Chicago, IL


To some, a small space is nothing more than another small space. To a design specialist, a small space is an opportunity to create a lasting usable environment.

I want to share this story because it can be a great learning experience for someone with a small backyard. The next time you look at your small backyard, you might see more than just a square or rectangle patio.

This homeowner contacted us somewhat out of frustration. They already hired a local landscape installation company to draw a design for them. The company is well known for their great craftsmanship and customer service, but their great design and craftsmanship are based on the same type of work they do all the time. It was the system where they pay a small fee for the design, then get the fee credited back on the installation. The homeowners didn’t necessarily like the design or the direction of where the design was going.

The greatest myth of outdoor living spaces is spatial separation. Most backyards are large spaces, so most contractors tend to create oversized patios and decks. Inside a typical home, a spacious dining room with a large table and six chairs only need to be 14′ x 14′, yet outdoor spaces become 30′ x 20′. This reasoning is why small spaces are overlooked.

Working with this client, we quickly identified the most important wants and needs, then created a concept that would match their lifestyle. We created a large transition landing for walking out of the house without initially stepping down. These transitional spaces make walking out of the house comfortable with food trays and drinks in hand, avoiding trip zones.

The new transitional landing leads to a long 21′ x 15′ patio that offers two zones. One space is for dining, and the other space is for the fire feature with a small seat wall for extra guests. These two areas can all be used simultaneously to create an intimate dining and fire experience.

We also selected an Urban Bonefire Grill Island off to the side, coming soon, with custom-selected cabinets, a granite counter, and a Kalamazoo grill.

To finish everything off, we soften the backyard close to the garage with lawn and landscape. The fence was not in good shape, so we installed a new custom 7′ cedar-stained fence.


  • Create a space that matches the existing architecture of the home.
  • Create an area for family fun that can be seen from the family room.
  • Create a space for multiple uses because of the small footprint.


  • Outdoor Kitchen System
  • Shadow Spec Umbrella
  • Landscape Lights
  • Natural Gas Fire Feature


  • Working with the confinements of the small space.
  • Create a beautiful space with security in mind.
  • Moving equipment and materials around a small footprint.