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GSL Landscaping’s Matthew Baker on Making the Most of Your Small Backyard

Baker breaks down how his firm made a tight Saratoga lot into a private paradise.

(Castle Photography Inc.)

If there’s one downside to owning a house in a city, it’s that, chances are, your outdoor space is pretty limited. Matthew Baker of Capital Region–based GSL Landscaping & Nursery says never fear, though: There are ways to make your small lot seem much bigger than it actually is. Below, Baker uses a Saratoga backyard his firm designed as an example of how to get big results out of a small outdoor space.

Use Stonework Thoughtfully

When designing areas like this, it’s very easy to have an overwhelming amount of patio or stone features. On this project, we utilized stone accent walls that could also be used for seating and incorporated small areas of turf to soften the visual and make the backyard feel larger.

A Small Pool Is Still a Pool

Due to the tight space and nature of the project, we worked closely with Concord Pools & Spas to design a smaller pool that would still give the customers all the options that they were looking for—bench seating, extra jets and the custom bluestone pool coping (or the edging placed around the pool’s wall).

Two Fences Are Better than One

Privacy is a concern with these smaller lots as well. On this project, we worked with AFSCO Fence to install a privacy fence, and along the front side switched from fencing to an Adirondack granite wall with pillars. We incorporated black iron, giving the entrance to the backyard a warm, welcoming feel.

(Castle Photography Inc.)

Forget Firewood

Firepits have become popular features for most backyards. We recommend gas-burning ones for safety and simplicity—a simple on/off switch controls the firepit. 

Add Seating to Your Outdoor Kitchen

Every backyard entertaining space needs an outdoor kitchen with a grill, shelving and refrigerator. Oftentimes, we build them in an L-shape, allowing the longer side to be a bar for seating.

Matthew Baker is the owner of Duanesburg-based GSL Landscaping & Nursery, one of the Capital District’s leading design, build and landscape contracting companies. A native of Wrentham, MA, Baker worked at a small landscaping company as a teenager before getting a degree in landscaping design and construction from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He moved to Upstate New York and started GSL in 2002 and now leads a dedicated team of 10 full-time employees and more than 40 seasonal employees who strive to provide the highest level of craftsmanship and customer service.

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