How Can I Add Storage to a Small Backyard? 6 Ideas to Try That Look as Good as They Are Useful

Maximize your outdoor storage space with these ideas from experts that work even in tiny spaces

exterior fence and cupboard painted in Farrow & Ball exterior paint
(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

If you're not blessed with a large outside space, finding space to store things in your backyard can be an issue. Whether you need to stack away outdoor seat pads and pillows in a storm, or store garden tools and plant pots, some form small backyard storage is usually required outside.

Much like maximizing space indoors, maximizing space outdoors takes some strategic thinking and clever ideas. Thankfully designers and gardeners have a few tricks at their disposal.

If you've been wondering how to add storage to a small backyard, here's what experts suggest.

1. Repurpose thrift store finds for storage in a small yard

vintage cabinet used for plants

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Modern builds and gardens can sometimes lack character. If your small backyard is one of those, repurposing vintage or secondhand pieces with a history into storage can inject charm.  

'Thrift stores are treasure troves for unique storage solutions,' says Sam Niemann, gardening expert and founder of Bleume. 'Items like whiskey crates, bookshelves, and plant stands can be repurposed to add character and functionality to your yard.'

'Look for sturdy items that can withstand outdoor conditions. Wooden crates can be treated with a weatherproof sealant, and metal bookshelves can be painted with rust-resistant paint,' Sam adds. 'Use crates to stack and store gardening tools, pots, or other supplies. Place bookshelves against a wall or fence to store pots, gardening books, or décor items.

'Paint or stain the repurposed items to match your garden’s color scheme. Add wheels to crates for easy mobility and flexibility in storage.' We like Benjamin Moore's Woodluxe for introducing a colored stain to outdoor furniture.

2. Transform a shed

shed interior and shelves painted black

(Image credit: Shed Style by Selina Lake, published by Ryland Peters & Small / Photography by Rachel Whiting © Ryland Peters & Small)

One of the most obvious ways to add storage to a small backyard is with a shed. If the basic styles sold in big DIY stores don't appeal to you, consider sprucing one up.

These budget flatpack buildings can be transformed into beautiful structures with a little effort and ingenuity. Selina Lake, stylist and author of Shed Style, published by Rylands Peter & Small, transformed her own shed by painting it black with wood stain both inside and out and kitting it out with chic storage shed shelving ideas.

'I was inspired by trips to Scandinavia, so I decided to paint our shed black using a Ronseal wood stain called Tudor Black Oak,' says Selina. 'It’s a great foil for greenery and brightly colored flowers. The wood is old, so it does need to be re-stained every spring to keep the exterior a deep, rich black.

'Deck out your shed with some of the basics that you will need going forward. These usually include open shelving and a practical workbench. Fit hooks or racks to keep your tools neat and organized,' continues Selina. 'Even the humblest structure can be tailored to meet your needs – start by installing a workbench and creating some storage space before tackling the decoration, both inside and out.' It can be a particularly good spot for storing outdoor cushions in the out-of-season months.

3. Add a lean-to

Mercia Evesham Lean-to Greenhouse from Elbe Garden Buildings

(Image credit: Elbec Garden Buildings)

Popular in various parts of the world, a lean-to is a sloped roof that is attached to part of a house or garden wall and is often supported either by a smaller wall, a three-sided structure or steel or timber struts. 

Lean-tos are a great way to add storage to a small backyard, particularly for those who have a narrow space at the side of their property, as gates and doors can also be added at either end if you want to make your storage secure.

These spaces are often used to house lawn mowers, wheel barrows and other large pieces of garden equipment. They can also be used to store strollers, paddling pools and as other outdoor kid's toy storage

Alternatively, choose a lean-to with glass panels to create a greenhouse effect for plants and seedlings.

4. Choose multi-functional seating

storage seating on a verandah

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

Much like inside the home, multi-functional outdoor furniture with storage can be a great way to increase your capacity outside too. Storage boxes or benches (made sturdy enough) can be easily converted to seating with the addition of seat pads and pillows.

'Multi-functional benches with built-in storage are an excellent way to add seating and storage simultaneously,' says Nina Lichtenstein, founder and principal designer, Nina's Home Design. 

'These benches can be strategically placed along the perimeter of the backyard or around a fire pit or dining area, serving as a practical and stylish solution,' Nina adds. 'The compartments can store outdoor cushions, garden tools, toys, or barbecue equipment, keeping the backyard tidy and clutter-free. The best materials to use are weather-resistant wood, like cedar or composite wood that can withstand outdoor conditions. 

'For added style, consider using a mix of solid wood and lattice patterns on the bench sides to create visual interest. Depending on the timber, it may be necessary to protect it with an outdoor stain or sealant to enhance durability and maintain the bench’s appearance.

'Incorporate sturdy hinges or hydraulic lifts to make opening and closing the storage compartments effortless and safe. And add comfort and style with waterproof cushions in vibrant colors or patterns that complement the backyard decor.'

5. Maximize vertical space with a hanging frame

timber frame on an outdoor wall

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Most backyards are surrounded by a wall or fence, at least on some of the sides. In a small backyard it's well worth utilizing this vertical space for storage. 

'A garden wall is an innovative and stylish way to incorporate storage into a small backyard,' says Nina Lichtenstein. 'This solution not only adds greenery and enhances the aesthetic appeal but also provides a practical way to store pruning tools, small pots, and other outdoor essentials.

'Metal frames or wooden pallets are good materials to use to form a base structure for vertical garden wall storage. Reclaimed wood pallets offer a rustic charm, while metal frames provide a sleek, modern look.'

'If you're a keen DIYer, create small wooden enclosures with hinged doors that are treated with weather-resistant paint or stain for tools. Line the inside with rubber seals to prevent water ingress.

'Secure the frame against an existing fence or wall to save space. Use sturdy brackets or mount directly to the structure for stability.  Then arrange planters in a tiered fashion, plus hooks for gardening tools and other accessories.

'Incorporate climbing plants to cover a fence like ivy or jasmine, and herbs such as basil and mint to add both beauty and utility. A vertical garden wall not only maximizes storage, but also creates an attractive focal point in the backyard.'

6. Fit outdoor cupboards or shelves

outdoor cupboard painted in Farrow & Ball exterior paint

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

'Outdoor furniture can be multifunctional, incorporating both storage solutions and display areas,' says Sam Niemann. 'For instance, low outdoor cabinets can also serve as side tables or ottomans. This not only saves space but also adds a practical element to your garden.

'Use weather-resistant materials like treated wood or resin for durability. And choose neutral or natural colors to blend seamlessly with the garden environment.

'Shelves are also just as useful outside as they are inside,' says Sam. 'Adding shelves to exterior walls, fences, or even above your potting bench can provide storage for unused pots, small garden tools, and plants,' Sam adds. Install shelves at varying heights to accommodate different items and make the most of vertical space. Or consider adjustable shelves for versatility in storage. Use sturdy brackets to ensure the shelves can support the weight of the items, such as heavy pots. Decorate shelves with potted plants or garden ornaments for added aesthetic appeal.'

How do I keep small backyard storage looking good?

When it comes to protecting your outdoor storage, anytime you can keep it under cover, you'll always prolong its resistance to the elements, whether that be driving rain or bleaching sun.

'Again, choose weatherproof materials like treated wood, metal, or plastic for longevity,' Sam says. Nina Lichenstein agrees: ''To ensure longevity, use treated wood or apply weather-resistant paint to timber to protect against the elements.'

If you've got custom storage with a flat top, water will sit on it and potentially cause damage. 'Ideally, create a slight overhang at the top to divert rain away from the tools and storage areas below,' Nina says. 'This can be achieved with a small roof-like structure made from treated wood or metal.'

This way, you investment in good small backyard storage ideas will stay longer sharper for longer, and protect your gardening tools better, too.

Jacky Parker is a London-based freelance journalist and content creator, specialising in interiors, travel and food. From buying guides and real home case studies to shopping and news pages, she produces a wide range of features for national magazines and SEO content for websites

A long-time contributor to Livingetc, as a member of the team, she regularly reports on the latest trends, speaking to experts and discovering the latest tips. Jacky has also written  for other publications such as Homes and Gardens, Ideal Home, Red, Grand Designs, Sunday Times Style and AD, Country Homes and Interiors and ELLE Decoration.