These backyard ideas will help you achieve the outdoor space you've always wanted – beautiful, versatile, and easy maintenance. Whether your focus is mainly gorgeous flowers and trees, or if you want a more minimalist backyard that caters to your entertaining needs, putting in the time and effort to properly plan your outdoor space always pays off.
From easy planting updates to backyard landscaping ideas, there are so many great ways to take outdoor areas of all shapes and sizes, to the next level.
Backyard ideas: top expert design tips
With fire pits, vegetable gardens, and DIY additions, like a stock tank pool, all within the realm of possibilities, one thing's for sure: The grass is greener right where you are.
When it comes to designing your outdoor space, whether you need large or small backyard ideas, there are a few top considerations that should always be a priority. Joe Raboine, outdoor living expert and Director of Residential Hardscapes at Belgard (opens in new tab), recommends the following:
- Start small, focusing on 'lighting, speakers, and water features (which can add an element of beauty and also mask outside noises such as traffic). They often don’t cost that much to install but can make a significant difference in making your space feel complete'.
- Lighting and technology can elevate the space and allow you to use it during any season or time of day.
- Create continuity between the inside and the outside: 'hardscape pavers and mixed materials are great ways 'to create hybrid spaces'.
1. Grow a vegetable garden
Want to make your dinners al fresco taste even better? Consider making your own produce with a vegetable garden. Once you've figured out where you want to establish your garden, plant your favorite produce. (Herbs, tomatoes, zucchini...the sky's the limit!) If you want to strike a balance between form and function, take a cue from lifestyle blog Connie & Luna (opens in new tab), who added a series of arbor trellises to their kitchen garden. With a trellis, your greens can climb upward, creating a lush archway in the process.
Building trellis is an important part of growing your greens and it will make a big difference to your vegetable yield.
2. Build raised beds
If you want to keep your garden to a minimum, take a cue from designer Kelly Martin's (opens in new tab) backyard. 'On my little brick patio, I built a raised garden box with planks of wood, and my friends from The Plant Snob (opens in new tab) helped me fill it with low-maintenance drought-tolerant plants and herbs,' she says.
Martin loved the look of the modern, black bed, so she used lava rocks over the soil, which also help retain moisture in the warmer months. Learning how to make raised beds is easy and is suitable even for beginner gardeners.
3. Use a ladder to create a plant display
Chances are, you want to flex your green thumb, but don't have enough room for a sprawling garden. We're giving you full permission to get a little creative. Ashley Rose of Sugar & Cloth (opens in new tab) made the most of her small backyard by affixing several potted plants to a leaning ladder. The result? An area that oozes forest vibes, but doesn't take up the precious square footage.
4. Create a backyard mural
Art is a staple of every gorgeous home, so why would your backyard be any different? Ashley Wilson of At Home With Ashley (opens in new tab) primed her wall with a fresh coat of white paint, and then dressed it up with streaks in every color of the rainbow. While this color-coded style never fails to make us smile, you can decorate your blank wall however you please. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
5. Build a fire pit
Whether you have a hankering for s'mores or are on the hunt for a way to stay warm during those cool summer nights, a fire pit is the backyard gift that keeps on giving. Though there are plenty of store-bought fire pits out there, why not try learning how to build a fire pit from scratch? Robert and Lauren of Blesser Home (opens in new tab) placed layers of stone in a circular configuration, removed the grass in the center, and added some chairs so guests can enjoy that gorgeous glow.
Don't feel like building one? You can always buy one of the best fire pits from a store.
6. Perfect your patio
From creating a DIY art project with the kiddos to curling up with a good book, it's safe to say that making the most of patio ideas is a must in any backyard. If you want to give yours a stylish edge this summer, consider adding some pretty tiles, as seen on Jenna Sue Design's site. (opens in new tab) While traditional tiles are ideal, peel-and-stick floor decals will deliver, too. The result? An outdoor space that will look good this summer — and beyond!
7. Add a swing
We can't think of any reason not to add a swing to your backyard. Not only can it offer plenty of fun for the entire family — especially if you're a child at heart — but it's also pretty easy to install. If you want to get creative about where you put your swing, take a cue from Savannah and Casey of Hey Wanderer (opens in new tab), who added to swings to their conversation area. A groovy disco ball rounds out the look, offering a quirky spirit and clever way to reflect the sunlight.
8. Max out your seating
Since the great outdoors is a go-to destination for socially distanced hangouts, it’s important to create ample backyard seating for everyone. Sara Toufali of Black & Blooms (opens in new tab) doubled down on seating with a settee, two chairs, and some floor pillows. When it comes to buying outdoor furniture, it’s important to find items that can hold up against the elements. However, you’ll also want to bring your personal style into the space. Toufali mastered the balance with a rug, umbrella and plenty of throw blankets.
9. Let there be light
Once summer rolls around, you’ll be eager to spend all of your time outside — yes, even once the sun sets. So, why not add some great lighting to your backyard? Christina and Robert of New Darlings (opens in new tab) gave their outdoor space a homey edge with a rattan pendant light and cute, black sconce. Add one of the best hanging chairs for extra style and comfort.
10. Opt for string lights
Well-planned outdoor lighting ideas make a big difference to any backyard, large or small. Pendants and sconces are a great way to brighten up any outdoor space, but if you want to give your backyard a serene, otherworldly glow? String lights are the way to go. Erin of Francois et Moi (opens in new tab) hung her set across the entire backyard, creating some cohesion between the separate fire pit and seating areas.
11. Take your playground to new heights
Whoever thinks playgrounds are an eyesore will find a lot to love about this climbing ramp Stephanie Abbott added to her backyard. The Abbots at Home (opens in new tab) blogger propped this DIY project against her children's treehouse and added a fresh coat of rainbow paint. (Don't worry, minimalists: You can always paint your planks in a neutral hue.) The final product offers a setup that lets your kids be kids, but doesn't compromise your outdoor space's style.
12. Set up an outdoor shower
Believe it or not, an outdoor shower isn't only for tropical hotels; you can easily incorporate one in your space, too.
'This project was especially close to our hearts as it’s our family home,' explains Australian design duo Kyal and Kara Demmrich. (opens in new tab) 'A well-connected home that has plenty of room to entertain, cook, and enjoy family time. We’ve coined our style for [the] Blue Lagoon Build as ‘Australian coastal meets Mediterranean villa.'
This backyard idea might require some time and elbow grease, but the serene results make it so worth it.
13. Dive into a stock tank pool
Make a splash in your backyard — literally — with a stock tank pool. While above-ground pools often come with an unstylish reputation, Rachel of Serene & Co.’s (opens in new tab) setup puts any skepticism to rest. The bamboo-inspired exterior is equal parts subtle and striking. Plus, the sawn float and fringed umbrella make this backyard pool party-ready.
14. Make a movie night al fresco
Looking for a backyard idea the entire family can enjoy? Create an outdoor movie theater. As this setup from Lia Griffith (opens in new tab) proves, this DIY project is a lot easier than you think. All you need is a white sheet, some wooden dowels, and a pretty ribbon. Oh, and one of the best outdoor projectors, of course. Lights, camera, action!
15. Create an outdoor chalkboard
Think of a chalk wall as sidewalk art 2.0. Framing a chalkboard, as seen in this space by Hawkins Interiors, (opens in new tab) will give your kids full permission to get creative while keeping in theme with your outdoor decor. Bonus points: Their masterpieces can serve as great conversation-starters the next time you have guests over.
16. Create a wildlife-friendly backyard with a pond
If you prefer your backyard to look more natural, or if you want to attract more wildlife, consider building a garden pond. A pond is an easy DIY project that can be tackled in a weekend, but the positives for your backyard are many. Ponds not only increase wildlife in your garden but also improve drainage and make your backyard less vulnerable to floods. Position yours next to a seating area to maximize on the natural ambiance.
17. Create a cozy area with a pergola(opens in new tab)
A pergola can transform your backyard in several ways. First, it can help create a cozy, enclosed seating area, especially if you train some climbing plants to grow up it. It can also improve privacy if your backyard is more open concept or faces a road.
You can learn how to build a pergola on a DIY basis – just make sure you invest in sturdy, quality wood. Ideally, building a pergola is a two-person job. Accent your pergola area with beautiful rattan furniture for a finished look.
18. Work with your terrain not against it
Whether you are exploring sloping garden ideas or if your backyard is positioned on a steep incline, always try to work with what you have rather than trying to change the landscape or work against it. This beautiful backyard designed by The Garden Concierge (opens in new tab) makes the most of a hilly landscape by building in steps and a separate patio area on the lower area. It also cleverly conceals the road from view with tall cypress trees. Whatever your terrain, it's always better (and cheaper) to work around it.
19. Use the show-stopping potential of grasses
Ornamental grasses are your best friend if you want a low-maintenance, low-cost backyard landscaping idea that delivers on visual impact. Grasses grow quickly, add texture and dimension to your backyard planting, and look stunning at sunset. You can't go wrong with these plants, and they look amazing with virtually any backyard design style.
20. Add height to your borders with an oversized planter
Garden borders present many opportunities to get imaginative with your backyard design. One of the easiest things you can do to instantly add more interest is to create the illusion of more height with a large, tall planter. Choose a mixture of upright-growing and trailing plants for even more effect. Urn planters work best for this purpose as they stand tallest and can be completely hidden with plants.
21. Build an outdoor fireplace area
If you like using your backyard in the evenings, it's a good idea to start looking at outdoor fireplace ideas. An outdoor fireplace can make a real difference to how much you're able to use your backyard. You can either buy one or build one yourself if you are an experienced DIYer. A patio or decked BBQ area works best for an outdoor fireplace.
22. Break up the space with a garden path
Exploring garden path ideas is a must if your backyard is all lawn and doesn't have distinct zones. Laying down a garden path will instantly break up the space visually, not to mention that it will make walking around the backyard much easier and more pleasurable. A garden path doesn't have to be expensive or installed professionally – many designs, including those with pavers, can be installed on a DIY basis.
23. Install a water feature
The easiest way to add a dose of serene sophistication to your backyard? A water feature! Whether your space is sprawling or you have a postage-stamp-sized outdoor space, a water feature is quick to install and instantly makes your space feel more relaxing.
24. Add a retaining wall
Not only does a retaining wall look aesthetically pleasing and elegant, it actually comes with a handful of practical benefits as well, including flood control, slowing down soil erosion, and even creating an attractive property boundary marker should that be an issue.
25. Integrate outdoor office space
Looking for a way to take your day-to-day from the inside to the backyard? Consider building fully functional micro spaces as part of your garden room ideas. Creating dual usage flex spaces in the backyard provides viable outdoor living space makes living and working at home so much more interesting.
26. Create different backyard rooms
'Large-scale outdoor living spaces are the new norm as people shift their intentions to creating an outdoor area with multiple rooms for family and friends to enjoy,' explains Raboine. Whether you’re looking to entertain over the weekend, workout from your backyard, or create a romantic little spot for backyard dates, creating multi-use rooms is a great way to bring the indoors outside.
How can I make my backyard more attractive?
According to Raboine, 'an overall landscape upgrade can go a long way to improve the appearance of a home. Installing a walkway or paver patio, along with planters, shrubs, and mulching will make the space look more attractive and fresh.'
Patios are your best bet where it comes to backyard landscaping ideas that really make a difference to the overall look of your backyard: 'a new paver patio will dramatically improve the appearance of an outdoor area, especially if you’re starting from scratch or have a space where grass doesn’t grow well.'
The other aspect of your backyard to always keep in mind is maintenance. According to Jeremy Yamaguchi, the CEO of Lawn Love (opens in new tab), 'the attractiveness of a backyard has a lot to do with how well it’s maintained. You don’t necessarily need to have fancy water features or a ton of colorful flowers for it to be “attractive,” you just need to make sure that what you do have is well kept. Mow your lawn frequently to keep it short and neat, remove weeds, prune your plants, and keep everything well-watered so your yard and plants stay green and healthy.'
What is the cheapest way to landscape a backyard?
If your backyard ideas have a fixed budget, there are a few areas you can tackle for big design returns with a relatively small spend. Raboine recommends 'investing in a landscaping upgrade that includes a paver patio or walkway, plants, and mulching.' This type of upgrade will cost around $5,000.
A new paver patio for a 15x20 area typically starts at $5,000, 'depending on product choices, accessibility, and local labor rates.' Raboine stresses that 'a paver patio is a great project to consider, as it can serve multiple purposes. A patio can naturally serve as an entertainment space but can also function as a meditation or yoga area for relaxation and exercise.'
If your budget is significantly smaller, Yamaguchi recommends 'planting shrubs around the border and/or planting a young blossoming tree, like a crabapple. Shrubs can be inexpensive and are an easy way to elevate your yard while keeping it looking fresh and neat. Young trees are less expensive than older trees and easier to plant, and blossoming trees look great throughout all the seasons.' A young tree will only cost $100-200 and look better with each passing year.