Gazing out onto a vast space behind your house ought to get your mind thinking about backyard ideas. The rear is an extension of your home, and it deserves the same care and consideration as any part of the house. Your design will set the tone for all of your future outdoor spaces, so it’s important to plan accordingly. Before you can break ground on the outdoor oasis of your dreams, know what that dream is. Will you go modern or classic? Evoke a luxury spa of countryside living? Create space for entertaining or space to kick back and be alone? “Look at the big picture: the entire backyard, entire front yard, or the entire property, and envision your goals,” says Tyler Banken, an indoor/outdoor plant expert and landscape architect at Neverland, a plant resource.
Here, is a list of 46 backyard landscaping ideas to help inspire your perfect space.
How do I design my backyard?
Designing a backyard can feel like a big task, especially if you’re working with a large surface area. Luckily, it’s more than manageable if you’ve got a solid plan. Banken explains that although it’s common to design a backyard in phases (this is especially true for DIYers), it’s important to always know how each part will eventually fit into the whole. “When you have an overall plan for your space it gives you something to work toward and also makes sure you’re not wasting time,” he says.
How can I make my backyard look nice?
Althoough planning will play a big role in the overall success of your design, Banken says there are three general categories that are important to address when installing your landscape.
Site Preparation: Banken advises to plan for “positive drainage” when designing your space. You don’t want your yard sloped in a way that water will pool or run toward a structure like a shed or seating area. “Water can be very damaging to structures,” he says, not to mention that puddles don’t look too good.
Hardscaping: Plan all of your hardscaping, like patios or retaining walls, carefully, especially any that need careful installation. These considerations greatly impact the aesthetics and longevity of your space.
Planting: Finish your design by incorporating how flowers and greenery will impact your backyard ideas. “Plan your plantings in layers,” he says. For example, you might put evergreens along the foundation, medium-height bloomers in front, and a lower-growing plant along the border.
Backyard design ideas for every style
Kick back with a firepit
Nothing screams summer more than the sound of a crackling campfire. Firepits make perfect focal points in a backyard, so if you want one, consider planning the rest of your landscaping around it. Banken features a boulder fire, which he says “gives a natural rugged look that’s softened by the mulch and ground cover for flooring.”
Hang in a hammock
With a hammock, you don’t need a lot of space to create a relaxing oasis in your backyard. Try placing it in a part of your backyard that already has some shade so you’re not scorching in the sun as you try to relax.
Swing into summertime
Swoop in with nostalgic tree swings. For something so simple, swings make a big impact. If you plan to DIY a swing, make sure the tree is in good health. (That is, avoid trees with signs of decay and dead branches.) As a general rule of thumb, only hang swings from branches that are at least 8–10 inches in diameter.
Plant a fruit and vegetable garden
Skip the trip to the grocery store or farmers’ market by adding a backyard fruit or vegetable garden. For a simple design, consider a few rows of plant beds with gravel walkways between them. Even a novice can start a backyard vegetable garden with a few basic pointers.
Splash in a natural swimming pool
Natural swimming pools use plants and a biological filtration system instead of chemicals to purify water and keep it clean. Basically, it’s like giving nature all the tools it needs to create an ideal (and fully safe) swimming hole, and it means you do less work since you don’t have to constantly monitor chlorine and chemical levels. In addition to their low maintenance, natural swimming can blend almost seamlessly with the rest of your backyard landscaping.
Design a dining area
It doesn’t take much to create an outdoor dining area perfect for a foodie gathering. When planning, consider elements like the number of seats and the style of furniture. Implementing gravel or mulch creates a visual separation between the dining area and the rest of the yard.
Add structure and shade with a pergola
Use a pergola, or a canopy, to separate different areas of your yard. These structures, which can be freestanding or attached to your home, add a roomlike feel to the backyard without compromising fresh air. Think about putting a seating or dining area beneath the structure and dress it up with string lights, flowers, and plants.
Go classic with a bench
If you want seating that’s a little sturdier than a hammock and very weather-resistant, invest in a few benches. Style them next to shrubs or under a canopy of trees or use them to highlight a specific view in your backyard.
Get a greenhouse
Adding a small glass-paneled greenhouse in your backyard means you can grow your favorite plants and flowers all year long, regardless of the weather. With controlled humidity and climate, you can also nurture plants that may not naturally grow well in your area. Plants that grow in a greenhouse may also be spared the wrath of pests that want to ravage your blooms. If you’re planning to include a greenhouse, position it facing the south or the southeastern side of your yard, where it should get the most sunlight.
Incorporate a bench swing
Though bench swings are common porch additions, this doesn’t mean you can’t have one in your backyard as well. There are various prefab bench swing options available, or you could design and build one yourself. Although many bench swings can and do stand alone, you could also consider hanging one from a pergola to achieve that front-porch look.
Upgrade your shed
Just because your shed might be holding dirtier items or tools, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve some TLC. A few layers of paint are all you need for a quick shed makeover. You could also consider adding trim and windows to the structure if it doesn’t already have them. For an extra pop, attach a trellis to an outer wall for climbing vines and plants.
Play with levels
If your yard has a slope, think about the ways you can use this natural element to your advantage. You could add stairs to a hill to make the area more functional, add terraced or tiered plant beds, or even design a waterfall. Optimize different levels in your design to better separate the different areas, like a dining section leading to a firepit below, via stairs.
Plant around your fence
Fences provide a lot of utility in a backyard—whether keeping things out or in. Dress them up by planting flowers or plants along them, which will help them to blend in more effectively with the backyard space. To keep things visually interesting, consider experimenting with texture and weight by mixing an assortment of climbing plants like ivy, climbing roses, or trumpet vines; shrubs like holly, Hydrangea, or lillypilly. Perennial flowers like Japanese anemones or ornamental grasses create an evocative texture.
Use what you already have
You don’t have to start entirely from scratch when designing your backyard landscape. Think about elements you already have. Got a shady nook? Brainstorm how you can make it the most useful backyard space for you. A hammock and a small walkway can transform an empty spot into a retreat for a cool afternoon slumber.
Outdoor sectionals add extra seating
Plan for plenty of seating, especially if you love to entertain. Outdoor sectionals and couches ensure there’s room for everyone and instantly create an elevated look that encompasses outdoor living.
Separate with hardscape
Hardscaping is a part of landscape architecture that is man-made. Creating a border between your hardscape elements, like the patio, and natural elements, like the yard, creates contrast and visual interest.
Garland trees with lights
Decorate your tree with string lights to add a warm glow and enchantment to your outdoor space.
Pavers create walkways
Use concrete pavers and stones to create a serene walkway in the narrow part of your backyard. Surround the austere stone with lush greenery and vegetation, thereby bringing in soothing color and completing the calm atmosphere.
Install an outdoor conversation pit
Conversation pits became popular architectural features in the 1950s and found fame through the 1970s. The built-in seating in a depressed section of a room is an idea that can be transported into a backyard. Create an outdoor version of the midcentury staple with wooden benches, gravel, and a modern firepit.
Luxuriate with in-ground hot tubs
Hot tubs can look clunky and out of place if they’re haphazardly placed into a backyard. An in-ground version, on the other hand, looks like a chic, spalike setup.
Go low-maintenance with mulch
Mulch doesn’t only have to go in your flower beds, especially if you’re a fan of low-maintenance landscaping. Consider using the material in place of a lawn for a no-mow yard.
Decorate your hills
Stone steps and vegetation change a boring, sloped yard into a beautiful, and much more functional, design. Consider planting deep-rooted plants like bugleweed, wintercreeper, or serviceberry when zhuzhing up a hillside.
Draw the eye up with hanging flowers
It can be easy to focus on the ground when designing your backyard garden, but don’t forget that you can hang plants, too. Use hanging baskets or pots to draw the eye up and take advantage of vertical space, which might work particularly well for small backyards with limited square footage.
Cook up an outdoor kitchen
If the pandemic taught us anything it’s that sometimes a grill is just not enough–spring for an outdoor kitchen when it comes to revamping your backyard landscaping design. Think about proximity to gas, water, and electrical hookups as you plan.
Dip into a pool
A pool is the cherry on the cake for a sleek backyard designed with entertainment in mind, Banken says. Use it as the centerpiece and build out. A bar, an outdoor kitchen, a large firepit and lounge area are all design components meant to allow you and your guests to linger.
Disguise your playhouse
Ditch the plastic playpen in favor of a wooden structure designed to blend into the yard. Climbing vines on wooden beams emulate a pergola-covered patio for a backyard that’s as pretty as it is family-friendly.
Create an elegant atmosphere with manicured shrubs and a well-trimmed lawn. Boxwood, Thuja, holly, and myrtle are all common evergreens used for shrub sculptures and designs.
Create a grassy track
Leave a little space between concrete pavers for grass to grow through—think of railroad tracks— for a unique walkway that demands more than a glance.
Relax in a daybed
Daybeds make for luxurious additions to a backyard—perfect for a midday snooze outdoors. Consider placing one next to a water feature like a pool or pond. The trickle of the water will give your backyard the ambience of a resort.
Explore tile in your outdoor space
If your backyard plans include a patio, think about adding outdoor tiles to the space–just look for the nonslip variety. The tile can dictate the backyard style based on the pattern and materials. Terra-cotta gives off a Mediterranean haven, and graphic geometric, on the other hand, is mod.
Incorporate tree logs and branches
For a rustic backyard that gives a nod to nature parks, make a garden path from tree logs in place of concrete or other artificial materials. This give-back-to-nature DIY is especially useful if you have a fallen tree or branch and are looking for a way to put the scrap material to use. Cut the logs into two-inch chunks, and seal with a waterproof wood sealer. Arrange and connect with heavy-duty wood glue where the logs touch.
Find peace with a pond
A backyard pond adds a tranquil element to your landscaping, turning it from a basic plot of land into a relaxing escape. Consider elements like size, style, and whether you want it to be habitable for koi fish, or the like.
Arrange an arbor
For a romantic atmosphere, use a trellis adorned with climbing plants or flowering vines. Stage the arched trellis as an entryway that leads into another section of your backyard, ideally something distinct, like a dining or seating area.
Makeover the expected
We love Adirondack chairs and picnic tables as much as the next person, but if you’re looking to take your backyard to a new level, explore unconventional outdoor furniture options. Alison Douglas, a garden designer from Melbourne, Australia, completely transformed concrete pipes by transforming the cylindrical stone into a garden seating area under a DIY pergola with an adjacent concrete firepit and planters. You can source concrete pipes at Ferguson, a kitchen and bath supplier.
Center your outdoor space with a fountain
Create a focal point in your garden with a fountain. In formal garden designs, fountains are often put in the middle of the outdoor space, at the intersection between two or more paths.
Separate areas with different flooring
If you’ve got a large backyard with distinct areas, try experimenting with different flooring to separate one section from the next. For instance, decorative rocks around the firepit area, smaller stones that work like a rug in the dining area, and turf connecting other parts of the yard. Think of each section like a room in a house. You want sections to have their own feel but a cohesive theme throughout. Once you set up a section, decorate with pieces from these AD-approved outdoor furniture retailers.
Cozy up next to an outdoor fireplace
Not only is an outdoor fireplace perfect for outside living, it may also increase the value of your home. The warmth from the fire means you’ll use your outdoor living space earlier in the spring and later in the fall. Banken constructed a fireplace with a sitting wall to create a separation from the planting bed and provide additional seating.
A gazebo adds functionality and charm
A gazebo adds to your backyard design by having a designated spot for a tête-à-tête. Whether you purchase one or DIY, this sitting area is sure to impress.
Build a tree house
Who said a treehouse is just for kids? Guests will be looking up to your savvy use of this childhood staple in your backyard design. Before getting started, think about how you’ll use the space. Transform the play area into an adult-friendly enclave with pillows, throws, or even a movie projector.
Smell the roses
It’s hard to deny that roses create a uniquely dreamy environment, and the rose garden of your fantasy isn’t as distant a possibility as it may seem. Plant the bushes around a gazebo, or a fence that gives these beauties a place to climb. Roses need well-ventilated and warm conditions and at least six hours of sunshine per day. For expert tips, take a peek at our rose garden tutorial.
Romance the stone
The warm tones of natural stone add softness, making the backyard an inviting, cozy, outdoor space. For a contemporary spin, use stone in your garden to create built-in seating and flower beds. It also happens to contrast with some panache against moodier, minimalist, concrete steps.
Section off a formal garden
Formal gardens—think castles and royal palaces—are often well-balanced, symmetrical, and full of paths leading from one section to the next. Sometimes called classical gardens, they’re actually pretty simple to design in your own backyard, too. For a starter design, use two intersecting paths to divide your yard into four quadrants with one central area. Employ balance by planting the same flowers and plants in each section.
Modern gardens tend to rely heavily on hardscape elements like paths and patios, instead of plants and flowers. Make use of man-made materials like concrete with metal or wood accents. In terms of style, especially when it comes to outdoor furniture, focus on clean lines, geometric shapes, and uncluttered design.
Play up the prairie lifestyle
If you’re into cottagecore, plant a whimsical garden that looks like it came straight out of the English countryside. One of the easiest ways to create that wild, colorful aesthetic that’s a staple of the cottagecore design ethos is through the use of native plants: flowers, grasses, and greenery that grow naturally without human intervention. By planting them in your yard, not only are they sure to flourish but they create that perfect prairie vibe. To find the native plants best suited for your area, google “the name of your city + native plants.”
Bridge the gap
Garden bridges hide the flaws in backyards with uneven terrain. For an extra zing, paint the bridge red, to evoke the Japanese tea garden. The overpass can also work as part of a rainscape design to manage stormwater runoff. Either way, if you’re not 100% confident in your construction abilities, hire a professional or a landscape contractor for a safe installation.
Feature floating steps
Outdoor floating steps mix practicality with a sleek, modern look. The open space between the steps will give the rest of the entryway a sense of airiness. Interlocked, oversized concrete slabs take stairs from drab to dazzling design.
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest