Friday, 05 August 2016 00:00

Small Yet Mighty

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We all want our gardens to make a big impact, but let’s face it – sometimes we just don’t have the space. Bojana Lazarevska discovers the best ways to transform a small area into a majestic garden or retreat, even in an urban setting.

With most Australians now residing in apartments or living in the city, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to create a garden in the traditional sense, as it often requires a big backyard.

Often lacking in privacy and awkwardly shaped, the urban garden has been overlooked and underappreciated for far too long. Whether it’s a balcony or a communal courtyard, even the smallest of spaces can be transformed into a relaxing place for homeowners, despite the hustle and bustle of the city surrounds.

Although smaller spaces can be somewhat limiting, good design and a little creative thinking can help you to fully utilise the room you have. With a little insider know-how, your patio or balcony can be transformed into something of grandeur.


The first step to creating a beautiful garden is working out its function. What you plan to do with the space will determine its design, so you should consider how your garden will be used.

Will it be a place for relaxation or entertainment? Are you going to be growing your own vegetables, or creating a play area for a growing family?

Once you have determined the function of your small yard, think about what can be realistically achieved given the site, your budget, and maintenance requirements. This is the most important step of the design process, as it will determine the overall look and feel of your garden.


Let’s talk furniture. No outdoor space is complete without a seating area, and luckily there is furniture to suit gardens of any size or shape.

Think carefully about the main purpose of your outdoor space and choose the type of furniture accordingly. If you’ll be doing a lot of gardening and not a lot of outdoor entertaining, then perhaps a bench will suffice.

If your outdoor space will be used mostly for entertaining guests and eating, choose a dining table with comfortable chairs. Be realistic, however, about how many seats you can fit outside, as guests will still need to move around comfortably.

If you have children, or are starting a family, it’s important that kids have enough room to play outside. In this case, the less furniture you have, the better. Folding chairs that you can tuck away when they’re not in use will allow you to have the best of both worlds, and beanbags are a great idea for kids, as long as they’re stored in a dry area.


When it comes to small spaces, remember to keep things light and bright. You want to keep the look consistent throughout the space, and the less busy it is, the larger it will appear. Keep furniture to a minimum, and choose the right materials to suit your purpose.

Coloured Fabrics

Outdoor couches are comfortable and will make your outdoor space seem like a second lounge room. Keep the colours of the fabrics bright to ‘open up’ the space. White looks incredibly fresh and elegant, especially with small injections of colour on cushions or table settings, but is not ideal if you have children or pets.

This type of furniture will also have to be kept under cover, and it is important to invest in a washable material. If a space is too small to fit an entire sofa, a couple of comfortable sofa chairs and a small coffee table will do the trick.


Lightweight timber furniture and finishes give a great natural look and blend in seamlessly with the outdoors. Exposure to the weather, however, may cause wood to fade, so be sure to use the right sealing or staining materials to prevent this from happening.

Built-in wooden benches around the perimeter of a courtyard are great when space is limited, as they look clean and incredibly streamlined. The space underneath the bench makes for great additional storage too!


Wicker is the perfect material for furniture that is exposed to the elements. Providing comfort and style year-round, wicker is durable, long-lasting, and UV- and water-resistant.


Concrete is a stunning, contemporary choice and works well in urban apartments. Solid and virtually indestructible, tables and seating made from this material will stand the test of time. Concrete is also heavy and hard to move around, making it the perfect choice for urban courtyards because once it’s put in place, it’s going to stay there – you won’t have to worry about the wind blowing it over the balcony!


If gardening is where your passions lie, don’t let a lack of room deter you from creating your dream zen space – gardens can be both aesthetically pleasing and relaxing.
With a little determination and the right tools, even a couple of square feet can become the garden you’ve always dreamed of.


The most important thing to remember is to start small and only grow what you would actually eat. This will ensure you get the most out of your garden and that you continue to maintain it.

It will always pay to look around at which vegetables are more expensive in the super- markets and plant that variety to save yourself a bit of money on your weekly shop.

Having your own garden is also the perfect opportunity for you to grow the things you like to eat, but may not commonly find in the supermarket. Additionally, it will ensure you are always eating vegetables that are in season and free from any toxic chemicals you might find on store-bought produce.

The best vegetables to grow in a small garden are garlic, kale, potatoes, lettuce, beetroot, and carrots. Start small, and grow only a few options while you gradually increase the variety. This will allow your green thumb to develop before you take on too much responsibility.


Flowers in light colours will open up your garden and give it an inviting quality, while splashes of colour will break up the monotony of urban living, and provide great variety and an attractive focal point.

Planting a diverse range of seasonal flowers is a great idea, as different types of flowers will bloom when the weather changes, which means your garden de?cor will be transformed every season with minimal effort.

Likewise, adding some greenery to your garden will instantly transform your outdoor space. Plants are easy to hang from walls or railings, and will instantly freshen up your outdoor area. Keep plants to a minimum, however, as the ‘less is more’ approach works well in this instance, and will prevent a small space from becoming cluttered.

Choose plants and flowers that require minimal maintenance – Japanese sacred bamboo and cacti work well – and soften hard lines to create a welcome contrast in a contemporary apartment.


The right outdoor lighting can have a big impact on how you perceive your garden. Atmospheric lighting, in particular, creates a cosy area that will make your space feel warm and inviting, rather than small.

Lanterns and delicate fairy lights scattered along fences or balcony railings will immediately transform your space. Down-lighting and up-lighting will also help to improve and soften up a feature or garden wall.

The right lighting will help draw attention to areas that may be missed during the day, as well as direct guests’ vision toward feature elements, which can help detract attention away from the size of your space.

It’s important not to feel limited if you have a small garden, but rather to work with what you have got. There are many tricks you can employ to enhance the look and feel of your small outdoor space and instantly improve your home.


Read 14698 times Last modified on Friday, 05 August 2016 01:45