Making the most of a small outdoor space can be challenging, but it’s far from impossible.

Regardless of whether you’re working with a tiny garden or a bijou balcony, knowing a few simple tricks and tips can help transform your outdoor area. So, what do you need to look out for? What plants work best? How do you make the most of a small space?

All will be revealed in today’s post.

Understanding your space

Whether you're dealing with a compact balcony or a petite garden, the first step towards transforming your outdoor area into a personal oasis is truly understanding the characteristics of your space. 

This not only refers to knowing the exact dimensions of your area but also the more nuanced aspects such as sunlight exposure, the view, and the level of privacy it offers.


Let’s take a look at each.


Sunlight exposure


The amount of sun your outdoor space receives daily is a crucial factor to consider. 

Observe your space throughout the day – is it bathed in full sun, or is it partly or wholly shaded? The sun's trajectory can drastically affect your choice of plants and the positioning of seating areas. 

If yours is shaded for most of the day, don’t panic. Even a balcony that only gets a few hours of sunlight out of every 24 can still be a cosy, plant-filled retreat with the right planning (which we’ll get to in a bit).


Size, shape, and unique characteristics


Familiarise yourself with your outdoor space's physical features. Measure the exact size to avoid any oversights when buying furniture or plant pots. 

Take note of the shape and think of how you can best make use of it. Does it have any unique characteristics, such as a particularly sunny corner or a wall perfect for a vertical garden? 

Every small garden or balcony has potential, it's just a matter of identifying and harnessing it.


Privacy and view


Consider your outdoor area's privacy level

If it's overlooked by neighbouring properties, think about how you might create a sense of seclusion without losing natural light - perhaps through the use of screens, trellises, or carefully placed tall plants. 

Similarly, assess your view. If it's not as pleasant as you'd like, brainstorm ways to distract from or improve it, such as hanging baskets or a small water feature.

Put together a plan

Once you've familiarised yourself with the unique attributes of your small garden or balcony, it's time to translate your vision into a tangible plan. 

A well-drawn plan will not only help you envisage your new space, but it can also prevent costly mistakes and ensure the most effective use of every square inch.


Think vertically


When space is at a premium, it's important to remember that not everything has to be on the floor. 

Consider your vertical space as an extra canvas for your creativity. Walls, railings, or even free-standing trellises can be utilised to hang pots, grow climbing plants, or install shelving for additional display or storage. 

This upward focus can also help draw the eye skywards, creating the illusion of a larger area.


Space-saving furniture and features


Be smart about your furniture choices. 

Select items that fit well and are proportional to your space. Consider space-saving options like foldable or stackable furniture, or pieces that can perform multiple functions, like a storage bench that provides both seating and a place to stow away garden tools or cushions. 

For small gardens, built-in benches or seating might be a good solution.


Multi-purpose items


Every item in your balcony or garden should serve a purpose, preferably more than one. 

Think about using objects that can double up - a small table that also works as a plant stand, or a decorative screen that provides privacy and support for climbing plants. 

These multipurpose items are key to maintaining functionality without cluttering your space.


Container gardening


Container gardening is an excellent option for balconies and small gardens. 

It offers flexibility, enabling you to move plants around depending on the season or sun exposure. Plus, with a wide variety of containers available, from traditional pots to window boxes and hanging baskets, you can select options that fit your style and space.


Visualising your plan


Consider drawing a simple scale diagram of your space. 

Place your chosen furniture, plants, and features onto the plan, ensuring that everything fits and the space doesn't feel too crowded. You'll want to maintain clear paths for movement and consider how the space will be used. 

For instance, ensure seating areas are conveniently placed for socialising or sunbathing, depending on your preferences and the size of your space.

Creating a plan might seem daunting at first, but it's an essential step in your journey towards a maximised outdoor area. It allows you to visualise your transformed space, make changes easily, and ensures that once you start buying or building, everything will have its perfect place in your personalised outdoor sanctuary.

Selecting the right plants

Choosing the right plants can be the difference between a drab outdoor space and a verdant oasis. 

But where do you start? 

With so many different varieties and factors to consider, this process can feel overwhelming. Here's a simple guide to help you make the right choices for your small garden or balcony.


Choosing plants based on sun exposure


Earlier, you determined the amount of sunlight your outdoor space receives. 

Now, it's time to use that information. Different plants require different light levels, so make sure your choices match your conditions. 

Sun-loving plants like petunias or lavender need around six hours of sun per day, while shade-tolerant plants like ferns and hostas thrive in less sunny spots.


Considering maintenance and personal preference


Do you enjoy the process of tending to your plants, or would you prefer a low-maintenance garden? 

Be honest with yourself and choose plants that suit your lifestyle. Similarly, choose plants you love. While it's essential to select plants that will thrive in your space, your garden or balcony should also be a reflection of your personal taste. 

Love the smell of mint or the look of succulents? Incorporate them into your design.


Seasonal considerations


While many plants are perennials (they come back year after year), others are annuals or biennials and will need replacing or reseeding. 

Consider what your outdoor space will look like across different seasons. Choose a mix of plants to ensure that there's always something interesting happening in your small garden or on your balcony.

Selecting the right plants for your balcony or small garden is a combination of science (understanding what each plant needs to thrive) and art (creating a space that appeals to you aesthetically). 

Gardening is an iterative process, and it's okay to make mistakes and learn as you go. With time and experience, you'll develop a green thumb and a balcony garden that delights you every time you step outside.

Design Tips and Tricks

Designing a small outdoor space comes with its unique set of challenges, but with a few clever tricks, you can create a beautiful and functional balcony or garden, regardless of size. 

Here are some tips to make your space appear larger and more inviting:

  • Use mirrors: Just as they do indoors, mirrors can make a small outdoor space feel larger. They reflect light and the surrounding area, creating an illusion of depth. You could use an outdoor mirror or even repurpose an old one.
  • Light colour palette: Light colours can help make a small space feel bigger and brighter. Consider this when choosing your containers, furniture, or even the paint for your fences or walls. A light-coloured flooring can also reflect more light into your space.
  • Add pops of colour: While a light palette helps to expand your space, pops of colour can add personality and visual interest. You can introduce colour through flowering plants, colourful pots, outdoor cushions, or vibrant wall art.
  • Create levels: Adding levels to your outdoor space, whether through multi-tier plant stands, raised beds, or hanging baskets, can create depth and visual interest. Just ensure these don't block the light or the view too much.
  • Incorporate lighting: Outdoor lighting isn't just functional; it can also enhance the ambience. Fairy lights, lanterns, or solar lights can make your space feel magical in the evenings. Plus, they allow you to enjoy your balcony or garden even after the sun goes down.
  • Include a focal point: Whether it's a striking plant, a piece of outdoor art, or a small water feature, a focal point can draw the eye and give your space a sense of structure.
  • Rugs: An outdoor rug can help define a seating or dining area, adding warmth and comfort underfoot. Choose a weather-resistant rug that can stand up to the elements.
  • Use transparent materials: If you're using a screen for privacy, consider using one with a lattice design or a transparent material. This allows light to pass through, maintaining your space's open feel.


The goal isn't just to make your small garden or balcony look bigger but also to create a space that reflects your style and suits your lifestyle. Don't be afraid to experiment and add personal touches. After all, the most important thing is that you love spending time in your outdoor haven.

If you are looking to buy property in central London, the suburbs to the east of the capital, or somewhere in West Essex, Petty Son and Prestwich can be of service. We have been helping people just like you realise their property dreams for well over a century, and we’d love to assist you, too. 

Give our friendly team of property experts a call to find out how we can help you find your next home.

Article By: Tracey Edmunds

Tracey handles everything to do with property maintenance. From managing contractors through to compliance, she does the lot with an air of calm and grace. She’s also a proud mum of three...four if you include Arry, her 10yr old GSD/ Rottweiler cross.

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