This is the project we share with clients who worry that their yard is too small for our work to have an impact. When we began our project on this tight University neighborhood property, low, featureless plantings made the cute, craftsman home seem like it was sitting at the sidewalk. A cramped, dark side yard was disconnected from the house and seemed to be only useless space.

We replaced the original, sloping paver front path with flagstone in rusting stair frames. As the space’s primary hardscape, a strong, elegant entry path set a welcoming tone for the surrounding garden. Layered, complex plantings add depth to the narrow beds, offering a sense of separation from the street without relying on blocky, dense shrubs that could make the small space feel claustrophobic. Contrasting shades of green echo the lush, northwest woodland feeling our clients desired.

Although the side yard is a passageway without room for seating, it is also a primary view from the living room. We transformed it from a dark, forgotten space to an Asian-inspired garden. A gravel surface, lightly planted with shade-loving plants, brightens the scene, while the open slats of a redwood fence balance privacy with a flow of light and air. The scene is anchored by a large, Vietnamese urn, which is centered on site lines from a living room window and the gate. Visible through the open slats of the fence, the urn adds further depth to the shallow front garden.

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