Spring has officially sprung, and with it comes the urge to get outside—and, specifically, the urge to cultivate your own little patch of the great outdoors. But unlike our suburban counterparts, New Yorkers don’t exactly have tons of green to work with; if you’re lucky enough to have an apartment with an outdoor space, it’s likely a wee little balcony, or—if you’re really lucky—a small backyard.
But let’s say you do have some outdoor space, and aren’t sure what to do with it—we can help. Curbed’s House Calls column has featured plenty of homes with stylish gardens and decks, both on the tiny and tremendous ends of the spectrum; read on to see some of these spaces, and get inspiration for your own adventures in landscaping this spring.
↑ Grub Street writer Sierra Tishgart’s charming West Village studio comes with a positively enormous—1,000 square feet!—backyard, which she’s cultivated into a blooming oasis. To make it truly functional, she added a deep white-cushioned outdoor couch, along with a hot pink dining set.
↑ Admittedly, not everyone is going to have this much of a backyard to work with—but Gennaro Brooks-Church’s Carroll Gardens townhouse is an example of what a little ingenuity can do for a New York space. His backyard is home to a koi pond, a two-story treehouse, and an assortment of vegetation, which is all part of his ethos of planting what he wants, and letting things grow—or die—as they will.
↑ Interior designer Kittie Lonsdale scoured sites like Wayfair to find pieces for her small roof deck that were both stylish and functional. The benches aren’t merely used for seating; they’re also used to hold gardening supplies and, in the summer, refreshments. The L-shaped bench, meanwhile, can be pulled apart, and there’s additional storage behind the curtains.
↑ In Brooklyn Heights, designer Glenn Gissler keeps his roof deck relatively uncluttered, with just a table and a few chairs as the only furniture. The assortment of plants, however, makes the space feel like an oasis amid the surrounding mid-rise buildings.
↑ For some New Yorkers, dealing with a tiny apartment is worth it if it means access to a much larger outdoor space. That’s the case with Rebecca and Greg Binns, whose small family (they also have a toddler and a dog) has lived in a tiny Chelsea studio for close to a decade. The crown jewel of the apartment is its backyard, a stunning sanctuary complete with a koi pond, fire pit, and outdoor grill punctuated by plants brought south via train from Greg’s mom’s house in Vermont.
↑ Another unusual space, at least by New York standards, but it’s a beaut: the Lent-Riker Smith Homestead, in East Elmhurst, sits on a one-acre lot that’s kitted out with lush, romantic gardens—and a slightly creepy little cemetery. Its current resident, Marion Duckworth Smith, spent decades rehabbing the 17th-century house, and her work shows; the landscaping in particular is wild yet cultivated, and adds to the home’s charm.
↑ Barbara and Mark Levy’s backyard is anything but wild—but the bamboo-encircled space, with its minimalist look and Japanese-inspired pergola, has a Zen feel that’s a welcome respite amid New York’s hustle. It’s proof that you don’t need a ton of space—or furniture—to create a cozy outdoor nook.