Why shrink the lawn? We'll never water the lawn so it's not like we're wasting water on it. We'll never use conventional fertilizers on it either. The most I ever put on a lawn is compost. And when we do mow we have an old fashioned push mower, so we're not even burning fossil fuels to maintain it. But lawns aren't really useful to any creatures but humans. Somehow a beautiful dandelion-free lawn has become something to strive for. If our house wasn't here the natural landscape would be a shady woodland riverbank, not a 1400 square foot lawn, and that would be fine with me.
The sod we've inherited, installed last summer for the house sale, is obviously not drought tolerant and is already showing stress from not being watered. This dry area to the right has already been ripped out and foam flowers and coral bells are awaiting planting.
The best way to visualize the future footprint of the lawn is to lay out a garden hose or bricks along the line you're going to remove. I did this to the right and below and brought the edge in by about two feet all the way around the the lawn. Then you simply pull up the grass. Luckily, because the lawn was only lightly watered last summer, and the roots were therefore very very shallow, the lawn came up easily.
Now, where there was once a monoculture of grass, there's great blue lobelia, penstemon, false indigo and blanket flower in the sunny areas. And in the partial shade a nice blanket of bearberry and foam flower will hopefully spread over the newly exposed loam. Butterflies and hummingbirds have already been feeding on the plants, if that's not worth a smaller lawn I don't know what is.
For some great lawn ideas visit the Greenscapes website, they'll help you with better mowing, better seeding, and of course lots of ideas on things to plant instead of grass.