A garden's design is approached the same way whether the space is large or small, says landscape architect Pamela Palmer. First decide where you want to spend your time outdoors.
If you like having your coffee outside in the morning, for instance, where's the warmest, coziest place to sit?
Where will you want to be at cocktail hour or when dining alfresco? Where do you want your children to play?
Plan well and you can find room for it all, even in a tiny yard, Palmer says.
Maria and Stefano De Lorenzo's garden in Venice, California, proves her claim. Though the backyard is only 20 by 32 feet, Palmer managed to fit in three separate living spaces: There's a concrete deck between the house and garage for reading, resting, and party spillover; a larger, lower concrete pad that serves as a play area for the De Lorenzos' young son, Luca, during the day, and turns into an outdoor dining room after dark; and an inviting rectangle of lawn that provides additional entertaining or play space. (The previous owners, who commissioned the garden, used the lawn as a living yoga mat.)
The front yard isn't as active, but Palmer also thought of it as a room. "Essentially it's a pleasant vestibule to pass through," she says, "or a pretty scene to enjoy from the porch."
Once you've decided on the locations for your outdoor living spaces, then turn your attention to making them feel like gardens with greenery. Approach landscape design this way and you'll enjoy your
garden whether you're inside or out, Palmer says. Maria De Lorenzo agrees. "We love being out in the garden, but looking out
at it from indoors is almost as good," she says. "It's our little retreat."
Design: Pamela Palmer, Artecho, Venice, CA (310/399-4794)