10 Small Home Curb Appeal Projects for Houses with Limited Outdoor Space

Having a lawn the size of a postage stamp might mean good-natured jokes about cutting grass in the blink of an eye. But there’s no reason a house with a small yard can’t make a big statement—one impressive enough to win an offer.

Real estate agents often emphasize the need for curb appeal—with good reason. More than 94% of the agents surveyed in HomeLight’s Q2 2019 Top Agent Insights report say that great curb appeal adds dollars to your bottom line—which more than makes up for what your property lacks in square footage.

You’ll need to cover the basics: trim shrubs and trees, pull out weeds, and clean up the yard. But small home curb appeal also means thinking big. Working with a tight space means you’ll need to focus buyers’ eyes upward and outward, show off your home’s best qualities (and persuade them that your little patch of green isn’t as small as one might think).

“Drawing your eye up gives the appearance that you’ve got more space,” said Amy Vastardis, a top real estate agent of 21 years in the greater Orlando, Florida area. “I have a very small yard, and I’ve got banana trees. The big leaves just give the appearance of [the yard being] more lush, which tricks the mind. It makes it feel like you have more space.”

Read on for 10 more great ways to boost your small home curb appeal.

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1. Think vertical

Spaces look larger when you draw people’s attention skyward, so incorporate design elements that encourage visitors to look around.

Think statement lighting; tall planters and plants, such as bamboo or topiaries; and high-topped accent furniture like the Pier 1 Navy White Striped Garden Stool or Blue Green Mosaic Square Nesting Table Set.

If your front entryway looks tiny or tired, you can add height and make more of a design statement with a piece of crown molding and paint to match. Bloggers Jilly & Mia mounted a piece of crown molding above the front door of an Arizona home, then painted the molding, the door, and surrounding trim in Benjamin Moore Iron Mountain, giving a blah entrance more panache for under $50.

2. Create a focal point

Small front yards can make use of larger, ornamental plants, giving the illusion of extensive space, says Homesthetics.net, an architecture and design site since 2012. A grouping of bromeliads is big and colorful enough to create a focal point, as if the plants are a showpiece.

Speaking of succulents, their sculptural shapes and easy care make them ideal for container gardens. Arranging one in a fountain or a birdbath pours dramatic color and texture into a small space.

A focal point also could be a piece of outdoor art, such as this Studio 350 Metal Sun Wall Decor that could be hung by the front door, or on a backyard fence among a small sitting arrangement. “It’s drawing the eye away from looking at the size of the yard to looking at something pretty,” Vastardis said.

3. Layer your landscaping

Raised planter boxes or planters with multiple tiers create the illusion of an ample garden, adding a layering effect to the yard rather than having all the landscaping at ground level. Try the Leisure Season Medium Brown Cedar Raised Garden Bed at Lowe’s, or the VegTrug Poppy Go 2-Tier Planter at Gardener’s Supply Company.

If you’re feeling handy, Home Depot provides a video tutorial on building a three-tier planter box for a small space that gives flowers and herbs plenty of room to bloom. The YouTube channel Garden Answer also has a tutorial on a two-tier raised planter bed that fits ten square feet of growing space on the patio of a house that sits on less than one-fifth of an acre. The raised design also allows for good drainage.

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4. Add bursts of color

Colorful seasonal flowers or ones that coordinate with the rest of your house also invite buyers to see the yard in vignettes, not just one whole small space, Vastardis said.

The award-winning design blog Home Stratosphere has several suggestions that could work in a small yard or a small porch, such as:

  • Twin topiaries highlighted with white blossoms
  • A pair of potted, leafy ornamentals
  • Purple petunia in planter boxes
  • Pink bougainvillea with string vines and petunia blossoms
  • Red blossoms coordinated with potted white petunias.

The home blog Worthing Court also showcases several photos of small porch curb appeal such as Huset i Lunden (The House in the Grove), which welcomes visitors with bright hanging planters of flowers, adding a wow factor to a tiny stoop.

5. Play with size

Similar to the banana trees that Vastardis has in her yard, one large piece can help a small space feel larger, provided your yard doesn’t appear overstuffed. It’s as if you rationalize that the space must be large enough to accommodate this particular item. You can add architectural dimension to a utilitarian garage door, for instance, by perching a pergola with shapely brackets above it.

By the same logic, a family in New York City’s West Village—a place where space can be tough to find—turned a tiny backyard terrace into a warm hideaway with a pair of mom-and-tot rockers and a trellis with climbing vines.

6. Punch up the floor

A small porch becomes a room of its own if you pay extra attention to what’s underfoot. A graphic black-and-white pattern painted on the floor of the narrow porch of this California cottage adds width and punch.

The DIYers at Decor and the Dog turned the concrete step outside their entry door into a striking showpiece with slate tiles. Nervous about grout? The couple behind the design blog Beneath My Heart used Quikrete Semi-Transparent Concrete Stain to transform their backyard concrete patio into faux tile. (Incidentally, laying tiles or any flooring on a diagonal pattern makes a space appear bigger, Vastardis said.)

7. Trim out your flower beds

Creating borders along your flower beds gives the landscaping a professional finish, according to the Landscaping Network. Similar to a cozy seating area on a patio, a defined landscaping bed also visually divides your property into “rooms” with different purposes, giving the appearance of a larger space because the yard serves several functions, Vastardis added.

Choose from a variety of lawn edging material using this guide that runs down the pros and cons of plastic, natural wood, resin, stainless steel, and aluminum. You also can use concrete pavers such as the RumbleStone Mini Café Concrete Paver (78 cents each) to create border edging. Simply cut the grass along the landscaping bed and lay the pavers flat on top or hammer them into the dirt vertically along the long edge with a rubber mallet.

A walkway in front of a small home with curb appeal.
Source: (panda3800/ Shutterstock)

8. Define your walkway

Whether you use 12×12-inch Stomp Stones or Recycled Rubber Flagstone Stepping Stones atop a thin bed of gravel or mulch, a clear walkway again pulls the casual eye away from a yard’s overall size and provides a design feature that guides guests right to your front door. Even a modest walkway can stand out as a focal point when decorated with small flowers and solar lighting.

9. Don’t forget the sides

Potential buyers won’t just view the front and back of your house. Why not emphasize all the space your tiny yard has and boost your curb appeal by putting flower beds with edging along the sides of your home? These areas often are magnets for weeds and can be hard to trim with a lawnmower, so designated flower beds or other landscaping beds here can make a huge difference, say the home bloggers at Remodelaholic, who have repurposed and remodeled more than four homes.

Lighting for a small home with curb appeal.
Source: (David Papazian/ Shutterstock)

10.  Accent with light

Light makes any space feel larger and creates inviting warmth. If you have a small porch, double sconces can enhance the entry, provided they’re the appropriate size. A sconce should be placed 6 to 12 inches from the door casing and is pleasing to the eye when it’s one-quarter the height of the door plus the casing, according to This Old House, which has “design math” and diagrams to help you pick the right fixture.

A flush-mounted ceiling light is ideal for entries with low ceilings; the fixture should be one-quarter the height of the door plus the casing (leaving a minimum of 80 inches between the bottom of the light and the porch floor). A pendant light or other hanging fixture needs at least 84 inches between the bottom of the fixture and the floor and should be one-fifth the height of the door plus the casing.

Unsure of what your light will look like from the street? Mock up a cardboard rectangle and hang it (or have someone hold it) where the light will be, then step out to the curb for a peek, these experts say.

You also can make use of natural light by brightening a small porch with mirrors, as one DIY-er did on her “teensy little front porch” via HomeTalk.com.

The best part of heightening small home curb appeal is that even one change can make a grand statement. Showing your house and yard at its best helps potential buyers look beyond size and open themselves to all the charm of tiny house living.

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