With the onset of social distancing, prized rarities like a decent backyard in New York City have only become more coveted. No wonder, then, that New York City townhouse owners have made the most of small outdoor spaces, taking creative landscaping to new heights with all manner of eye-catching water features, sculptures, plants and trellised shade structures.
Noted architect Steve Griggs says that the key to designing a small outdoor space is to view it as another room. “You want to try to extend the indoor living space to the outdoors, so it becomes one space,” he told Curbed New York. “You’re basically building an outdoor room. So consider how you want the space to be used — for lounging, entertaining, cooking, or something else — and go from there.”
Other factors Griggs takes into consideration are lighting — low voltage LED lights make the space usable both day and night — as well as using a variety of plants along with modern and rustic furniture to keep things interesting.
Budget also plays its part and, given the high cost of purchasing a townhouse, chances are many New York City townhouse owners can afford to splash some cash on a private backyard idyll. It’s not unusual to see large decks, sunroom extensions and, for those with the means, a jacuzzi or even a swimming pool like the one that Norah Jones had in the backyard of a townhouse in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill that she recently sold for $7.5 million.
Of course, the generally long and thin layout of these type of spaces means that — literally — thinking outside the box is key. For many, that may be a tall order, but there are scads of New York-based landscapers to help, a few of whom offered these pointers to the New York Times:
“It’s about creating a sense of taking a journey. When you step outside into a garden you want to be transported.” — Todd Haiman of Todd Haiman Landscape Design.
“Look for the power spot, then you work around that.” — Jan Johnsen, author of “Gardentopia: Design Basics for Creating Beautiful Outdoor Spaces.”
“Shade is hugely important. Where is your best opportunity to create shade?” Also, “The inside and outside should talk to each other. The furniture and planters outside should complement the furniture inside,” says Cara White, the founder of Elevations.
Whatever your budget, and however big your backyard may be, looking at what the pros have done with limited space will inspire you to get outside and transform your own patch of land into a magical Garden of Eden.