Small Garden Design Ideas – Plans for Our Exciting Garden Revamp

anthracite grey decking in the garden with a corner sofa and olive tree

After living with a building site for a garden for 2 years, we are finally getting around to remodeling our garden this Spring. Transforming our current outdoor space into a beautiful garden we will want to spend time in is so important for us. I have spent months looking at different garden design ideas and working out a plan.

We like to spend a lot of time in our garden and entertain, so it was really important to have different zones where we could eat, cook, entertain, and keep the kids happy! A lot to pack into a garden that measures 11m x 9m at its biggest. 

the kitchen through the bifold doors

Our house is raised from the garden as the ground gently rolls downwards from our front garden to the back. Last May, we had Trex composite decking put in so we could walk straight out onto our decking from the house, providing a seamless inside/outside space that would be great for entertaining.

I love biophilic design and having the house connected to nature, so having a garden that leads straight from our bifold doors was extremely important. So, what are we planning to do with the rest of the garden?

How Do You Design a Garden Layout? 

a large lawn surrounded by a paved path. There is a raised covered patio in the back of the garden with a retained wall and lots of plants
Grass, covered patio, and plants in this lovely garden. Image credit: Green Art

There are several things to consider when you design a garden layout, including some simple garden design ideas. The most important being;

  • Assess your existing garden space, including the size, layout, amount of sunlight, and features such as trees, garages, and other structures.
  • Plan what you want to use your garden for and try to zone it. Do you want it to be a place to relax? Do you want to grow a vegetable patch?
  • Sketch out your design so you can get a good feel for how things will work.
  • Work out your budget when designing a garden and adjust the sketch accordingly.
  • Choose your plants by considering factors such as texture, color, and height. Make sure you incorporate planters into your design such as stylish metal planters or terracotta pots.
  • Consider your paths and hardscaping when you design a garden layout. You want to make it easy to move around your garden so will you need to add paths and patio areas?
  • The maintenance of your garden. Do you want a garden that is easy to maintain or are you a keen gardener and love the challenge of keeping a garden alive. Depending on what level of maintenance you are happy with, choose your plants accordingly and consider features such as irrigation systems or other tools that can help you keep your garden healthy and beautiful.

The beauty of a garden is that it doesn’t have to be done straight away and you can start with some simple garden design ideas like creating a little patio with a seating area.

Decide what is most important to you first and implement that. Over time, and more budget, you can add to your garden and watch it grow beautifully! There are plenty of simple garden design ideas out there, the best way to tackle it is to concentrate on one area at a time. 

Our Garden Design Ideas

a covered pergola with a raised planter in front and lots of plants.
Image credit: Green Art

There were several important things I had to consider when I was designing a garden. We have kids so it was really important to design a garden layout that worked for both our kids and adults.

Like everyone, we bought an inflatable hot tub in lockdown and it was the kids that used it on almost a daily basis, so I knew I wanted to put in a large pool for them to use in the summer.

I also wanted a separate area where we could relax and an area where we could cook and eat. With these important factors in place, I set about designing a garden space.

We already had our decking in place and our concrete pads have been laid for the pool and patio. Over the next couple of weeks, we will start implementing my garden design ideas and creating the rest of our garden. Exciting times!

1. Decking leading straight from the house

anthracite decking in the garden leading into the house
Our Trex composite decking leads straight from the house and is the focal point when designing a garden

In May 2022, I worked with Trex and had Composite decking laid straight from the back of our house. This has already been an amazing space for us as a family and when we entertain as you can open up the bifold doors and walk straight out into the garden. 

This was our choice, however, you can view products online and choose the best design for your garden. 

trex decking in the garden on a sunny day
Trex composite decking on a beautifully sunny day!

This will be our eating and dining area. Eventually, I am putting a large table and chairs on the decking and we will build an outdoor kitchen to the right of the house. This will provide easy access to our kitchen when we have a barbeque or for pizza-making evenings (when we finally get hold of a pizza oven!)

2. Outdoor Kitchen

outdoor kitchen with BBQ and pizza oven. There are tiles on top of the shelves and a covered pergola with festoon lights. The space is complete with a dining table and chairs
Outdoor kitchen goals. Image credit: @thewhitepinesproject

Which leads me to the outdoor kitchen. We have our neighbor’s garage wall to the right of the house, and borders our decking. We are going to put up a contemporary slatted fence here to hide the garage wall and build an outdoor kitchen.

a slatted wooden fence around a brick wall
We are going to put up a slatted fence like this one for our outdoor kitchen. Image: Buy Fencing Direct

The kitchen will consist of a BBQ, pizza oven, and plenty of shelves to store plates and kitchenware. I did also think about putting a sink here, but as it is so close to the kitchen, I thought it was a bit unnecessary.

3. Dining table and chairs for eating/entertaining

rattan garden table and chair set on a wooden decking in a garden
Cuckooland Hampstead Garden Natural Premium Rattan Contemporary Six Seater Dining Set – Cuckooland

Next to the outdoor kitchen, we will put a table and chairs where we can eat and entertain. I will hang lots of lights and festoons above the table, so it is illuminated and night.

Eventually, we will look at putting a sail up over this area so we can use it when it rains. However, I wanted to see how much we use this space before we do so, as I don’t want anything blocking the light in our north-facing dining room. It can already be quite dark in there!

4. Paint existing wall

back wall painted cream
We painted our back garden wall in a sandstone color and couldn’t be happier with it!

If you are looking for simple garden design ideas, using a bit of garden paint can completely transform your outdoor space! We already had a wall built around the garden and I liked the brickwork.

However, when we had our double garage pulled down and we reclaimed the double drive at the back for the garden, our builders used different bricks to create a new wall (due to costs and getting hold of materials!) This meant our garden wall was lots of different bricks and looked slightly messy.

We painted the garden wall in Wickes Masonry Smooth Sandstone and I am so happy with the results! It makes the space very bright and it also looks good when you look at it from the house.

We already have brick slips along the back wall of our house, so looking out to a garden brick wall was a bit of a brick overload. The sandstone paint now provides an amazing backdrop to our house.

5. Raised pool for the kids

The dream was to have a pool in our garden, but in the end, we just didn’t have the space or the budget. Originally, we were going to put a shed in the back left-hand corner of our garden, but as this is where the sun sets, I didn’t want the shed potentially blocking out any light. This meant this corner was perfect for an overground pool.

We have bought a steel framed 14ft pool which we will build into the decking and sit in this back corner.

As the decking is 50cm from the ground, we can use the decking to put sun loungers on and the kids can jump into the pool from there. We are going to build a frame around it like above, so it looks built-in. 

6. Climber plants around the pool for privacy

yellow roses in a garden
David Austin Roses

Our garden backs onto a road which leads to the beach car park. Although we have a brick wall surround, it is not very tall and if people drive by in vans or lorries, they can see into our house. Most of the back wall will eventually be covered by trees and shrubbery and our pergola will help give us some more privacy.

As I don’t want to put a high fence around the back left-hand corner of our garden (as this is where the sun sets and putting in another fence would put more of our garden in the shade), I am going to put up a trellis from the H Potter design studio around the wall and let climber plants, such as clematis, sweet pea and climbing rose, to give us an added bit of privacy.

Climber plants are a great way to add greenery to your garden and are easy to grow. You should always try and look at a way of adding them when designing a garden. 

7. Raised planters for tropical plants

bushes, grasses, pam tree and olive tree in a raised planter
We used old sleepers to create a flower bed and added tropical plants. It worked a treat and is a simple garden design idea!

We were originally going to pay someone to get some planters made for us along the back wall, but they weren’t available for several weeks. When we had our old garden dug up for the new extension, we were left with several huge sleepers, so we decided to use these instead.

sleeper planter with lots of trees and bushes
Our planter with tropical trees, bushes, and grasses. Eventually, there will be grass around the planter

We created a section along the back wall where some bushes had been left and used the sleepers to create a raised flower bed. I then added a palm tree gifted by a friend, an olive tree we already had, and I bought a few grasses to fill the gaps. I am so pleased with how it turned out and it only cost us the price of the soil and the plants!

8. Grass area for greenery

a stone garden with plant and a cream painted wall
This area will eventually be covered with grass, with a gravel and sleeper path leading from the back gate.

I love grass, I love how it provides greenery in the garden all year round, is easy to maintain, and is great for nature and you should always try and include it when designing a garden.

We live on the beach so don’t have much soil in our garden, just shingle. However, our front garden is full of grass, dandelions, daisies, clover, and wild chive, so it can be grown. We will section off where the path will be going and lay turf between the path and the pool.

9. Patio painted with a pergola

a painted patio in orange and white patterns
A painted patio. Image credit: Dizzy Duck Designs
a concrete base with a painted wall in the garden
Our current back corner where the patio will go

The back right-hand corner of our garden used to be a double drive. It was crazy, this is where all the sun is throughout the day and where we get the last of the sun in the evening.

This was one of the reasons I wanted to get rid of our double garage so that we could reclaim our double drive as part of the garden.

a pergola with plants growing up it and ikea garden furniture
A pergola is always a fabulous garden design idea! Image: IKEA

I wanted to make this a dedicated patio area so we could enjoy the sunshine throughout the day. It is also on the opposite end of the pool, so it will help us to keep dry! 🙂 I will grow lots of climbers and put plants in pots around the patio area. 

As this is a concrete patio, with no slabs, I am going to paint it with a tile pattern to give it a contemporary look. Painting any patio is a fantastic simple garden design idea and, like painting your wall or fence, can have a huge impact.

We have bought a pergola which is 3 x 3m and I am going to paint it black, so it is in keeping with the contemporary theme. Finally, I am going to add plants and festoon lights to the pergola and put our corner sofa and pallet table there. A perfect place to relax!

10. Water features

I love water features in the garden, it is one of the key elements of biophilic design. I would like to add a sphere water feature to the side of the patio to help us unwind and relax when we are in the garden.

11. A stone path with sleepers around the patio leading to our side gate

railway sleepers make up a path with gravel next to it and astro turf
A path is an important part when designing a garden. Sleepers with gravel. Image: Garden Stone

Our garden is currently full of rubble so we need to integrate a path that will lead from our side gate around to the garden and out to the back gate. I want to keep things simple so I am going to add sleepers to the pathway and then gravel or stone the rest of the path and around the back of the patio. This is a great way to add a path on a budget!

12. Festoon lights leading from the pergola to the house

a garden area lit up at night with candles and festoon lights
I’ve always had festoon lights hanging up in the garden!

Festoon lights in the garden are a real feature and I would like to add as many as possible. We are going to put some under the pergola and I would like to add some over towards the house so that our decking is also lit up at night.

13. Planters on the decking

Our decking space is quite large, so I want to fill it with planters to provide nature with more plants and to make our garden look aesthetically pleasing. The planters will have a variety of plants in them from grasses to a small vegetable garden.

14. Paint the back gate

a wooden back gate next to a painted cream wall in the garden
Our back gate.

Finally, the back gate! I love our back gate, it is curved and made of wood, but it has seen better days.

I am in two minds as to what to do with it at the moment. I will either sand it down, and paint it with a varnish, leaving it wood. Or I may paint it a different color. This is something I won’t decide on until the rest of the garden is finished to see what works.

back gate and garden wall with lots of bushes and grass
Our back gate, painted wall, and sleeper area. It’s a start!

And there you have it. My garden design ideas in full! Designing a garden layout requires careful planning and consideration and you really need to take your time to assess your space, determine your goals, and create a well-thought-out plan.

This garden has been 2 years in the making and I am really excited to see how it turns out! Creating a beautiful and functional outdoor space that we’ll enjoy for years to come was so important when I was designing a garden and with a bit of careful planning, you can design a garden layout too!

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