flexiblefullpage - default
Currently Reading

4 Ways to Do Outdoor Living on Small Lots

billboard - default
House Review

4 Ways to Do Outdoor Living on Small Lots

These efficient solutions provide great amenities for both relaxation and exercise

By Larry W. Garnett, FAIBD, House Review Lead Designer August 3, 2021
outdoor living space
When working with small lots, it’s important to maximize the space with a functional, efficient design. | Photo: courtesy TK Design & Associates

The outdoor living trend has steadily been gaining momentum for a number of years as designers and builders respond to client requests to merge indoor and outdoor spaces. And while trends often last for just a short period of time, many of us discovered during the pandemic just how valuable outdoor living areas could be during our recent encounter with long-term isolation.

Designing creative, functional spaces outdoors is usually not too difficult if the available area is large enough. Small lots, on the other hand, can present challenges. Our design team responded with an assortment of intriguing solutions for homes of various sizes, all on small lots. These efficient solutions provide great amenities for both relaxation and exercise.



Architect: Todd Hallett, AIA, TK Design & Associates, thallett@tkhomedesign.com, 248.446.1960

Dimensions: Width: 34 feet; Depth: 54 feet, 8 inches; Living area: 2,555 sf

outdoor living


Outdoor living spaces are a great way to blend inside with the outdoors. The key is to create a comfortable place to relax and enjoy nature. With a covered area for shade and protection from the rain, and a fireplace for warmth, this outdoor living space can be used almost year-round. When working with small lots, it’s important to maximize the space with a functional, efficient design. Fencing and greenery offer privacy, as well as incorporating a portion of the outdoor living space into the home design.

outdoor living


A. Plenty of glass doors both allow natural light to fill the interior and provide ease of access to the outdoor space     

B. The cozy fireplace is the focal point, creating a relaxing ambiance while providing warmth     

C. Extending the outdoor living area beyond the house provides additional space for dining and gathering

D. The covered grill area not only offers shade and protection from weather but also adds visual interest

outdoor living

Cabana Addition

Architect: Donald F. Evans, AIA, The Evans Group, devans@theevansgroup.com, 407.650.8770

Dimensions: Main house: 1,386 sf; Cabana: 401 sf



The existing one-car garage of this completely remodeled 1940s home enabled the design of a new cabana/ancillary structure to provide a unique backyard oasis on a small infill lot. The use of varying heights and delineated areas creates spaces with many different uses, including an outdoor kitchen, dining area, firepit, and lounge area with access from the driveway so guests don’t have to walk through the home to access the backyard.

outdoor living


A. Renovated main house     

B. Renovated existing one-car garage     

C. New cabana/ancillary structure     

D. Various outdoor areas create an entertaining dream     

E. Expanded front porch creates another outdoor area where homeowners can interact with the neighborhood

The Addie at Westlake

Designer: Seth Hart, DTJ Design, shart@dtjdesign.com, 303.443.7333

Dimensions: Width: 27 feet; Depth: 70 feet; Living area: 2,688 sf

outdoor living


This small-lot product was designed for a hilltop site. Each 27-foot-wide home is front loaded and utilizes a walkout condition to respond to the topography. Creating outdoor living opportunities at the main floor became a unique challenge when designing this home. There are decks at the rear, but creating places for firepits, plunge pools, and built-in outdoor kitchens required more space. These homes utilize the side courtyard between each home to provide terraced outdoor living spaces that offer a variety of configurations catering to each buyer.     

outdoor living


A. Active side of home takes advantage of large window groupings to admit natural light and visually connect to the courtyard     

B. Passive side of home uses a combination of frosted or high windows to provide light while maintaining privacy     

C. Rear decks provide outdoor living space that takes advantage of the hillside views     

D. Side courtyards offer a variety of options that expand outdoor living opportunities

Custom Residence

Architect: Dahlin Group Architecture | Planning, marketing@dahlingroup.com, 925.251.7200

Dimensions: Width: 130 feet; Depth: 100 feet; Living area: 3,400 sf

This custom residence in Belmont, Calif., is designed with an emphasis on outdoor living, which is designed with purpose to make the most of every square foot of outdoor space. This purposefulness is especially evident in the connections between the house, ADU (accessory dwelling unit), and pool deck.     

outdoor living


A. Kitchen features a pass-through counter, creating an outdoor bar within the dining area of the California room     

B. The pass-through counter in the kitchen seamlessly flows into the rest of the great room with sliding glass doors that extend the full length of the space, folding into the wall, effectively making the great room and California room one unified space     

C. The detached ADU receives the same level of attention to indoor/outdoor connection with folding glass doors that open into a covered outdoor lounge overlooking the pool deck     

D. The pool serves as a focal point in the outdoor space with the indoor/outdoor area oriented around it. It also features a Baja shelf that extends the lounging area into the pool itself     

E. An outdoor firepit and lounge area adjacent to the pool provides a cozy, year-round outdoor space


leaderboard2 - default

Related Stories


6th Annual MVP Awards: Outdoor Living

The Most Valuable Product Awards showcase the best in new building product design, innovation, and functionality. Here are the winners in the Outdoor Living category


4 Dark Skies-Friendly Outdoor Light Fixtures

As awareness of light pollution grows, there's more interest in dark-sky-friendly lighting. These outdoor lights have a seal of approval from the International Dark-Sky Association

New-Home Sales

Outdoor Living Features That Help to Sell a Home

Outdoor TVs, matte black finishes, and soapstone countertops are some of the backyard features attracting today's homebuyers

boombox1 -
native1 - default
halfpage2 -

More in Category

Delaware-based Schell Brothers, our 2023 Builder of the Year, brings a refreshing approach to delivering homes and measuring success with an overriding mission of happiness

NAHB Chairman's Message: In a challenging business environment for home builders, and with higher housing costs for families, the National Association of Home Builders is working to help home builders better meet the nation's housing needs

Sure there are challenges, but overall, Pro Builder's annual Housing Forecast Survey finds home builders are optimistic about the coming year

native2 - default
halfpage1 -

Create an account

By creating an account, you agree to Pro Builder's terms of service and privacy policy.

Daily Feed Newsletter

Get Pro Builder in your inbox

Each day, Pro Builder's editors assemble the latest breaking industry news, hottest trends, and most relevant research, delivered to your inbox.

Save the stories you care about

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet lorem ipsum dolor sit amet lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.

The bookmark icon allows you to save any story to your account to read it later
Tap it once to save, and tap it again to unsave

It looks like you’re using an ad-blocker!

Pro Builder is an advertisting supported site and we noticed you have ad-blocking enabled in your browser. There are two ways you can keep reading:

Disable your ad-blocker
Disable now
Subscribe to Pro Builder
Already a member? Sign in
Become a Member

Subscribe to Pro Builder for unlimited access

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.