10 Townhouse Backyard Ideas | Tips for the Perfect Small Backyard & Patio

In this article, you’ll find a few tips to achieve the backyard patio of your dreams, several of our favorite townhouse backyard ideas, and solutions to the biggest disadvantages of townhouse backyards.

From first-time homeowners to retired empty-nesters, many people these days are choosing to live in townhouses.

And there’s no question why… after all, there are plenty of benefits to living in townhouses. They are typically a more economical option than stand-alone houses, due to home-owner associations (HOAs) which allow the entire community of homeowners to pitch in for services like backyard landscaping and maintenance in exchange for a fee.

Over time, and especially in the case of an emergency or natural disaster, this can save the average townhouse owner lots of time and money in upkeep and repairs. On the other hand, stand-alone homeowners assume the responsibility for damage and wear and tear, and of course all of the costs that come with it.

However, great responsibility and great power go hand in hand. The biggest benefit of owning a stand-alone home is having full freedom to decorate your interior and outdoor space in any way you please. Whereas, townhouses and their HOAs often have rules about certain design ideas. For example, you may not be able to plant trees over a certain height or even put up physical barriers to create privacy.

Space is usually limited in a townhouse backyard, so finding unique ways to make the most of a small indoor space is also a top priority.

But just because your space is small, doesn’t mean that it can’t function for everyone in your household. No matter if you share your backyard with pets, children, friends, or family, or if you just like to sit on the patio alone and drink coffee in the morning, there are many ways to maximize curb appeal even in a tiny backyard.

Create Zones For More Functional Spaces

“The function of design is letting design function.” – Micha Commeren, creative director and entrepreneur.

No matter if your outdoor space is small or large, it needs to be functional. In other words, your backyard should give you a reason to go outside every day.

Townhouse Backyard
©Anthony Duran / Unsplash

Pinterest may be a great place to find townhouse backyard ideas and inspiration, but no two spaces are the same, and neither are the design tastes of any two homeowners. Before you invest a bunch of time and money into your space, you should ask yourself: What is the purpose of your townhouse backyard?

Do you need a place to entertain family and friends on the weekends?

For the children to play?

For the dog to go out?

What are your interests? Sunbathing? Socializing? Cooking and eating meals together?

Knowing the answer to questions like these will help you decide how to layout your backyard patio in a way that feels inviting and welcoming for everyone in your family.

Not to mention, everyone may have a different reason to use the backyard space. If multi-functionality is a top priority in your household, it’s even more important to create separate spaces for everyone’s interests and needs to keep the peace.

Many townhouse yards feature at least one of the following zones:

1. Central lawn

©Jay Scotts / Our globe planters add elegant visual interest to townhouse backyards.

While native plants are certainly the best way to encourage biodiversity in your townhouse backyard, there are some benefits to having a well-manicured lawn or even an artificial lawn!

For dog owners, a grassy area is the perfect place to let your furry friend run around and do their business. And if your HOA has strict lawn requirements, you may need to maintain some kind of grassy area in your backyard. But there are plenty of other ways to add a variety of plants to your backyard space.

Related article: No Grass Backyard Ideas for Your Outdoor Space

2. Patio Furniture

Wannsee Montroy
©Jay Scotts / botanicalconceptschicago.com

Backyard patio furniture is absolutely essential for seating, dining, and creating a comfortable atmosphere. These pieces will likely be the focal point of your backyard, the seating area where you, your family, and other guests gather to enjoy each other’s company.

In order to make the most of the seating area zone of your small townhouse backyard, patio furniture should be multi-functional. For example, benches and loungers will seat more people and take up much less space than individual chairs. You can also try to find furnishings for your outdoor living room which feature storage to free up more open space and protect accessories, such as seasonal decorations, that are used only occasionally.

Related article: 20 Easy Fall Planter Ideas for a Small Outdoor Space

3. Outdoor fire pit

What could be better than spending a warm summer night in front of the fireplace, roasting hot dogs, and making freshly toasted s’mores? I certainly can’t think of anything!

A fire pit is a great focal point for your townhouse backyard, especially if you like to entertain guests, it’s one of the best gathering areas for friends and family. And it doesn’t have to be an expensive project; you can easily build one yourself with cheap materials like bricks, angled pavers, and gravel. These simple DIY outdoor projects can be done in just one weekend, so the family can enjoy bonfires all year round.

However, for everyone’s safety, neighborhoods usually put laws into place to limit and regulate bonfires. So we do recommend becoming familiar with your local laws and checking with your HOA about fire pits before installing them in the backyard.

4. Garden area

The part of your small yard that you can really get creative with. Keep reading on to learn some tips for more yard landscaping ideas!

Obviously, some options might not be suitable for your own townhouse backyard, but once you decide what is important to you, your family and your frequent guests, the backyard ideas for laughs and good times on the patio are endless. Everyone will want to come to your place to play, eat, and socialize.

Of course, depending on your space, creating multiple zones in your small townhouse backyard might require some careful planning. You will need to measure everything carefully to avoid a cramped outdoor area. You may also need permission from your HOA if you are planning on making any permanent or imposing changes to your townhouse backyard.

5. Children’s play area

©tinymountain / Unsplash

It’s always a good idea to have a space for kids to play and be themselves if they come around often. Swing sets and jungle gyms are just a few of the options on the table, but even a small outdoor table can make the children feel like they are dining with the grown-ups.

6. Outdoor kitchen

©imran’s creation / Shutterstock

If a fire pit is out of the question, but you still want to cook in your backyard, there are plenty of small grills that can fit in a townhouse backyard. Even better, many of them are portable and easy to store when not in use. If you go this route, you won’t have to build anything, so you’ll save a lot of time and effort.

Define Separate Areas Of Your Small Outdoor Living Space

To maximize the functionality and accessibility of your small backyard, you’ll need to decide how to define each zone in a sensible way.

Depending on your space and design tastes, there are plenty of ways to separate the different areas of your townhouse backyard:

7. Vertical garden

©pawel_czerwinski / Unsplash

One idea is to build a plant wall, which is a super trendy way to not only separate areas of your backyard but also create layers of green space that add life to your yard. Using vertical space is necessary to take the aesthetic value of your garden up a notch.

There are plenty of ways to DIY a vertical garden. For example, I installed a wire arch at the entrance of my backyard patio and decorated it with a trumpet vine, which is admittedly out of control. But there is an even simpler way to create layers: planting in containers.

8. Modern planters

Container planting is better for most plants because it protects them from adverse weather and pests, so your plant lasts longer and needs less care over time. And as long as they are cared for properly, you can basically control the plant’s mature size, making them perfect for your outdoor space.

©Jay Scotts / Our rectangular planters arrange perfectly on patios.

Perennial flowers come back every year, so there’s less money to be spent on landscaping over time. Bring a colorful flowerbed into the garden and enjoy its blooms every spring.

Here at Planters Etcetera, one of our favorite ways to define small spaces is by using fiberglass planters. Our fiberglass planters are made of a durable, UV-resistant resin composite that will keep your plants safe from inclement weather.

Other products, like terra cotta and ceramic, won’t weather well with the seasons, whereas fiberglass planters won’t crack or lose their shine even after years of seasonal change and general wear and tear.

Short narrow planters are perfect for a small backyard and won’t take up too much of that precious ground space. Fill them with your favorite native plants or perennial flowers to add some life to your small townhouse backyard.

Alternatively, these narrow planters are great for lining your fence or deck to provide privacy with botanic beauty.

Our Favorite Planters For Small Townhouse Backyards

Accessorize Your Space

I’m a firm believer that accessorizing doesn’t have to be limited to fashion.

Accessories are pretty much everywhere in our spaces – whether it’s the paintings in your home, the fuzzy dice in your car, or the family portraits in your office, accessories give every room a personality and make it feel cozier.

So if you want to add curb appeal to your backyard, accessories are a must. We’ve already discussed the bigger accessories like patio furniture and fire pits, which usually function as the focal point of your small townhouse backyard. But here are some of my favorite elegant, yet modern design ideas to really personalize your small space and make it feel like home:

9. Water features & the natural elements

Incorporating the four natural elements into your backyard – fire, water, earth, and air – is crucial to creating a cohesive townhouse backyard. We’ve already mentioned fire pits, which feature a natural element that invigorates us, they also provide opportunities to socialize.

Planter in front of pool
©Jay Scotts / Gregory’s Greenhouse

But still, there is something so relaxing about the sound of trickling water. And according to Zen garden philosophy, water features are one of the most effective ways to bring a sense of peace to your backyard.

Even if you don’t have the room to build a traditional Japanese koi pond, there are plenty of small fountains that can hook up to an electrical outlet and provide that peaceful sound of flowing water to your backyard all day long.

Related article: Zen Water Features & Gardening Ideas

Natural stones are another essential component in most Zen gardening ideas. You can use these to build a small wall that surrounds your garden area, or a retaining wall where you plant taller trees to create a visual screen.

10. String lights

©spiritvisionstudios / Unsplash

Also known as fairy lights, these are super trendy backyard accessory that is both aesthetic and functional. They are very easy to set up, but if you don’t have any outdoor electrical outlets, you may need to run an extension cord from the inside of your home to get that pleasant ambient light that is perfect for creating a cozy feel.

FAQ: Designing A Backyard Patio

Townhouse backyards can create some unique challenges when it comes to designing a small space that is conducive to relaxing and socializing.

Here are a few solutions to the problems that many townhouse backyard owners run into:

How do I build privacy in my townhouse backyard?

One of the biggest gripes from owners of a small townhouse backyard is the lack of privacy. Everyone wants their outdoor spaces to feel like an extension of their home, a place they can relax and socialize with friends and family without interruption or distractions. But when your neighbor’s outdoor space is only a stone’s throw away from your own, it can be difficult to feel like your space is truly yours.

Luckily there are plenty of options to create privacy on your backyard patio, including:

  • Hanging screens
  • Fencing
  • Decorative pillars
  • Retracting canopy
  • Pergolas
  • Physical barrier
  • Vertical garden
  • Planters

Read more about crafting the perfect privacy fence!

How do you make a small patio look good?

Since there is limited space on the ground, it’s essential to take advantage of the vertical space in your backyard. If you plan your backyard landscaping carefully, you can add plants and use them to create layers that make your entire space feel like a backyard oasis.

Townhouse Backyard Ideas: Do’s and Don’ts


planters wall
©Jay Scotts / Our rectangle planters are much more effective at creating retaining walls and privacy screens.

Plant some ground cover, or maybe ornamental grass at the ground level. Even if there is no space in your small backyard to plant it, you can use containers to grow dense, healthy plants.

A taller plant size included in your gardening ideas can help to draw your eyes upward and interest you in the entire landscape. If you have a really tiny space, you could probably check your local nursery for a small dwarf variety of native trees to grow in containers or planted in the ground.

Use plants and trees of different colors and textures, this will help to make your small townhouse backyard more aesthetically pleasing. But so will accessorizing your small outdoor space with all of your favorite garden landscaping ideas from Pinterest, or even this article!


Natural stone retaining wall. ©Redi Rock International

Don’t plant in a straight row. Make sure you vary the line height of your plants by using lots of different grasses, plants, and trees to offer texture with plants.

Don’t overdo hardscaping. Natural stones can be a tasteful accent in small backyards that are sloped and hilly when used as a small wall to establish clear lines between grass or pavement and the garden area. But too much concrete hardscaping can make your yard look and feel like a parking lot… just dull, gray, empty space. No one wants that!

More Pleasure Without More Space

Since your backyard may be small, take small steps toward creating the perfect space. Your first step might be finding some string lights or a railing planter full of colorful flowers to hang along the railings of your patio.

Over time, you can slowly make the investments in your backyard that suit you and your family the most. Whether that’s a fire pit and chairs for socializing on a crisp autumn evening, or an outdoor room with a lounger that seats the whole family, there are plenty of ideas to spruce up your townhouse backyard.

No matter what works for you in a functional sense, plants are one of the best ways to breathe some life into your backyard. Literally… plants filter the air and provide much-needed oxygen, improving our health and wellness! So after you have built and accessorized your dream small backyard, it’s time to decorate it with some flowers, trees, and all of your wildest backyard landscaping ideas.

Our Fiberglass Planters: Perfect For Your Outdoor Space

If there is no empty space in the ground for plant material, then container plants are a must. You can also keep small plants on countertops, end tables, and other patio furniture, but plants are also an excellent way to divide spaces in your backyard.

You can achieve a sleek, modern look by using fiberglass planters. The resin composite is finished with a UV-resistant coating, so the shine and color will never fade. Even better, we guarantee that shine will last for years to come, even as growing seasons come and go.

Our fiberglass planters come in a variety of different colors. Choose an accent color to add a pop of brightness to your outdoor living room or go with a more neutral color to blend in with the patio furniture.

If you want to use the planters as dividers between spaces, there are plenty of heights and sizes to choose from. Go with short narrow planters filled with ornamental grass to create a symbolic divide, or a taller planter filled with trees or an enormous shrub to create some real privacy.

No matter what your needs are for your townhouse backyard, order from Planters Etcetera and find the planter that transforms your garden.

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