Privacy Fences That Won't Overwhelm Your Small Space

    Photo: Wonderlane/flickrSummer is on its way and everyone is looking forward to sunny weekends and balmy evenings outdoors. Everyone but you, perhaps? When your yard is the size of a postage stamp and the folks next door loom uncomfortably close, it's hard to really relax. A privacy fence could be just what you need to save both your sanity and your relationship with the neighbors.

    If you do go for privacy fencing, though, be sure the kind you choose is right for your small property. Find out how.

    Use Small-Space Decorating Principles

    Install a fence in a tiny yard based on the same 3 principles you would use for successfully decorating a small indoor space:

    1. Keep it light and bright. Avoid a heavy-looking fence; it will make a small space feel stifling and block your possibly limited supply of sunlight. Trellis is a better option. (If local ordinances limit fence height to 6 feet, you can also use trellis -- generally considered a non-permanent installation -- to go taller.)

    2. A monochrome color scheme creates an expansive impression. Try matching your fence color to the garden's predominant hue.

    3. Select decor that can multitask and make good use of built-ins. In terms of fencing, think seating that forms part of a stone barrier, or storage ledges which are built into a wall.

    Make the Fence the Main Feature

    If your yard is limited, it's hard to make a fence blend into the background. So why not turn it into a star attraction instead with these clever suggestions?

    • Transform the fence into an urban organic vegetable garden by decking it out with pocket planters, lengths of rain gutter, or repurposed tin cans, filled with homegrown lettuce and herbs. Then look forward to snipping the freshest possible salads for supper al fresco.

    • When is a fence not a fence? When it's a display center for your cherished collection. Whether you're into vintage dishes or metal sculptures, hang 'em high and show 'em off. You'll have a great conversation starter for guests at your outdoor gatherings. (Of course it's essential to make sure your fence can handle the weight.)

    • Hang attractive and useful outdoor-safe lighting on or atop your privacy fence. Energy-saving solar lights are inexpensive and show you care for the environment.

    Try These Privacy Fence Materials

    Container Plants or Shrubs. Pot plantings may well be the simplest solution for an easy, unobtrusive privacy fence that can be moved and adjusted whenever you wish. Fast-growing bamboo makes an excellent privacy screen. If you are planting it directly in your garden, rather than in containers, make sure you get the clumping variety so it doesn't take over the entire territory.

    Wood. Wooden fencing's design flexibility makes it ideal for safeguarding your privacy, whether your yard is minuscule or supersized. It can be completely private or somewhat open, as in shadow box or colonial styles, to let in sunlight.

    Vinyl. You'll be impressed at the range of colors and designs, from casual to elegant, that vinyl privacy fencing comes in these days. A nice bonus is its trouble-free maintenance. Ask your professional fence contractor to proportion it to the size of your property.

    Wrought Iron. Love the look of wrought iron? Surprise, surprise … it can be incorporated into small-scale privacy screening with the addition of some imagination. Two inspirations: Plant petite sweetheart roses or ornamental vines to climb -- and cover! -- an existing wrought iron fence or hang a wrought iron gate (antique or purchased new) as an accent piece on fencing made of less open materials.

    Laura Firszt writes for

    Updated August 8, 2018.

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