Make the most of what you’ve got by following a few simple steps.

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Q: We recently moved in to a beautiful new place. However, the backyard is very small. How can we maximize our tiny outdoor area to get the most out of our outdoor evenings and weekends?

A: With backyards shrinking as properties snuggle ever-closer to one another, there’s not a whole lot of wide-open wilderness left to tame when it comes to today’s outdoor spaces. This means you’ll have to make the most of what you’ve got, which, by adhering to a few simple steps, can net you a stylish and restful retreat all your own.

Here’s how.

Clear the clutter. An obvious first step is to rid your yard of any- and everything you don’t want or need. Sun-damaged or rain-soaked furniture needs to go, along with unkempt or dying (or dead) plants and trees. The more space you can create, the less you’ll have to worry about overstuffing your yard with unused and unnecessary components that get in the way of you and your guests’ good time.

Let there be lights. Good lighting can make or break the mood. Vintage string lights, torches, solar lights, and even properly-situated candles can make any space look larger and feel more inviting. And don’t forget about task lighting for safe and secure cleanups. Get creative with your lights and incorporate them into your natural or constructed environment for a sea of seamlessly executed illumination.

Explore elevations. Small spaces have their share of ups and downs, so use them to your advantage — or create your own steps or platformed areas to break up designated spaces and enhance visual separation.

Utilize all the senses (but don’t go overboard). Tabletop fountains can more than adequately fill the sound void of not having room for a true pond or fountain feature. Don’t have the room or budget for an outdoor sound system? Plenty of wireless, portable players will do the trick and, with smaller spaces, won’t drown out conversation or the soothing sounds of nature. Also, don’t overstimulate your eyeballs: Commit to a few colors and a single design pattern to avoid a disorganized or chaotic look and feel.

Expand your point of view. Take a tour of your yard and find the space that best exemplifies your yard’s depth. (Hint: it’s not always right against the house.) Make this area the focal point of your lounge or sitting setup and built outward.

Pick your accessories wisely. Go with low-maintenance plants that don’t necessitate large, bulky containers to not only save space but also to create versatility via shade and privacy, depending on what angle needs each at any given time of year. Thinking smaller also works with your non-living accessories: Scaled-down furniture, like a simple bistro set, can amplify your yard’s coziness and help preserve walking or transitional areas.

Your small space is special. Now get out there and enjoy it!

Cameron Poague is a writer for the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBAKS’s nearly 3,000 members, write to