Potreo Hill ModernModern Patio, San Francisco
Jude Hellewell and Laura White
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5. Create multiple areas. Although it may feel counterintuitive, breaking up a small garden into defined-use spaces will actually make the area feel bigger. The designer of this urban garden made the most of its sloped lot by splitting the area into two distinct areas: one for outdoor dining and the other for relaxing by a fire pit. The built-in benches maximize seating, while the planting areas behind the benches provide room for vines and shrubs.
Consider different levels for a smaller space. Perhaps your garden consists of an urban courtyard. How do you maximize your available space and create different entertainment areas? Consider adding a third dimension to your space by changing elevation. You’ll be surprised at how many areas you can carve out of your small space by going up or going down.
2. Identify Your Design StyleA seamless transition from your home's interior to its exterior is created when the architectural and interior design style — from line, shape and colors to textures and building materials — is echoed in the outdoor spaces.
Modern formal gardens use geometry to define private outdoor spaces, and smaller gardens require clean lines and minimal features to allow for multifunctional uses. Geometrics aid this design. The strong rectangular shape of this table and bench, for example, reinforce the clean lines.
Inside a sunken or elevated space, you have an altogether different vantage point. Perhaps the design focuses your attention inward, fostering intimate conversation. Or, if the orientation is outwardly focused, you'll observe the borrowed landscape or enjoy a bird's-eye view of the garden.Any time the grade is changed, even with a single riser, the dynamic is also changed. Here are some clever ways designers have changed the grade. I give them an A-plus.Step it down. At the lowest point of this narrow, steep backyard, there was plenty of room for a patio. But this is no ordinary patio. It's a dreamy destination for anyone who walks outside the back door.The elements are perfect. First, the designer has done a superb job of breaking up the slab into bands and squares, further defined by crushed stone. The treatment ensures good drainage and suggests a patterned carpet.As you descend a few concrete steps to enter the sunken outdoor living room, you're drawn to the generously scaled U-shape bench. Made of a sustainable hardwood, it embraces three edges of the patio and has a gas fire bowl at its center.Twenty could sit here easily. Just add a few cushions and you've got a party.
Structure is the most important thing when it comes to designing a small garden. The bones of the garden hold it together in all seasons and weather conditions. The squared paved area here unites different parts of the garden through its structural use of strong lines.