JESSICA RULE asked five Perth landscape designers how to showcase and make the most of even the most compact outdoor spaces

1) Pick your plantings wisely

“Reduce visual clutter; line up views and maintain devotion to only a few plants to create a sense of calm and order, ” Gavin Baxter, design manager at Tim Davies Landscaping, said.


“Using a restrained number of repeated planting combinations will create a balanced and cohesively harmonious space.”


Mr Baxter also suggested planting vertically to create the illusion of space. “Using raised planters not only gives plantings an added height to aid in screening, they also allow for ease of maintenance, ” he said.


“Espaliered plants on a blank wall will add interest and help to screen and distract plain walls or sheds with a productive screen. Similarly fruit trees are well suited to this manipulation.”


2) Have a plan


“Write down your top three needs and wants for your outdoor space, focusing on function, practicality and form, ” landscape designer Nick Etwell, of WellBuilt Landscapes, said.


“Designing your garden with these three things in mind will keep you focused on what is important to you and your lifestyle and hopefully save you money on impulse buys.”


Mr Etwell’s rule of thumb is, if it didn’t make him want to walk outside to get a better look then it wasn’t worth buying.


“Small spaces often lead to crowded, busy areas that are full of individual items fighting for attention, ” he said.


“By paring back the number of individual elements in your outdoor space, you can put more focus on the things that matter and enhance the time spent in or viewing your garden.”


He suggested merging zones to create one continuous, planned space.


“Good garden designs create harmony and purpose and should carry you through the garden seamlessly, ” he said.


“Where your alfresco area paving meets your lawn, continue the paving through the lawn as steppers or border the lawn with a paved mowing strip rather than stopping — this will instantly make the two zones feel as one by taking away the defining point between where one zone starts and the other zone stops.”


3) Think big


“When designing small spaces people often think small, however it’s quite the opposite, ” Denise Staffa, managing director at Outside In Landscape Design & Construction, said. “Think big with focal points and features, which creates deception to the eye.”


However, she recommended keeping concepts simple. “Don’t overcrowd with too much interest, ” she said.


“All design criteria holds key elements of being comfortable, functional, practical and having impact with a seamless flow no matter how big or small the space.


“However with small spaces it’s absolutely imperative that these elements shine through.”


She suggested using mirrors to create the illusion of space, built-in seating and stone cladding to add texture.


3) Consider your connections


“Timber decking may be laid at the internal floor level, offering a more seamless connection to an interior space and making both rooms feel bigger, ” landscape designer Janine Mendel, from CultivArt Landscape Design, said.


“Paving generally needs to be one course below the internal floor level for drainage reasons.”


If space is really limited, Ms Mendel suggested investing in attractive walling.


“This will give you the opportunity to incorporate a textured stone surface, timber, light recesses, water or even a vertical garden, ” she said.


4) Fully furnish


Guy Mouritz, of Ritz Exterior Design, said built-in furniture was a great option in outdoor areas with limited floor space.


“Have raised beds that double as seating, which can be achieved using capping or decking in between raised planters, ” Mr Mouritz said.


“Raised beds are easy to maintain too, just lean in to pull out any weeds.


“Bench seats are great — either timber or stone with capping — and it will encourage people into the space if you create a functional and aesthetically desirable place for people to be.”


After building seating, Mr Mouritz said to consider what you have left. “Don’t fill the entire area with a table, ” he said.


“Get a Weber Q (barbecue) to put on top of a big breakfast bar surrounded by stools and it will become the hub of the space.”


5) Design tips for small gardens


“Limit the number of materials to no more than two or three and colour match similar materials, ” Mr Baxter said. “As a rule of thumb, the colour of decks and paths should complement the colour of your roof and front door.”


“Don’t be tempted to fill a small space with an oversized outdoor kitchen; have a barbecue and stop there, ” Ms Mendel said. “Work out how much space you need for sitting, dining and moving around and give the rest of the space to plants, water and a view to the sky.”


“Tiny bits of lawn are a pain and will consume the entire space as well as needing to be watered regularly, ” Mr Mouritz said. “Similarly, big garden beds take up room, need reticulation and maintenance and end up being dead space.”


“Don’t choose bulky furniture that comes right to the floor; the area will appear bigger if the floor surface is visible under the furniture, ” Ms Mendel said. “Choose furniture that is in proportion to the size of the area.”


Landscape designers

CultivArt Landscape Design, 0414 865 747,;

Outside In Landscape Design & Construction, 9450 4922,;

Ritz Exterior Design, 0404 064 004,;

Tim Davies Landscaping; 9441 0200,;

WellBuilt Landscapes, 0401 946 232,