Ideas for townhouse gardens - 20 of the best

A home with a garden, however small the outdoor space might be, is high on many homeowners or renters' wish lists for their ideal house or flat.

A home with a garden, however small the outdoor space might be, is high on many homeowners or renters' wish lists for their ideal house or flat. In towns and cities, where green open space is limited, a sizeable garden is even more coveted. With space at a premium in city homes, we demand the same from our outdoor areas as we do of our interiors; namely, even compact gardens must be multi-functional, practical and well-designed for modern life. We're not just talking about perennial planting, but outdoor furniture, lighting and garden accessories that turn an outdoor space adjacent to a townhouse into a secret garden retreat! Clever ideas for city gardens (and the furniture that fits in them) are out there - and often they're more inspiring than designs for larger garden spaces, simply because they're creative by necessity.

More than just an occasional outdoor space, townhouse gardens can (and sometimes have to) tick a lot of boxes to become an alfresco area with year-round allure. Whether you want your patio or decking to become a more child-friendly play area, or dream of the lawn or artificial grass housing an outdoor zone for entertaining – by making it an extra living room or welcoming dining area – there are plenty of ways to update the walled/ fenced/ rooftop/ balcony garden of a city home to create a secret retreat. Even if space is tight, you can almost certainly install some pretty planters to create a fresh herb garden... or, if you're lucky, a little inner-city vegetable patch! Can we have it all, you ask? Well we have a few clever garden ideas, ideally suited to today's city homes, to inspire you to make your outdoor area great...

1/20 Create a living room space

patio area with sofa set and potted plants

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Wreford)

Take inspiration from your home's interior and find an outdoor equivalent. Rattan chairs, a sofa and wooden coffee table mimic a traditional living room design.

Argos (opens in new tab) has a great range of garden furniture to help complete this look at home.

2/20 Make the most of a narrow plot

garden pathway with brick wall and trees

(Image credit: Future PLC/Mark Bolton)

Make the eye wander back with a raised garden path and strategically placed rose arches and low walls to break up its length and add interest.

Garden arches and arbours

Wickes (opens in new tab)

3/20 Create a garden on different levels 

patio area with table and plants

(Image credit: Future PLC/Darren Chung)

Link the spaces to avoid a disjointed design. A water feature, running from one level to the next, is a popular ploy. Use repetition: the same materials and similarly-shaped elements of hard landscaping (paths, paving, decking) can be echoed throughout the garden; planting with similar flora can also connect split levels.

Add a bistro dining table from Tesco (opens in new tab).

4/20 Gain some privacy

garden area with table and chairs

(Image credit: Future PLC/Darren Chung)

Planning permission is needed to erect permanent structures to screen your space. Use trees such as beech and hornbeam that will let light in and make you feel secluded. These need not take up too much space in a confined plot - the trunks can be trimmed of branches up to head height.

5/20 Make a roof garden

terrace garden with potted plants

(Image credit: Future PLC/Jody Stewart )

Select plants tolerant to wind (these tend to have smaller leaves). Steer clear of a muddle of small plants. Focus on fewer, larger planters, and choose trees or shrubs with sculptural silhouettes. Rubber is quiet, soft and hardwearing - tile your roof terrace or balcony garden (opens in new tab) with these tiles for easy cleaning and comfort.

Add a group of planters (opens in new tab) to your garden to complete this look.

6/20 Plan seating for a party 

garden area with couch and cushions

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Wreford)

Incorporate some fixed seating into your design to save wrestling with numerous chairs, and add shelter, if you want year-round use. Invest in 'party' lighting (opens in new tab): spots at ground level that allow guests to find their way around in the dark; dramatic uplights under trees and shrubs, and in waterfalls and ponds.

7/20 Add mood lighting

garden area with dining table and candles

(Image credit: Future PLC/Mark Bolton)

White render garden walls will make the most of any sun. Good outdoor lighting on walls and at foot level can then supplement the daylight. 

Outdoor lighting ideas

John Lewis (opens in new tab)

8/20 Grow your own vegetables

garden area with vegetable pots and watering can

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Bevan)

Tomatoes grow anywhere there is a sunny ledge and herbs are happy in small pots. Raised beds will take the backache out of more serious vegetable gardening to raise a range of edibles including salad leaves, asparagus and rhubarb, onions and carrots.

9/20 Opt for a low-maintenance look

terrace garden with table and plants

(Image credit: Future PLC/Andrew Wood)

Low-maintenance gardens are best for busy urbanites; how low you go is up to you. Automated watering systems are popular. Lawns can be swapped for decking; climbers, which need pruning, for a screen of evergreen bamboo; conifers can be substituted for deciduous trees.

10/20 Find a seculded spot

lounge chairs with plant pot

(Image credit: Future PLC/Adrian Briscoe)

Screen off a secluded space large enough for a single lounger, add soothing scented plants such as jasmine, lavender and chamomile; the trickle of a courtyard fountain is the final touch.

11/20 Create a private seating area 

garden area with lawn and sofa

(Image credit: Future PLC/Ben Anders)

Take advantage of the shade and structural support offered by a dividing garden wall to create a corner seating area with an overhead canopy - great for making a private space that is hidden from neighbours' view.

Amalfi sofa and ottoman

Indian Ocean (opens in new tab)

12/20 Dine with friends 

patio area with yellow table and bench

(Image credit: TBC)

Being short on space doesn't have to mean being short on style. Use a large folding screen to act as a dramatic divide between your inside and outside spaces, creating a distinguished dining area for entertaining friends. A graphic design makes a bold style statement. 

Table and bench

Jennifer Newman Studio (opens in new tab)

Screen in Racing Stripe

Ralph Lauren Home (opens in new tab)

Vases

The Conran Shop. (opens in new tab)

13/20 Go for a small but sophisticated look

garden area with black table and plants

(Image credit: Future PLC/Mark Bolton)

Pale limestone has been used to line the floor of this small garden helping to make it feel more open and spacious, while a water feature adds interest to this sophisticated space. "It feels like a Mediterranean courtyard."

Table and chairs

Heveningham Collection (opens in new tab)

Sofia stone flooring

Stone Age (opens in new tab)

14/20 Build a wooden pergola

garden area with pergola and flower plants

(Image credit: TBC)

Make the most of a shady corner by building a large wooden pergola over raised decking. Planks of wood along the top of the wall provide a handy place to sit and enjoy the setting, while plenty of climbers and plants make it cosy.

Pergola

Garden Oasis (opens in new tab)

Decking

Forest (opens in new tab)

Plants

Crocus (opens in new tab)

15/20 Keep it tidy 

terrace garden with wooden table and chairs

(Image credit: Future PLC/Mark Bolton)

Limestone terracing and a simple planting scheme make this classically-inspired space easy to maintain and prevent it from being over-crowded or fussy. Lanterns, a barbecue and multiple places to sit make it and ideal space for summer entertaining. 

Chairs

Gloster (opens in new tab)

16/20 Frame a patio with planting 

garden area with table and flower plants

(Image credit: TBC)

Build up foliage and planting around a small patio area to create the illusion of a bountiful, blossoming garden. This small courtyard is screened by a laurel hedge, foxglove tree (Paulownia tomentosa), New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax), diamond grass, heliopsis and Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy'.

17/20 Add a bistro table and chairs

garden area with table and wooden fence

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Still)

If you've only got a small terrace space make sure you have enough room for a bistro-style table and chairs, some potted plants, and if possible, squeeze in a few flowerbeds!

18/20 Squeeze in an outdoor party area 

seating area with potted plants and couch

(Image credit: Future PLC/James Merrell)

Small town gardens benefit from being easily accessible and cosy - two key components of a good outdoor entertaining space. A single bench will offer guests a nice place to sit and relax, while a fun, tropical print fabric and potted plants add a fun and stylish touch.

Seating fabric

House of Hackney (opens in new tab)

19/20 Add pattern and colour 

deck area with couch and cushions

(Image credit: Robert Sanderson)

Swap traditional recliners for a large garden seating area. This decking has been warmed up with clever planting and colourful cushions - perfect for a relaxed evening with friends.

20/20 Bring the indoors out

patio area with blue fence and dining table

(Image credit: TBC)

Even the smallest of gardens can be used as a fully-functional space. This plot has been transformed into an outside kitchen complete with a dining area and a barbecue.
 

Fencing

Cuprinol (opens in new tab)

Table and chairs

Tesco Direct (opens in new tab)

Kitchenware

IKEA (opens in new tab)

Accessories

ASDA (opens in new tab)

Shelving, a food preparation area and even a clock on the wall add to the feeling of an outside room.

Tamara Kelly

Tamara was Ideal Home's Digital Editor before joining the Woman & Home team in 2022. She has spent the last 15 years working with the style teams at Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, both now at Future PLC. It’s with these award wining interiors teams that she's honed her skills and passion for shopping, styling and writing. Tamara is always ahead of the curve when it comes to interiors trends – and is great at seeking out designer dupes on the high street.