My garden space is too small: Design tricks to maximise your small space.
Often people feel that a small plot size can be very off-putting when creating a garden. You may feel like giving up or not even starting. What potential can a small space possibly have ? In my experience some of the most cleverly designed, intimate and cosy spaces have been due to a very restricted plot size. This forces you to proportion and scale elements correctly and to be very discerning as to plant, material and colour selection. In a small space the wrong choice will be immediately obvious, whereas in a larger garden there is far more scope for error.
When designing small spaces, the process becomes similar to fitting out an interior room, which is something that most people feel more at home doing than designing a blank exterior plot. A very small garden space can have great potential, and easier to design than many realise.
In reality a site is never a blank canvas. There are always key views to take into account - a shaded spot where you can't sit, a view you need to screen to an ugly neighbour's shed, or an overlooked area where you need to create privacy. Firstly sit down and assess the strengths and weaknesses of the site. Once these are taken into account , the next stage will be far easier. The key is to lay out the garden to cleverly maximise each strength while minimizing each weakness.
Here are some tips to create the impression of space and a unified design within a limited plot.
De-emphasise the Boundaries
Most sites have regular straight boundaries. Emphasizing the boundaries will dwarf the site further and will only reinforce the box-like shape. By visually softening the boundaries, attention is drawn inwards into the centre which makes the space appear larger.
Create a strong central garden shape
The trick is to create a new distinct shape in the garden. By creating a new strong shape within the garden, coupled with visually softening the boundaries, the centre of the garden will visually enlarge. For example the simple soft circular lawn on the attached plan becomes the central space, and the box like shape created by the boundaries recedes.
Garden Shed location
In 90% of cases people tend to position the shed as far away from the house as possible, in the mistaken belief that it will be less obvious. By placing the shed to one side, and closer to the house, the viewers attention actually goes past the shed to the garden beyond. By gently softening the side of the shed with additional planting it becomes far less dominant in the garden which can free up a proportionally large amount of space on a limited plot.
Detail of surfaces
When working with a small space, it makes sense to use small sized units for pavements, edgings and features. Large 600 x 600mm paving flags may look lovely over a large area in a medium or large garden but can totally dominate a small plot. Small unit cobble surfaces, narrow board decking, small unit edging all allow the viewer to perceive more detail. This is a large factor in making the space look larger.
Soft colour selection
Bold or vibrant colours in a small space can make elements seem closer. Neutral colors - calming greens, greys and soft blues and can recede into the backdrop and allow the garden to appear larger.
Large leaved coarse textured plants tend to make the garden appear smaller, Fine textures such as small leaved plants, loose foliage or fine leaved grasses tend to look further way and therefore make the garden look larger. Be sure to use the fine textured plants in the distance to maximise that sense of space.
Have a look at this garden plan. This is for quite a small plot, only 5 metres wide by 8 long:
A. A strong circular central shape which emphasizes the centre of the garden.
B. The plant buffering around the boundaries which softens the box shape.
C. A shed positioned towards the front rather than the rear and off to one side.
D. Narrow board decking cut to a circular shape, again to de-emphasize the rigid constrictions of the boundaries.