7 Ways to Transform a Small Backyard

See how a barely usable Venice backyard evolved into a cozy family retreat

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With no privacy, no personality, and—the biggest drawback of all—no place to sit, this 550-square-foot side yard had little to recommend it.

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Luckily for homeowners Amy Swift Crosby and Josh Crosby, a truckload of salvaged redwood came to the rescue. The designer used some of the boards to add height to the existing cement-block wall; others he turned into a sturdy dining table as well as the backs and bottoms of cushion-topped, built-in seating. What’s more, the aged redwood brought with it the character the yard had been missing. With space to dine, gather, and play, the area is now the family’s favorite hangout in the garden. Design: Steve Siegrist, Los Angeles (stevesiegristdesign.com)

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Fun furniture

A pair of red antique school benches that Amy bought when she was single, and has been toting around ever since, are a perfect match for the distressed wood of the dining table.

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Plants for privacy

Leafy giant timber bamboo (Bambusa oldhamii), relocated from another area of the garden, will screen the space even more as it grows.

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Built-in warmth

A ready-to-roar gas firepit housed in a concrete “wok” from Potted (pottedstore.com) heats the yard’s main seating area. The cushy pillows are covered in cloth from F & S Fabrics (fandsfabrics.com).

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Permeable paving

The gravel patio lets excess water flow to the ground beneath.

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Easy-care plants

A container of low-maintenance succulents adds a playful pop of color and texture at the end of the bench.