Landscape Design Ideas for Small Backyards in Rochester Hills, MI

A small backyard can become an extraordinary oasis, with strategic planning and little creativity to maximize your use of the available space. To spark inspiration, here are a few landscape design ideas for small backyards in Rochester Hills, MI.

Emphasize Your Outdoor Activities

Do you love cooking and entertaining? Is gardening your passion? Do you have kids and pets who need room to play? Are there any special features like waterfalls or spas that are on your must-have list? Before you start the design process, think through what is most important to you and how you envision yourself using the space. 

Related: 4 Ways Masonry Contractors Can Improve You Outdoor Living Space in the Troy, MI, Area

Either Emphasize or Minimize the Yard’s Size 

Would you love a secret garden, or would you prefer making your backyard feel much larger than it is? You can make a small space look bigger with strategic placement of various elements, light colors, visual flow between spaces, curved lines instead of straight lines, thoughtful paver laying patterns, and plantings that open the view (at least skyward). Or you can create an intimate space with more vertical elements like living walls, darker colors, large trees, an outdoor fireplace instead of a firepit, and clearly defined small outdoor “rooms.”

Practice ‘Less Is More’

Conventional wisdom claims that the elements of your backyard space should be in proportion to the space. This isn’t necessarily true, however. It’s easy to create a cluttered look with lots of small details like patio furniture, planters, or decor. Instead, consider the “less is more” approach and emphasize a few elements that you will actually use the most. Pare down the backyard living space to the essentials, without the need to fill the space with every conceivable amenity. Give these elements breathing room, and the space will feel larger too!

Focus on Location, Location, Location

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Placement of each element is crucial. For example, don’t stick a tall fireplace right in the middle of the backyard, because it will visually chop up the backyard. Instead, tuck it in an underutilized corner and create a lovely sitting area that fans outward into the backyard. Use the corners of your yard as much as you can to create the effect of pushing your living spaces outward.

Choose Versatile Hardscape Features 

 Fire tables do double duty as fire features and dining tables, and low walls can do double duty as space dividers and overflow seating.

Minimize (or Eliminate) the Lawn

Grass is lovely, but in a small backyard, it takes away space from outdoor living (where you actually spend your time when you are entertaining or relaxing). A paver patio surrounded by lush yet low-maintenance perennial gardens could be a better use of the space, as long as you don’t have kids or pets that need room to play. 

Related: 7 Useful Features for Any Outdoor Fireplace in Canton, MI


Use no more than two materials throughout to create continuity and decrease visual clutter. For example, a teak spa area and a paver dining/relaxing space clearly define spaces without creating tiny “boxes” for each activity.

Think Vertical 

A multi-level hardscape—an elevated spa or a sunken conversation area—could create the illusion of more space. You may be able to stack or overlap areas to create more space, such as a lounge area on a deck, with an outdoor kitchen/dining space below.