7 Small Space Backyard Updates for Your Bay Area Home

Living in the California Bay Area comes with plenty of benefits. Gorgeous Northern California weather, proximity to beaches and vineyards, and access to incredible restaurants, museums, parks, and so much more.

Part of Bay Area living, however, means acclimating to smaller outdoor living spaces. In San Francisco, the median lot size is 2,500 square feet. In San Jose, lots are a bit larger; the median lot size is 3,600 square feet. Compare that with the rest of CA, where the average lot size is 5,575 square feet.

In other words, we trade some personal outdoor space for all of the wonderful aspects of living in our slice of NorCal heaven.

But just because our yards are smaller than average doesn't mean they can't be fun, funky, soothing, entertaining, or otherwise extensions of our homes and style! If you want to add some extra personality (and functionality) to your outdoor living space, this list will get you started.

Maximize Every Inch

When you have a small outdoor space, don't waste an inch of it! Even a tiny sliver of a side yard can be transformed into a vertical garden or small sitting area. Hanging and vertical planters utilize vertical space to create a lush, green garden experience. The secret to maximizing a sliver of a space is to think up, not out.

Incorporate Seating into Hardscapes

Retaining walls, decks, and other hardscape areas provide a unique opportunity to do double duty as extra seating space. Turn the edge of your raised garden bed or retainer wall into a bench by adding waterproof cushions, and you can fit more friends in for cocktails under the stars or a fun family-style BBQ.

Choose Multifunctional Furnishings and Decor

If you don't have room for an outdoor table and a fire pit, choose a piece of furniture that does double-duty as both. Garden stools can become seats or side tables, depending on your need. Instead of chairs and loungers, seek out storage benches to use in seating areas. Hide away children's toys, gardening tools, hoses, BBQ supplies, and other outdoor items when not in use to keep clutter at bay and your small outdoor space feeling spacious and tidy.

Ditch the Lawn

Grass lawns are water-hungry and a significant drain on natural resources. Rethink the traditional lawn and get creative with low-water ground covers such as creeping thyme and stone pathways. Utilize different landscaping materials such as stone, bark, groundcover, and cement to create different zones throughout the yard.

Pave a Sports Zone

If you have an active household, turn your outdoor space into a sports zone that will keep the whole family moving, playing, and entertained. Pave your outdoor space and install a basketball hoop or set up an outdoor CrossFit station. Consider a swim spa as an alternative to a full-sized swimming pool.

Your outdoor space should reflect your family's interests and lifestyle, so don't bother with green plants and quiet sitting areas when you really want to get outside and jump, lift, swim, or play ball.

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Turn Your Front Yard into a Backyard

When you think of backyard functionality, BBQs, outdoor kitchens, sitting areas, and garden space probably come to mind. But why relegate those activities to the back of the house only?

When you have minimum space, don't let the front yard space go to waste. Transform your front yard into an oasis of privacy with built-in benches, trellises, privacy hedges, and fencing. Then turn that space into an outdoor kitchen, spa area, sitting area, reading space, or a place for your little ones to play.

Plant Container Gardens

If you have a green thumb, you don't have to sacrifice outdoor living functionality to fill your outdoor space with plants. Fill containers full of herbs for the kitchen, local plants that flourish in the Bay Area climate, or bamboo, agave, and other tall plants to help with privacy and maximize vertical space. Then you can move your containers around to create more sitting room for guests when you need it.

Sure, we may live a little smaller here in the Bay Area. But that doesn't mean we have to sacrifice style, comfort, function, or personality in our outdoor living spaces. With a bit of creative thinking, you can have outdoor spaces that reflect your style and way of life with no compromise at all.