By Sarah Wilson
If you're on the lookout for gorgeous garden water feature ideas, you're in the right place. From simple basin styles, eye-catching water walls, sculptural designs or simply a pond, you can be sure there's a look that's got your name on it.
There are plenty of reasons why water features are a fantastic addition to your garden design ideas. First of all, they add a multitude of sensory benefits. There's the stunning sight and cooling touch, as well as the soothing sound of trickling water, which can help to muffle traffic noise. Second, water features are great for wildlife and will attract beneficial insects and birds to your garden, to give it an extra dose of life and color.
Finally, they're an instant way to bring a decorative focal point to a yard. And, as Jonny Brierley, CEO of Moda Furnishings says, 'adding decorative pieces to your garden is just as important as adding artwork to your living space.'
Water feature ideas: 15 stunning designs
We've gathered together some of our favorite water feature ideas below. There's something for every style of plot, so you're bound to find one that suits your space.
1. Add a modern backdrop to your dining zone
An outdoor dining area can be instantly lifted with a water wall backdrop. Popular in contemporary plots, these features add a sculptural accent and soothing movement, plus they shimmer beautifully as they capture the light.
You can opt for bespoke, integrated versions as part of your garden wall ideas, but for a slightly more affordable option, go for an off-the-peg panel which can be positioned against your boundary. Or, you could use it as a stunning way to divide different zones in your space.
We love how this design has been paired with a rustic brick wall and berry-toned blooms and tableware for a well-balanced scene.
2. Make a statement with black dye and pale paving
This striking set-up is part of a sleek outdoor living, relaxing, and entertaining space designed by Consilium Hortus.
The minimal hardscaping strikes a beautiful contrast against the organic forms of hot-hued planting. And note how the rill, dyed an inky black, adds an additional sense of drama when juxtaposed against the pale paving and feature wall.
Not only is it a sophisticated focal point, it's an integral feature of the plot's layout: what's not shown in this image is the way it extends to cleverly separate a covered seating area from a dining zone.
3. Go for a textural sphere
If you're looking to add some extra magic to your flowerbeds, then statement water feature ideas could be the way forward.
The design above has a textural leaf pattern, which creates a pleasing visual effect as the water tumbles across it and into the pool below. The water is then recycled, returning to the top of the structure in a continuous soothing cycle.
Lavender will add to the sensory appeal, offering a relaxing fragrance to the zone. The purple hue and silvery foliage prettily complement the zinc metal of the central structure, too. You can learn how to grow lavender with our useful guide.
4. Try a playful waterfall design
Stainless-steel water feature ideas like this are sure to catch everyone's attention and be a talking point amongst guests. And the sculptural nature will offer a sense of play to any border or lawn.
What's more, in this design, the pump can be adjusted to change the effect of the water's flow. You could soften the look by placing larger rocks and planting around its edges, or keep the surroundings minimal for an unmistakably modern vibe.
5. Add a wave
Add vertical interest to your patio or courtyard with a waved water feature like this one. The gentle curve will only enhance the serene effect. And, it doesn't take up much floorspace either, so is perfect if you're looking for small garden ideas.
Pair with modern modular furniture and paving or decking in tones of gray for a pared-down yet certainly chic scene.
6. Embrace a whimsical style with a bird bath
Bird baths are a lovely way to welcome in wildlife, and can make a gorgeous focal point too. This stone design has been given center stage to great effect, with cobbled paving, neatly-clipped hedge borders and billowing lavender all adding to the romantic and timeless look. You could also position a bench or bistro set nearby for a quiet place to sit and take in the view.
Of course, there are plenty of more modern designs if a traditional look isn't your thing – our bird bath ideas gallery has something for everyone.
7. Light it up
You can't beat the combination of light and water to create a focal point in the garden. Many water feature designs now have integral LEDs, and some even come with changing cycles you can control with a remote.
This plug-in design has a warm white LED that gives the water a magical glow and can be displayed outdoors all year round. Pair it with other outdoor lighting ideas, such as softly-lit lanterns or twinkling festoons, for an enchanting nighttime atmosphere.
8. Add some zen
A gentle cascade of water will add tranquillity to your outdoor space, creating a soothing backdrop that's perfect for unwinding at the end of the day. For this reason, a water feature is a fabulous addition if you're considering Zen garden ideas for your backyard.
This look combines a cool reflective pool in smooth, hand cast concrete with a polished metal scupper that channels a flow of falling water. The concrete and metal combine to create interesting reflections as light plays over their surfaces.
9. Choose a classic look
If your plot is a wild and romantic space rather than a clipped and contemporary courtyard garden, choose a water feature that adds to this effect.
A water tank style looks great and is good for attracting wildlife too. Go for something that looks like it has been sourced from an architectural salvage yard, like this distressed verdigris-effect design, which even comes with the date 1776 etched onto it.
Instead of metal it's made of lightweight fibreglass, making it simple to install or move. But, you would have to get up pretty close to the antique-style detailing to realize it's not the real thing.
10. Draw the eye with a sculptural piece
A symmetrical, 12-tiered design such as this one will enchant any onlooker. And it lights up, too. Finished with a Corten steel effect, it offers an antique, old-world vibe – we think it would look fantastic surrounded by architectural foliage.
An off-the-shelf design like this is easy to set up. All you need to do is connect it to a power supply to add a whole new dimension to a forgotten corner of the garden.
11. Try a Corten steel bowl
If you like to keep things simple for a low-maintenance garden, choose a shallow bowl-style water feature that looks good and, even better, requires no input from you. Garden accessories in Corten steel are a real look at the moment and the finish gets even better as it weathers in.
This pared-down design above works well in both modern and country gardens and is available in six different sizes, so there's one to suit every space.
12. Introduce a quirky touch
Maybe you want to boost the fun factor of your backyard. Well, there are plenty of water feature ideas that will do just that. From lizards, lions or – as seen above – fish, to statues of people pouring water from never-emptying vessels, novel designs like this will instantly add character and charm to a plot.
Some can be attached to a wall, whilst others can be added to a pond, offering an extra dimension. Go with something which brings you joy, and it will become a well-loved factor of your garden for many years to come.
13. Go for a chic-yet-minimal water table
A low-key water table like this one is great for adding a bit more pizzazz to your patio. And as it's minimal in design, it will complement all kinds of contemporary surroundings. You can find more modern garden ideas in our guide.
If a water feature is positioned near an area where you relax, it's important to choose one with sound effects that you like. Do you find the trickle of water created by a particular style soothing? Or might it eventually get on your nerves? Many companies now include a video of the sound effects on their website so you can listen in and don't even have to leave your sofa to make your choice.
14. Choose an elegant pond
A traditional garden pond creates a focal point in your garden that will be loved by all. And the local wildlife will appreciate it too. The water will mirror the movement of branches and clouds to add a reflective element that is calming, while birds will like to splash in it.
A round shape adds a classic detail to your garden design that always looks smart. Square and rectangular designs can be fabulous too – take this design for instance, which is elevated even further with a stepping stone pathway across the surface.
Looking for more garden pond ideas? There's plenty to get you inspired in our feature.
15. Recreate a Mediterranean vibe with a classical look
Don't have plans to visit the Med any time soon? You can do the next best thing and bring the vibe to your garden. Add the soothing sounds of an Italian courtyard with a classically inspired fountain – it'll make the perfect soundtrack to an afternoon on one of the best sun loungers.
Choose an easy-to-install, low-maintenance option in cast stone to create an elegant focal point. Surround with more Mediterranean garden ideas and then pour yourself a nice glass of chilled fizz – you'll instantly feel like you're on holiday.
Where should you position a water feature?
In terms of water feature placement, Jonny Brierley, CEO of Moda Furnishings, recommends 'placing them by the side of a walkway or even in the center of your garden as this creates a focal point.' Take the gorgeous design below for example. The simple circular pool is placed centerstage and informs the surrounding layout, from the curve of built-in benches to the sweeping borders beyond.
Of course, it really depends on the size and structure of your feature and the sort of look you're going for though. A small, sculptural design tucked amongst billowing planting can create an enchanting point of interest as part of your flowerbed ideas. On the other hand, a sleek modern look might work better with less around it.
However, there are some other things to bear in mind. As mentioned, you'll want to take the sound on board – you might like having it close to your seating space, or you might find that positioning it further away is more relaxing. If it's powered by an electrical pump, it'll need to be near an outdoor plug. And think twice before placing a water feature beneath a tree, otherwise you'll have to spend time fishing out leaves.
What do you need for a small water feature?
Most self-contained water feature styles use recycled water, so you won't need to hook them up to any plumbing. All you have to do is top up the water occasionally.
In terms of power, some designs, or at least their pump, will need to be plugged into an outdoor electrical socket that has been safely installed. So, bear this in mind when planning where to put your feature, as mentioned above. You can also find solar-powered models which are great if you're looking to be more sustainable (and they're also low-maintenance). Why not add some of the best solar lights to your yard, too?
Every water feature is different, but the basic principles of how they work are the same. They all have some sort of pond or reservoir to collect water (even if it's hidden underground) and then, if there's a fountain involved, they'll be a pump and tubing to circulate it through the design, too. In fact, it's not too difficult to make one yourself if you're feeling creative and have some DIY skills up your sleeve.
Sarah Wilson has been a lifestyle journalist for many years, writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, as well as Country Homes & Interiors and Modern Gardens magazines.
Her own (small urban) garden is a work in progress - so many ideas, not enough space to cram them in. Hero plants include her ever growing collection of ornamental grasses, black bamboo and ferns, and the perennials like salvias and penstemons that come back reliably year after year. All very restrained though when in fact she'd love to pack her garden with gaudy dahlias and giant cannas, so these are top of her wish list for what to grow next.
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