16 Small Backyard Ideas for a Dreamy Outdoor Oasis

I think we all want our backyards to feel like a permanent vacation, especially in the summer. No matter how much space you have, you can have a backyard escape that makes you feel like you’re somewhere else. This could be a cozy spot to take a nap on the weekends or the perfect place for happy hour at sunset.

Still, small backyard ideas require more creativity, and you may need to think outside the box to fit everything you want into your space. (We’re not saying you have to decide between a pool, a bocce ball court, and an outdoor kitchen, but you might.) We’ve put together 16 of the most creative, unique, and downright inspiring small backyard ideas from professional designers, bloggers, and style experts to help you get started on your way to backyard bliss. Get ready for this summer to be the one you enjoy your small outdoor space.

Bring your entertainment outdoors.

CREDIT: DESIGN/PHOTOGRAPHY BY WHITNEY LEIGH MORRIS OF THE TINY CANAL COTTAGE

Streaming under the stars is a natural thing to do in the summer, but don’t worry—you don’t need an elaborate set-up to have a movie night with friends. For example, Whitney Leigh Morris of The Tiny Canal Cottage created this cozy scene in her backyard. She made the most of her small backyard by adding a comfortable couch, soft lighting, and a “TV screen” made from a computer monitor set on top of an outdoor table. You could use this idea or just a white bed sheet and a projector to make an outdoor theater in your small backyard.

Add a bench to the dining room.

CREDIT: DESIGN/PHOTOGRAPHY BY LAURA SIMA OF SIMA SPACES

When the weather gets nice, if your family likes to eat every meal outside, you’ll need a sturdy and roomy place to do so. What’s wrong? Every inch of a small backyard has to work twice (or even three times) as hard. As Laura Sima did, she added a built-in bench to a dining nook to make the most of it for dinner and make it useful the rest of the time (you can check out her handy DIY here). When not in use, the table can be moved out of the way, and the bench will give you more places to sit and act as a natural barrier to the patio.

Paint a Patio with a Design.

CREDIT: DESIGN/PHOTOGRAPHY BY JENNA LEBLANC OF JENNA SUE DESIGNS

Every backyard, no matter how big or small can use a splash of design. There aren’t many chances to add your style to the outdoors, so it’s important to make the most of them when you can. Take Jenna Sue Designs’s beautiful back backyard patio as an example. Jenna LeBlanc stenciled this medallion pattern on her stone patio to make it look better and save a lot of money.

Add the Comforts of Home

CREDIT: DESIGN/PHOTOGRAPHY BY SARA TOUFALI OF BLACK & BLOOMS

One sure way to make outdoor living as comfortable as indoor living: Don’t forget some little things that make life easier. Like Sara Toufali of Black & Blooms did in this charming and cozy space, decorating your patio with pieces that match the style of your home is a great way to make your backyard feel full and interesting. Plus, many brands now make beautiful blankets, rugs, and accessories out of materials that can be used outside. This means you can find stylish decor that can stand up to the weather.

Make a place to hang things.

CREDIT: DESIGN/PHOTOGRAPHY BY AMANDA WALKER OF DWELL AWARE

Even a simple patio nook can be turned into something special with the right additions. Take this cute reading chair by DIY and design expert Amanda Walker, for example. She used space on her patio that wasn’t being used by hanging a rattan egg chair and painting the ceiling a striking black. With a few pillows and a warm throw, this forgotten spot has been turned into a place where the whole family can read.

How to Change a Shed

CREDIT: DESIGN/PHOTOGRAPHY BY AMANDA NADEAU OF THE EVER HOPEFUL GARDENER

Many people use a shed to store unsightly things like gardening tools, lawnmowers, and extra outdoor furniture, but what if it could be used for something else? Amanda Nadeau of the Ever Hopeful Gardener thought about doing just that. Instead, she and her daughter decided to build a cute shed next to their garden where they could hang out. It’s a great alternative to traditional patio space, especially if your yard gets a lot of suns. It has a comfortable bench, pillows, and a lot of shade.

The Green-Eyed Girl

CREDIT: DESIGN/PHOTOGRAPHY BY CLAIRE WAINWRIGHT OF THE GREEN EYED GIRL

If you like to cook more like a chef than in a steakhouse, you don’t have to put a grill in your backyard. Instead, like Clair Wainwright in “The Green-Eyed Girl,” let a wood-fired pizza oven take the spotlight. It’s a piece that’s worth every square foot, even in a small backyard, because it’s both fun and useful.

Set up a bar for a party.

CREDIT: DESIGN/PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALICIA LUND

Roll out a bar cart full of all kinds of party supplies to make sure your small backyard is always ready for fun. Influencer Alicia Lund did just that. She turned hers into an epic cocktail bar by adding all the right things. Don’t like it? Set it up with things like light blankets, bug spray, water bottles, and more that will make being outside even more fun.

Stick to a color scheme.

CREDIT: DESIGN/PHOTOGRAPHY BY HAYLEY STUART

When you work in a small space and are surrounded by the beauty of nature, sometimes you need simple decor. Take this patio that DIY blogger Hayley Stuart made. It is neutral but better. She combined terracotta and white floors with pops of emerald green and lots of leather and wood to make the perfect getaway that fits in with its surroundings and stands out at the same time.

Add a Stock Tank Pool

CREDIT: DESIGN/PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRI MOYSA OF EMERSON GREY DESIGNS

Want to relax by the pool without spending a lot of money? Look no further than a stock tank pool. Yes, we’re talking about those big, galvanized tanks that animals drink from. Bri Moysa of Emerson Grey Designs shows here that the answer to a small backyard can be surprisingly stylish. She painted her pool a deep black color and built a custom “pool deck” around it, which makes the whole thing look like a small version of a stylish hotel pool.

Make a little space for yourself.

CREDIT: DESIGN/PHOTOGRAPHY BY RACHEL HOBACK OF SPRUCING UP MAMAHOOD

If you live close to your neighbors, you might feel like the elusive enclave of your dreams is just that—a dream. The good news is that privacy is possible, and it can also be stylish. Rachel Hoback of Sprucing Up Mamahood, a blog about home improvement, made a cedar slat wall, a half-wall, and a pergola for her deck to help keep the rest of the neighborhood away from her family’s chill zone. The result is a space that feels private and cozy, but the design doesn’t block too much sunlight or a light summer breeze.

Hang a Pretty Light.

CREDIT: DESIGN/PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRIT ARNESEN OF BRIT DOT DESIGN

Traditional light fixtures in a backyard feel like an instant upgrade because they are fun, a little bit silly, and will help light up the night. Try out a pendant light the next time you feel like your porch is missing something. We love how it brings Brit Arnesen’s room together. The DIY blogger behind Brit Dot Design chose rattan furniture for her simple but beautiful outdoor living room, which also has a coffee table that she designed and built herself. Find a light fixture that is made to be used outside or put it in a place that is protected from rain and wind.

Set up a swing

CREDIT: DESIGN/PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRITTANY GOLDWYN MERTH

Even if you have a small backyard, you don’t have to give up places to play. You just have to be creative about where you put them. Blogger Brittany Goldwyn Merth suggests putting a swing under your deck so that the patio below can be used as a playground.

Fake an Outdoor Kitchen

CREDIT: DESIGN/PHOTOGRAPHY BY JENNIFER O’BRIEN OF CITY FARMHOUSE

A full-fledged outdoor kitchen may seem like the ultimate luxury, but the truth is that many of us don’t have the space outside to make it work. Why not just make it look like that like Jennifer O’Brien did in her backyard? The blogger behind City Farmhouse put sturdy shelving near her grill to make it look like it was built-in and give the person in charge of the grill plenty of space to prepare, store, and serve the night’s treats.

A small backyard with a gray and white patterned patio floor, a DIY sunshade pergola, and colorful seat cushions on an outdoor bench.

Skip an Umbrella (and Still Get Shade!)

CREDIT: DESIGN/PHOTOGRAPHY BY KELLY AND JEFF MINDELL OF STUDIO DIY

Kelly Mindell of Studio DIY in California is a big deal in the design world. She knows a thing or two about living life in the sun. When it was time to change up her family’s small backyard, she decided not to get an umbrella, which can take up a lot of space on the ground and only cover a small part of the yard, and instead built a sunshade pergola herself. The result is a “roof” with a breeze that keeps the afternoon heat out while leaving the floor open for parties.

Add a Mirror

CREDIT: PHOTOGRAPHY BY SOPHIE ELKUS OF SOPHIE ALLEGRA

You’ve probably heard the design tip that a mirror can make a small room look bigger and brighter, right? Well, the same goes for small spaces outside. Mirrors may seem like an odd thing to put in your backyard, but they can do a lot to make the space feel more open and airy. Like influencer Sophie Elkus saw in Tulum, hang one on your fence near a bistro table or lean one against an outside wall. Look for mirrors that are made to be used outside, or put one under a roof so it won’t get wet.