trellis in small garden

9 Optical Tricks That Really Make Your Small Backyard Look Bigger

5 min read


Make your small backyard look bigger

Australia is booming!

But as our population grows, our property sizes are shrinking.

Say goodbye to the big Aussie block – in its place are subdivisions, townhouses and apartments with petite balconies.

Our gardens are getting smaller, but that doesn’t have to feel like such a big loss.

In fact, with a few clever visual tricks, your backyard can feel spacious and cosy even when it’s actually teeny tiny.

And as a bonus, its small size means way less work.

So what are these simple optical illusions that will transform your little backyard into a seemingly grand affair?

Check it out:

1. Create space with zoning

It sounds a bit counterproductive to squish a whole bunch of different sections into your garden.

But zoning really works!


By creating individual nooks that give your garden plenty more mystery and call for exploration.

Break up your backyard into different areas using planters, small walls, or even just alternative ground surfaces (pavers, decking, gravel and artificial grass, to name just a few).

2. Multilayer your garden with different levels

Bring levels into your garden to interrupt the space.

You could install a raised garden bed or retaining wall, sink a patio, or elevate a timber deck.

9 Optical Tricks That Really Make Your Small Backyard Look Bigger - Multilayer your garden with different levels, Australian Outdoor Living.
Multilayer your garden with different levels.

Image via mafleen

3. Trick your eyes with lines

It’s all a matter of perspective.


Add a few long, straight lines through your garden, preferably meeting in the distance with a focal point feature, and your garden will look longer than it really is.

Be creative – use fences, small walls, garden beds or even water features.

4. Bring intimacy to your small space

We’ve all seen the movie Secret Garden.

OK, they had a big garden to work with, but we can take a few tips from their landscaping.

Even in a small garden, you can plant seating nooks throughout the space with winding paths leading to them.

That sense of exploration to reach your final destination – not to mention giving your seating areas distance from the house – can really make you feel like you’re lost in a wilderness.

9 Optical Tricks That Really Make Your Small Backyard Look Bigger - Bring intimacy to your small space, Australian Outdoor Living.
Bring intimacy to your small space.

5. Distract the eye with bright colours

You can make the eye believe anything with some clever use of colours. It’s easy:

Warm colours excite us, so they immediately draw our attention.

Position yellow, orange and red plants front and centre.

You’ll pay attention to them and the rest of the garden will seem to recede.

Keep cooler colours around the perimeter, near fences and borders.

6. Distract the eye with tropical plants

It’s the same as with warm colours:

Tropical plants have big leaves that add visual interest in your garden and can even create an illusion of depth.

Keep finely textured plants near your borders and trimmings.

9 Optical Tricks That Really Make Your Small Backyard Look Bigger - Distract the eye with tropical plants, Australian Outdoor Living.
Distract the eye with tropical plants.

7. Excite the mind with mixed elements

The main aim of creating the illusion of space in a small garden is to keep the eye roving – there should always be new things to discover!

Mix your elements up to keep the mind busy as it explores your backyard.

Combine lawn with decking, concrete or pavers.

Place planters between metal sculptures or stone water features.

8. Draw the sight up

There’s limitless space in the sky, so draw your eyes up to it in your garden.

There are plenty of ways you can do this, including:

  • Building a vertical garden or espaliering
  • Trailing creepers up your verandah or pergola posts
  • Installing tall plants – conifers do well

9. Frame your garden with a larger structure

Any big structure in your garden can be used to frame the space.

Arbours and trellises work well, but if you really want to go the whole slog, why not put in a pergola?

9 Optical Tricks That Really Make Your Small Backyard Look Bigger - Frame your garden with a larger structure, Australian Outdoor Living.
Frame your garden with a larger structure.

It gives you a focal point, a destination, and a really cosy nook to relax in.

Ready to renovate?

Read here to learn about the basic elements of backyard landscaping.

Get the most of your little bit of the outdoors with more tips, inspiration and advice from the Love Life Outdoors blog.

Check out some of our other resources below:

Australian Outdoor Living is passionate about helping people love their life outdoors. We offer a range of products, including:

Have you been thinking about renovating your home? Fill out the free measure and quote form at the top of this article and a member of our dedicated sales team will be in touch.


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