areas is key, “Outdoor lamps, up lighting of ornamental trees, ground level shrub lighting, and post lamps are all relatively inexpensive and DIY items. Choosing the ground cover for your areas should be carefully considered. Depending on how the space will be used will determine the type of coverage used; wood deck, a stone patio, grass or even limestone and pea gravel.


Keep it fun! Remember that this space should be a memory maker, so why not begin with the process of making it! Please feel free to contact us with your questions, we’d be happy to offer suggestions and help you create the best backyard space possible!

By Lee Brinn ~ New Image Lawn & Scapes

SOURCES: McNutt English, Alyson. “Creating your ideal outdoor room.” Lawn & Garden | Bob Vila, Accessed 2 July 2018.

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