Monday, May 12, 2014

Ideas & Inspirations for Small Spaces

A small space means different things to different people. For me, an apartment dweller, a small space means the 4’ x 4’ concrete stoop outside my door. No matter what “small” may be, small does not equal disadvantage. Small spaces are a chance to create magical places with elements that would otherwise be lost in a larger landscape. The following are 10 simple steps for making the most out of a small space:
1)         Create Depth. Layering plants creates depth, and causes an area to appear larger than it really is. Color also helps to achieve this affect; placing brightly colored plants in the front of the border draws attention, making everything else recede into the background, once again creating depth and the illusion of a grander scale.
2)         Borrow from Your Neighbor. If the guy next door has some good looking plants that are readily visible, don’t be afraid to take advantage of them. Strategically placing plants to frame the desirable views from the neighbor’s yard and block out the undesirables will make the yard seem to extend further than it actually does.
3)         Outdoor Rooms. This may seem counter intuitive, but dividing a small area into different “rooms” prohibits the eyes from taking in everything all at once, making it seem larger than it really is. A couple of ways to incorporate this would be to construct walls or seating walls, use walkways, plants, and contrasting textures to delineate rooms.
4)         Focal Points. Sculpture, fountains, unique plants or interesting views are all examples of possible focal points. Positioning one or all of these throughout the garden will provide interest to draw a visitor through the garden, once again making the space appear to be not quite as small.
5)         The Magic is In the Details. Small spaces afford the opportunity to use plants and materials that would otherwise be lost in a larger setting. These areas are perfect to exhibit plants and flowers that have a more delicate or refined architecture, fragrant flowers, or paving materials that are a little more exquisite. Materials that would otherwise be too costly to use on large scale projects can be showcased in these cozy little spots.
6)         K.I.S.S. That being said about how wonderful details can be, it is also very easy to get caught up in them and lose sight of the big picture. Simplicity through rhythm and a set palette will yield much better results than a scattering of one of everything.
7)         Double Duty. Get more bang for your space by using a planter that doubles for a table, a bench that doubles as a planter, or patio furniture that transforms into sculpture.
8)         Scale. Always know the mature size of a plant before it goes into the ground- it will save a lot of time, expense, and heartache later on. Even if the plant does not get so big for the yard that it needs to be cut down, it can still restrict beneficial views, or simply make the garden look out of balance. Properly planned average to large plants can create a cozy space; otherwise, there are many dwarf varieties that were bred just for these kinds of situations.
9)         Seasonal Impact. Containers are great for small spaces, especially if having a lawn area is required for children or pets. They are easy to relocate to accommodate extra seating for larger groups, easy to keep weed free, come in many different colors and textures, and easy to switch out to provide season long impact. Containers are also great for planting edibles; imagine walking out the door to pick some fresh veggies for dinner!
10)     Go Vertical. Make the most out of the yard by selecting plants that have more upright and columnar forms. There are also many containers that go vertically instead of horizontally, and climbing plants that can be trellised along walls. Trees can even be trained to grow flat against a wall; this is called espalier. Living walls are works of art that can be placed inside or out, providing beautiful plants and excellent discussion pieces.

Small spaces can be a lot of fun and hold substantial potential. The only thing limiting them is our imaginations and misconceived notions.

By Anne Reyes

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