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John Helfrich, Broker, Real Estate Homeward , Brokerage | 416.698.2090 | Direct: 416.464.8920 |

Great Ideas for Landscaping Small Yards

March 25, 2011

Landscaping small yards increases usable space, enjoyment & value

landscaping-small-yardsWhy did we wait so long? It was a no-brainer, really. Just finish off the back yard and start using the badly needed outdoor space for relaxing and entertaining.

The problem(s)?

We lacked the spatial sense & design-savvy for landscaping small yards. We had 1000 sq.ft. of wants and needs to fit into our 500 sq. ft back yard. "You'll have to take something off the list" we were told repeatedly. Of course this created a tug-of-war with my wife and I each defending our pet projects.

So how do you deal with all this? How do you make the right decisions?

Start with a 'spatial reality check' when landscaping small yards

When you're landscaping small yards, you usually start with a 'big yard' wish list. We wanted a storage shed for 4 bikes, seating for 6, a water feature, an 0utdoor kitchen area with a barbeque, bar and 6 stools, plus 'green space' and a motorized sun-canopy that would shade most of the back yard. I should have mentioned we only have 20 by 25 feet.

Why Landscaping Small Yards Often Requires a Professional Designer

Think of it like this. Getting all, or even most of the features you want in your small space, with a great look and function, is like trying to fit a desktop computer into a cell phone. It can be done, but not by your average homeowner.

Kudos to Designer/Landscaper Keith Evans – Owner of Land Effects Outdoor Living Spaces Ltd.

Keith helped us prioritize and  pare back our list of 'must haves', until the features fit into our space with a shoe-horn. He polished the design with a few aesthetic concepts we'd never considered.

When finished, Keith submitted our project to Landscape Ontario and won the Award of Excellence for small spaces - residential construction. (not to mention our heartfelt endorsement!)



The Problems

Our back yard is surrounded by 2 garages and the brick wall of our neighbours home. We hated the view looking  outside from our family room.

Because we're surrounded by structures, there's nowhere for the water to run off. (which usually means a wet basement for someone)

There wasn't enough room in our 20 x 25 foot space for the outdoor kitchen area and bar.

The shade canopy needed support posts which ruined the sight lines from inside to outside.

This is how our problem was fixed....


Solution -The View

Building an attractive cedar fence as high as the code would allow, hid most of the ugly features around us.

Because of it's size, Keith ran the fence-boards in 2 directions, which made it less imposing. But we still saw too much of the brick wall.

Keith suggested making our water feature the focal point, which would draw the eye down, away from the brick.

He used a natural stone to surround the fountain, then tied in the stone as a band that ran all the way around the fence line - again, drawing the eye away from the brick wall. On either side of the water feature he used chunky cedar lattice behind a garden, to lighten the overall effect.

Solution - Water Run Off

A common problem with landscaping small yards is managing water run-off. Keith used what's called a 'French drain' which is simply a deep hole, lined with landscape fabric and filled with large gravel. The grade is sloped towards a collector drain and water is led into the pit where it 'percolates' down through our sandy soil. Problem solved.


Solution - Outdoor Kitchen and Canopy

Keith patiently led us through the prioritizing process until we realized there just wasn't room for a real kitchen counter and a bar with seating. But we did manage to keep our large Barbeque and we bought a portable bar and a few stools to create a bit more seating for guests.

As for the shade canopy, well we're still working on that.

The original product needed structural supports which killed the sight-lines from inside. We're now looking at super thin shade fabric that can hang from overhead wires or cables stretched from one end of the yard to the other.

The Results

Was it really affordable? Once we gave up the outdoor kitchen and motorized shade structure, I suppose it was.

As a Realtor, I'd estimate we recovered at least half of the cost in increased property value. We've expanded our living space considerably. It's almost like having an extra room, but outdoors. We use the space almost every day (and night), have meals outside, and enjoy having friends over to our otherwise-small house. No regrets!

Thank You To Keith Evans – Owner of Land Effects Outdoor Living Spaces Ltd.


What do you hate about your yard or exterior?

You can use the comments box below to ask questions - or request a free, on-site assessment of your property's exterior features. I'll have a look at your East End Toronto home and help you determine the 3 most cost-effective improvements you can make, whether you're staying - or selling.

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