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Optical Illusions: 10 Tips For Making Your Backyard Look Larger

When you think of a backyard oasis, you probably imagine expansive spaces filled with eye-catching focal points and features that make the space uniquely yours. But what if you have a small yard? Can you still create a backyard retreat that satisfies your need for spaciousness?

The truth is that by fooling the eye, any backyard—no matter how small—can look larger than it is. Do you have a small backyard that you want to transform into your dream space? Here are ten tips to help you get the backyard you crave.

Tip #1: Break It Up

While it seems counterintuitive to divide an already-small yard, well-defined spaces will actually make it seem bigger. Create a grilling nook with angled pavers, use a linear fountain to separate the play section, or create an outdoor dining room with an herb-covered garden wall. The more unique spaces you have, the bigger your yard will appear.

Grilling Nook with Angled Pavers | Outdoor Dining Room

Tip #2: Think Outside of the Box

When most people design patios or decks, they envision boxy, square or rectangular spaces and straight lines. But if you want your space to look larger, think diagonally. By installing your pavers and decking diagonally, you’ll elongate the area.

Outside Pavers and Decking | Outdoor Living

Tip #3: Take the Long Way

Create the illusion of depth by designing walkways to wind around the yard instead of heading straight to the destination. Even better: Narrow them as they reach the farthest point; this tricks the eye into believing it’s farther away than it really is.

Designing Walkways | Outdoor Backyard Ideas

Tip #4: Create a Grand Entrance

An arbor, pergola, or trellis covered in greenery can make your small space appear larger. These features, especially at the entrance, trick the eye into believing that the space is larger than it really is. Because this feature acts as a “door” to your grand space, make sure it’s Wow-worthy.

Pergola Seating Area, Backyard Living

Tip #5: Use Color Wisely

Another way to fool the eye is to use bright colors at the entrance of your yard, which makes the rest of it recede. For example, if you plan to use a trellis as the entrance, get more from it by planting tall, colorful plants in front of it.

Bright Colorful Entrance of Your Yard | Outdoor Furniture

Tip #6: Don’t Be Level-Headed

Most backyards are level, and this comes in handy when planning a swimming pool or outdoor kitchen, but if your goal is to make your space appear larger, think about adding levels to your yard. They can be as simple as a sunken patio or as elaborate as stair-stepped gardens that reach the top of your fence.

Sunken Patio with Pool, Inground Pool

Tip #7: Use Focal Points Strategically

Every great backyard has at least one stunning focal point, but if you’re trying to make yours look bigger, you should place it at the back of the yard. Doing this creates an optical illusion because the eye has to “travel” across the yard to land on the focal point at the back of the space.

Small Backyard Swimming Pool with Spa & Rock Waterfall

Tip #8: Use Mirrors

When you want to increase the look of an indoor space, mirrors are a great way to do it. And today’s backyard enthusiasts are taking the tried-and-true trick outdoors. Look for sturdy mirrors made of stone, wood, copper, or steel so they won’t deteriorate in the outdoor weather, and then hang them strategically to reflect light and enlarge the feel of your backyard space.

Outdoor Mirror Decoration, Backyard Living

Tip #9: Look Up

Building vertical features will also help your small backyard look larger. Build tall fences, use bamboo partitions for walls that separate backyard “rooms,” or add tall steel structures, statues, or pool waterfalls to add some height to your space. When guests have to look up see the entire yard, they will imagine that it’s bigger than it is.

Small Backyard Inground Swimming Pool with Blue Pool Tiles

Tip #10: Don’t Stray from the House Design

Finally, if you want make your small backyard appear larger, let the design elements overflow from the house to the backyard space. For example, if your home is decorated in Mediterranean style, continue the flow from the interior to the exterior. If people see the yard as an extension of the house, it will make it appear larger because it will seem as if it’s an extension of the same space.

Mediterranean Style Backyard | Backyard Design