How to make the most of a small yard or garden

I don’t want to jinx you all, but through this week’s showers there have been glimpses of blue skies and rays of sunshine, suggesting that summer may be on the way. I love to be outside as much as possible, but I have very little outdoor space available.

Figuring out how to maximize my 2m x 2m courtyard garden to make it as usable as possible for me was an important part of planning my renovation. Here’s what I learned about making the most of limited outdoor space.

As with any space, it is important to first consider how you intend to use it. For me I wanted a few things:

Additional dining room for larger gatherings

Something to rest and relax on nice days

GREEN

A swimming pool (ok fine so I didn’t get everything I wanted)

This was Jennifer’s favorite spot while attending Home of the Year on RTE One.

In a 2m x 2m room, some of the items on this list seemed incompatible (if not impossible), so I had to get creative.

OUTDOOR ENTERTAINMENT

First of all, creating an outdoor dining area for entertaining, which generally requires a table and chairs. The chairs are basic and I’ll get to those, but a table is tricky – if you’re short on space, a table is either an integral part of your garden or requires storage space that you may not have. Luckily, my builder came up with an ingenious solution to this – he made a table out of leftover building materials that folds against the garden wall, meaning I can have a large dining table if needed, but can easily free up space to lay out if you do practical, you can do the same, or you can buy pre-made folding tables designed to be mounted on walls – I’ve seen a number of these on Etsy.

Chairs are easier – I absolutely recommend having a built-in bench along one wall. It’s by far the best use of space for accommodating people around a table. Wood or tile are the best materials here – mine are made from the same tiles used in my downstairs bathroom and I like the consistency that brings. Just check if they are suitable for outdoor use. For extra seating you can buy folding garden chairs to hang on the wall when not in use – mine are from Ikea and I’ve painted them to match my style.

One thing I’m looking to install this summer is a retractable awning. This is an excellent way to maximize the space you have – it means a light shower won’t ruin your outdoor dinner party. There are cheaper options where the awning is manually raised or lowered, to electronic options that also include lighting and heating.

LYING OUT IN THE SUNSHINE

I admit that due to our weather this is not the most common way I use my garden.

However, on those beautiful summer days there is nothing better than soaking up the Irish sun!

I don’t have the storage space for a sun lounger so I bought a hammock instead. I couldn’t love it more. It only took two hooks to be installed in the garden and when not in use the hammocks fold up to practically nothing. They’re easy to keep clean and there’s nothing quite like that gentle rocking motion.

The living area in Jen Sheahan's house in Rathmines.  Image: Moya Nolan
The living area in Jen Sheahan’s house in Rathmines. Image: Moya Nolan

Hammocks come in a variety of lengths, so you’ll likely find something that fits your space – just make sure you measure correctly and leave enough room to stretch out.

If for some reason you hate hammocks or can’t find space, I think inflatable patio furniture is a great option. These are also much easier to store than foldable furniture. Just make sure you cover the plastic with a throw or blanket — bare skin and inflatable furniture are no friends.

GREEN

I don’t have a green thumb. I gave up gardening. I don’t have the patience to repot and replant things, and I don’t have the talent to keep beautiful plants alive. However, I wanted green to create a sense of calm and improve air quality in my urban garden.

Similar to my garden table, the solution here was to go vertical. Luckily for me, my friend Jonny Gannon (gannonandassociates.ie) is an exceptional landscaper and in exchange for me baking his wedding cake he installed the most beautiful vertical garden wall for me. Even I can keep these plants alive (mostly) – this wall faces north and doesn’t get much sun, so ivy, heuchera, and ferns work best for me here. I even managed some hardy herbs like thyme, rosemary, and parsley.

The garden wall is made from felt bags (bought from Amazon) nailed onto a sheet of plywood which in turn is screwed onto my garden wall. The pockets act as plant pots, but be warned they will dry out much quicker, requiring plenty of water. Overall it’s not difficult to install and believe me – if I can maintain a garden wall, anyone can.

questions and answers

ASK

Can you please tell us where you got your vinyl tiles from and who installed them?

Sounds exactly like what I’m looking for for my kitchen & utility room. Just a little worried about table and chair marks!! Thanks very much.

REPLY

I bought my LVT flooring from Deco Designs in Dublin. The brand is Moduleo. I am very satisfied with both the brand and the mechanic and can recommend both. Some other LVT brands you might want to look at are Karndean and Amtico. In my experience nothing has marked this floor – I’ve thrown my table, chairs, bike, stilettos, trolley case, couch over it and it seems pretty indestructible so far. Any scratches were very easy to clean.

Leave a Comment