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Mastering the Illusion: 10 Ways to Make Your Backyard Appear Larger Than It Is

As amazing as the human brain is, it can be tricked into believing something isn’t so. By using a little trickery in gardening and construction, we can make what in reality is a small yard look larger and, by altering perception, create the illusion of a much larger yard.

Although this article is primarily about back yards, front yards, and side yards can benefit from these ideas as well.

image - 10 Ways to Make Your Backyard Appear Larger Than It Is
10 Ways to Make Your Backyard Appear Larger Than It Is

Central to many of the tips listed below are fences, many of which are shown at Illinois Fence Company, a major supplier of residential and commercial fences, gates, and other access devices.


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  1. Set a Mood and Direction

Any yard, particularly a small one, should have a focal point and a direction. Regardless of whether the home is located to the side or in the middle of the lot, there should be a general direction of interest in the backyard.

A fence can provide the perimeter of the yard, but things like pavers and decking can give the illusion of more space by providing a line or a pattern that leads toward the far side of the yard.

If there’s a deck, try to lay planks diagonally towards the focal point. The eye can also be tricked by decreasing the width of the walkway as it leads toward the back of the yard.

  1. Add Color and Drama to the Entry

Add a bright splash of color at the entry of the yard to attract attention and minimize attention to the rest of the yard.

Plants with colors such as orange, red, and yellow tend to excite the brain, so adding them to spots in the yard will cause people to focus on them.

By contrast, cooler colors, such as blue, purple, and pink, blend into the greenery and don’t cause the same emotional attraction as warmer colors.

These cooler colors should be used to line fences and other borders to end the yard. Redbrick can be used to the same effect.

  1. Create Levels

Adding levels in a yard such as with terracing can create depth, interrupting the line that tends to limit a small yard.

The same technique can be suggested by using sunken or elevated patios, planters, or container gardens. This also tends to draw a viewer’s eyes toward the backdrop of a yard.

  1. Use the Surroundings

Japanese gardens have incorporated this idea for centuries. If a yard has a view beyond the borders or a yard, whether there is a fence or not, take advantage of it by using similar plants within your own landscape design.

This approach will make it appear that your yard is blending into the background.

  1. Use Tropical Plants

The size and texture of plants can do a lot toward making your small yard look more abundant. This can be done by using lots of tropical plants that have big leaves.

These include plants such as alocasias (also called elephant ears) and philodendrons to make a small yard look bigger, especially when placed in an entry area.

This is because larger leaves attract attention by creating visual interest.

  1. Frame the View with a Structure Such as an Arbor, Pergola, or a Trellis

Using a structure in the entry of a yard tends to create a frame. A dramatic entryway to a yard makes it appear more substantial while, at the same time, giving support to plants that surround it.

A relatively larger structure at the entrance to a yard gives a grand feeling to a smaller yard while, at the same time, giving shade and support to plants. These structures are often strong enough to give growing room to lots of greenery.

Even with vines that have varied growing patterns, a covering to a structure can add to the drama. This effect can be heightened when arbors and other structures are taller than the doorway’s height since their primary purpose is to direct the flow of traffic.

  1. Dividing the Space

Another method that Japanese gardens employ to create the illusion of space is to divide an area to create the element of surprise.

An example of this would be to place an outdoor dining area in one space but have lounging furniture in a different space.

Alternate surfaces such as gravel, decking, and pavers can be used to define different “rooms.”

  1. Create a Focal Point

Japanese gardens frequently use things such as statues, lanterns, sculptures, and other items to draw the viewer’s eye to a particular space—a focal point.

By using structures such as these, the designer can control where the viewer’s eye goes when they enter a backyard space.

It also helps to use plants to force the viewer’s eyes to “lead up” to the focal point, regardless of where it might be in the layout.

  1. Use Container Gardens Wisely

Anytime a container garden is included in a yard, it should consist of plants such as trailing vines or succulents that hang over the sides to draw the eye downward.

The middle of the container can have colorful plants included, but the edges should be draped with vines and other plants.

Attention can also be drawn to these containers by placing them on squares of gravel, tile, or wood to create a mini garden look, which is the same effect used by Japanese bonsai artists.

  1. Place Fine Textured Plants Around the Edges

Gardeners who have small yards can use fine-textured plants to create a border that will make it appear larger. This effect also tends to reflect light and causes these plants to blend with the backdrop, whether that includes a fence or not.

And when you combine these bordering plants with color, you will have a scene that will rival the very best.

A beautiful yard is a joy to behold, but if you weren’t blessed with a large yard, you could have the next best thing: a yard that creates the illusion of space. Fortunately, with a little planning, a vision, and a little work, you can have all of the benefits of a more substantial yard just like your neighbors.


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