Small Modern Mediterranean Backyard: New Client Project!

We’re sharing insights and inspirations from our modern Mediterranean backyard client project!

What do you do if your backyard is small but you still want to MAXIMIZE every inch—and do it with a modern Mediterranean flavor?

That was the question perplexing this client who had a small backyard (as opposed to one of our super large Mediterranean backyard client projects).

I actually LOVE the added challenge of working with a small space! I also love small backyards for the intimate feel you can achieve if you do it right (as opposed to not doing it right and everything feels crammed).


First, There Are At LEAST 7 Different Mediterranean “Styles”!

STYLE-WISE, the thing is (when people say “I want a Mediterranean-style backyard” to Matt and me) that there are so many styles within Mediterranean.

A small modern Mediterranean backyard idea with a plaster plunge pool. The pool has a small sunbathing ledge with pillows and cushions on it.
Think your backyard is too small for a pool? Think again!

Do you mean the Ibiza-style Mediterranean?

White plaster privacy fence with a built in bench. The bench has tan vertical stack tile on it.
Ready to get started on your own backyard reno? If so, YOU NEED THIS!

Or something more bright white Greek/Santorini-esque Mediterranean?

A small backyard with a long and narrow pool. White rocks with plants line one edge of the pool.

Are you someone who wants the Tuscan-Italian style?

A wooden table with bench seating around it and a large white umbrella on top. The table sits on a small white gravel patio. Green plants surround the patio with stone garden beds.

Or the Isle of Capri-Italian feel?

Or tropical Mediterranean complete with palms, bougainvillea and giant bird of paradise?

A small outdoor area with a plaster bench. The bench has cushions and pillows on top of it. There is a pool near the bench and flowering plants nearby.

Don’t forget to consider a Moroccan-African Mediterranean vibe! (So many people do! Forgetting that so much of southern Spain is influenced with this.)

A beautiful outdoor shower with a white and green tile pattern in a small modern Mediterranean backyard. There is a small pool near the outdoor shower and a wooden chair to one corner of the shower.
Save yourself hours (and thousands) and get all backyard tricks HERE!

Or do you want a more modern California-Spanish style?

A small outdoor area complete with an outdoor shower and large plant. A plaster fence is behind the shower.
We love an outdoor shower!

Do you want the clean smooth stucco or a rougher stucco or an old stone wall…?

A small Mediterranean backyard with an old stone wall that meets up with a stucco stone wall. There is a built in stucco bench and a wooden dinner table with large outdoor umbrella overhead.

Do you see why just “Mediterranean” brings up hundreds of possibilities to my mind? 🙂

And when you tell me “modern Mediterranean” do you mean you want it all to blend together and be easy on the eyes…

A small modern Mediterranean backyard complete with a stucco fence and stucco L-shaped bench with a wooden dining table. Black metal exterior lights are above black steel windows. Arrangement of plants in the backyard.
Another one of my favorite things to encourage clients to do is look for “little” areas we can add in some unexpected seating areas and future moments for them to enjoy.

…or do you want a higher-contrast “modern Mediterranean”?

A small modern Mediterranean backyard with a pool and plants surrounding the pool. Oversized sliding glass doors provide and inside-outside concept.
I love when we can incorporate large doors to bring the outdoors in!
Large solid black double doors on a rough stucco home with a stone walkway and plants on each side of the stone walkway
A small Mediterranean backyard with a stone patio and black doors. Smooth stucco home with a white outdoor couch and wooden coffee table. Two small gardens surround the patio.
Save yourself hours (and thousands of dollars) by getting all our other backyard & outdoor tricks HERE!


Second, Let’s Start With 10 Basic Backyard Questions For You!

If you want to do this Mediterranean backyard project of yours right, Matt and I can blow your mind with the number of questions we have for you when you tell us what “style” you want. 🙂

It’s an easy trap to fall into because I do the same thing…I like SO many different styles and looks and different items…and the fact of the matter is we often just need to CHOOSE ONE DIRECTION. We can’t have it all…and it’s this inability to “let go” of wanting to do it all that makes peoples’ backyards look so haphazardly put together: they’re just trying to do it all. They like it all. Or what they’re choosing just isn’t working together and they wonder why. I KNOW WHY! 🙂 Just call me—I can quickly help you figure out what’s going wrong and get you on the right track!)

A beautiful backyard with large green foliage in the background. A large outdoor couch and wooden dining table set on the patio.
FREE: Grab our Design Mini-guide HERE!

I also have questions like “How long will you be in your house” and “how much do you really want to invest into this?” That sometimes can be the difference between more built-in options and more temporary-but-still-gorgeous options you can later take with you or sell because they’re not attached to your structures.

A small modern Mediterranean backyard with a pea gravel patio. A small sectional sofa sit to one side of the patio with a rectangular wooden dining table on the other side of the patio. A large outdoor umbrella and tree shade the backyard and concrete stairs lead out of the patio area.
Peek at different Spanish-style backyards we’ve done for clients!

Do you want lighting? How much and where? I naturally have so many ideas for lighting that push past the generic string lights (although those have a time and place too)…but it all comes down to your priorities and the answers to the many questions I have (and it’s very exciting to ask the questions because it helps guide us down THE RIGHT path when there are so many)!.

Built-in stucco bench surround a wooden rectangular dining table and chairs and a large outdoor umbrella provides shade. The table sits on a pea gravel patio and large trees are in the background.

There are right ways to do built-in seating and there are wrong ways!

A large built-in l-shaped bench with pillows on it. A firepit sits in the middle of the l-shaped bench and two wooden chairs sit opposite the built in bench. Plants surround the bench.
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A large built-in bench with cushions on it and an outdoor umbrella above it. A small stone patio with a small garden surround the patio. A white wooden fence outlines the small backyard


Mediterranean Landscaping & Plants

I also have questions for you like “How full do you want your backyard to be with landscaping?” vs “How minimalist do you want your backyard landscaping to be?”

A small stone white patio with wooden rectangular table on it. A long outdoor sofa in one corner of the patio. Lots of green foliage and plants surround the patio.
In the market for new outdoor furniture? See 15 Mistakes to Avoid with Your Outdoor Furniture!

For example, the above backyard is beautiful but it’s going to be higher maintenance than another version I could have created, and it’s going to have a LOT of leaves falling at various times of year. Even if you live in southern California with a lovely Mediterranean climate, your leaves don’t stay perpetually alive. 🙂

(Yes, I have to remind people of this. Sometimes we forget because we don’t have heavy winters so don’t have the “season of plant death” that so many other locales have. But still, our olive trees shed leaves throughout the year—some seasons more than others—and even rosemary has to be pruned or it gets too leggy. Ivy has to be cut back, cypress has to be attended to…every living thing will need care! I love plants! They’re not as quite as precious as human beings :), but they’re still amazing living things that deserve to be tended to appropriately. And they’ll reward you with unsurpassed beauty when you do!)

For landscaping a small Mediterranean backyard, go with one or all or a mix of the following:

  • olive trees
  • cypress trees (if you’re wanting more Italian-esque)
  • lavender
  • rosemary
  • herbs
  • drought-tolerant plants

We also need to take into consideration where and how often your sun hits, what time of day, etc.

I’d also ask you about budget, because that’s A BIG ONE when it comes to backyards.


Every Backyard Needs a Budget!

We’ve done MASSIVE backyards and we’ve done tiny backyards. Every single one needed a budget outlined so we could figure out priorities and give some structure to how crazy (or uncrazy) to go.

Even if you have a small backyard, when we pour 600 sq feet of concrete it isn’t THAT much less expensive than pouring 1,200 feet of concrete. (We walk all our clients through how to save money and have been known to save people $30k or more with just one suggestion or change to a plan they’d already had in mind… We’re genuinely here to HELP you avoid unnecessary costs, for the love!!! 🙂 )


One of My Tricks for Small Backyards!

Consider different levels – it’s amazing how this can make a small backyard feel larger!

A small modern Mediterranean backyard with a concrete patio and built-in seating. A rectangular wooden dining table sits two steps up from the outdoor living area. A stucco fence surrounds the patio and there are lots of potted plants.
I also want to draw your attention to doing multiple seating areas, which many clients start out saying they don’t need…but end up realizing how magical it feels! Love love love.
A small modern Mediterranean backyard with a pea gravel patio and built-in concrete L-shaped bench. The bench has cushions on it and two wooden coffee tables next to it. Large cacti are planted in a planter. Up three stairs is another patio area with more built in seating. The patio is enclosed by a stucco home.


Small Backyard Problem: “How & Where To Put Seating?”

Where to put seating—and how much of it?!

In this client’s case, they dreamed of having a backyard with enough room for having multiple sitting areas but their front yard is more conducive to having as a full dining area. Why? Because it’s almost immediately off their kitchen. So it takes a little “Life Priorities Therapy” to work them through it but it just made sense to really enjoy their front patio as the full BBQ/dining area and keep the back as a more casual coffee/drinks/snacks kinda area. That way not only are they not carting multiple armloads over multiple trips from the kitchen and grill allllllll the way in the front of the house, but they’re able to really “divide and conquer” as far as using the space appropriately.

I tell myself as well as clients, “We can’t have everything…but we’ll try!” 🙂 You never know because sometimes you can fit it all, and sometimes you can’t, but at least if we’ve gone through the process thoroughly and thoughtfully, we KNOW and are CONFIDENT at the end that we’ve arrived at those decisions strategically, intelligently, and it was truly the best use of space!

Lots of green foliage and plants surround a built-in outdoor sofa in this small modern Mediterranean backyard.
There are so many options when it comes to outdoor furniture. 50+ pros & cons to help you choose!

Off the top of my head, here are some of the things I think about when it comes to a Mediterranean backyard design (this is more general and we can get MUCH more specific depending on your style preferences as mentioned above, from the bright whites of Greece to deep creams of Italy)…

  1. white umbrellas
  2. light woods
  3. olive trees real vs faux
  4. outdoor pots and planters
  5. pea gravel (so many different color options here!)
  6. concrete pavers (esp for adding the modern here)
  7. fire pit
  8. alfresco dining
  9. terracotta pots filled with flowers, herbs, and small citrus trees
  10. if you love color and pattern, use vibrant, patterned tiles for accents on walls, steps, and tabletops
  11. natural stone walls and pathways can bring an earthy, classic Mediterranean feel.
  12. built-in benches (you’ll notice these throughout my post but I want to draw your attention to the above pic of an extra-deep one as another option and idea)


Water Features Are Your Friends! 🙂

Try a fountain! Our “Big House” entry patio had a beautiful Mediterranean-style fountain in the center (you can read how we did it HERE! You’ll hardly believe what it used to be and how we changed it!). I used to open our front living room windows every day just to enjoy the sound of the fountain throughout the house!

A modern plunge pool with a fountain coming from the stone privacy wall. Green vines trail a wall on one side of the plunge pool and their is a barstool seating area on the other side of the plunge pool.
A large white and green patterned tile wall with outdoor shower is the focal point of this small modern Mediterranean backyard. A long wooden outdoor sofa sits in front of the outdoor shower and the entrance to a plunge pool is in front of the outdoor sofa. The patio has a tan and white pattern tile to it.
We love working with clients on their backyard spaces and taking them to the next level! Cookie cutter backyards just don’t give the same atmosphere and enjoyment.

I also love ponds or small plunge pools if you can swing it! I’m currently working on designing a Moroccan-style plunge pool for another client project as well!

Sneak peek: I’m incorporating a fountain INTO the plunge pool for a double whammy in this small space!

A small outdoor shower with a white basket weave pattern. Large plants are on either side of the outdoor shower.

I’m also playing with some tile options (both neutral and colorful!) for the outdoor shower…but that’ll have to be another post…

Along with HOW ON EARTH you can fit a plunge pool into a small backyard… 😉

A small modern Mediterranean backyard with a plunge pool and outdoor dining area. The dining area has a long built-in bench on one side.
FREE: Grab our Design Mini-guide HERE!
A plaster privacy fence with a built-in bench with a plunge pool in front of the built-in bench. A small rock garden is on one side of the plunge pool.
A sneak peek of a client’s Modern Spanish-Style Backyard!


If you want our help on your own backyard or patio—whether it’s a quick phone call with Jess to a major project with both Matt and Jess—see what options we currently have available at the moment HERE!

You can also grab our guide TODAY about saving money on your backyard.

All our backyard posts are HERE and include ones like

  1. Another Mediterranean-style client project!
  2. 15 Patio Furniture Mistakes to Avoid!
  3. What we recommend for perfect outdoor countertops (can also be used for tabletops in some designs!)

…and more!

PS: To see all our home projects (including all interiors like kitchens and closets!), go HERE!

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