If you have a newer home (think built 2000 or newer), chances are you have a somewhat large house on a relatively small plot of land. If this is you, have you felt frustrated by the lack of space? Have you given up on thinking you can do anything with your yard? Have you settled on something 'boring' because you didn't think anything else was possible for your space? If this is you, keep reading. We have some tips to help with your compact design.
All spaces have the potential to be both functional and beautiful. The trick is to consider the relationship between your space (the form) and your use of that space (the function).
Step 1: Analyze the space you have
Think first about the underlying structure of your space – is it wet or dry? Flat or rolling? Earthy or rocky? Symmetrical or asymmetrical? How can you reasonably use that space? How do the elements work together, such as the house walls, trees, property lines, etc. What challenges are presented in your space (aside from size)? While it can be tempting to start thinking about plants at this point, don't do it. A small space has little room for error and choosing plants at this point puts constraints on other decisions that you've yet to make.
Step 2: Plan your circulation
Now that you have a sense of your space from a more analytical perspective, you can begin to see how the details of your space will start to direct your design. At the top of your list should be the challenges or the things that will be most difficult to overcome or change. If these challenge items can't be moved or changed, this will affect your circulation or flow for how you and others move about in the space. You want to spend some time at this stage assessing how movement occurs in the space and how you enter and exit the space. You want the movement to be natural and flowing so the space feels welcoming.
Step 3: Layout the gathering spaces
Once you've made decisions about the space's circulation, next you want to take an honest assessment of where people gather or relax. Every inch of space is important in compact landscape design so taking the time at this stage is crucial so you don't accidentally create a space that feels cramped. Remember to take into account areas where there is a lot of sun or shade so you can make any necessary adjustments. Think about what is it like in the spring and fall... Will you use the space in the winter? Think about your space in every season of use and how that use might change throughout the year.
Step 4: Select your materials
The next step is selecting the materials needed for your compact design. Because the space is smaller, don't shy away from high-end materials. You'll want to start with hardscape elements such as patio and wall materials, even furniture. One of the many benefits of a small space is that it provides an opportunity to use higher-end, more expensive materials for key areas because you’ll need less of it. For instance, instead of choosing concrete or pavers you might choose granite or a local stone. Instead of using pressure treated wood, you could choose a sustainably harvested wood. You don’t have to break the bank on every element – select one or two things that will be focal points in your small space.
Step 5: Choose your plants
With this last step, it is finally time to choose plants. Plants bring life to a space so you'll want to choose wisely. Think about the year-round look of each plant selected, as well as how it will grow in your space. Best bets are plants that grow tall vs. wide. If your design incorporates latticework, think about plant varieties that climb or could look nice woven into the lattice.
As you maintain your space, it will be important to understand how and when to prune. You'll want to avoid chopping and hacking plants to fit.
But remember, nature is flowy and soft, so make sure you place plants to soften the corners. That will minimize the boxy, confined feeling that can occur in small spaces. And limit your plant variety. Distill it down to plants that give you more flowers and foliage and an interesting bark texture.
The design team at Graham Landscape & Design can help walk you through the process of working with your small space. We work with homeowners throughout Eugene, Springfield, Veneta, and the surrounding areas. Give us a call today to discuss your project. 541-729-8029
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