The best backyard ideas: 18 ways to create a gorgeous outdoor space

On the hunt for the best backyard ideas? Get inspired by our favourite design and landscaping schemes

Backyard ideas: pergola at dusk with outdoor sofas and lighting
(Image credit: Unsplash/Randy Fath)

If you're looking for inspiring backyard ideas, we're here to help. Sure, designing your interior space is quite a lot of fun, but whether your backyard is in California or Connecticut, it provides an entirely different sort of blank canvas. 

It might be difficult to know where to start when it comes to conjuring up landscaping ideas, so we’re here to lend a helping hand, sharing some intriguing ideas to implement into your outdoor space. While some are perfect for DIYers and don’t require much more than a little elbow grease, others are a little more hands-on and should be left to the professionals (ahem, like installing a pool). But before you get as far as picking out a contractor, peruse these ideas for inspiration then head over to our garden design ideas for even more advice. 

1. Plant a vegetable garden

raised bed with veg growing

(Image credit: Unsplash/Jonathan Hanna)

For those with a green thumb – or a penchant for using home-grown ingredients in the kitchen – planting a vegetable garden is a productive use of your backyard. If you don’t have the space for long rows of carrots, tomatoes, squash, lettuce, or any other sort of produce, consider creating a small herb garden or building a raised planter like the one picture. As a bonus, it’ll smell delightful! 

2. Set up an area for outdoor dining

Colourful outdoor dining space with string lights and lanterns

(Image credit: Anthropologie)

If you’re a fan of entertaining, an outdoor dining area is a must. Keep things simple and practical with a picnic table, or go all-out with a bohemian-style set-up, like this one styled by Anthropologie (we’re a fan of the Woven Bistro Dining Chairs seen here, which are totally weatherproof). While you might want to keep your dining area on a hard surface like a patio or terrace, you can also set up your table right on the grass. Barefoot dinner party in the summertime, anyone?

3. Go floral

patio space with colourful flowerbeds

(Image credit: Unsplash/Ben Ashby)

Flowers are one of the easiest ways to add vibrancy to your backyard. You can keep your garden neat and orderly, or you can let loose and let your plants grow a little wild for a more untamed look. Either way, flowers are certainly a mood booster! Just make sure you pick varieties that grow best in your particular climate for the most success.

4. Create a seating area around a fire pit

backyard space with fire pit and outdoor seating

(Image credit: Unsplash/Stephen Leonardi)

Fire pits can be enjoyed throughout the year, from summertime s’mores cookouts to cozy winter stargazing sessions. Ring your fire pit with some kind of seating, whether that’s log benches for a rustic look or Adirondack chairs for lounging.

5. Make a splash with a pool

large outdoor swimming pool with sun loungers and a parasol

(Image credit: Unsplash/Dimitri Houtteman)

Of course, it’s easier said than done to install a pool! You’ll have to put in quite a bit of labor and money to build and maintain one, but nothing beats having a place to take a refreshing dip when the weather’s warm. If you're planning a complete backyard transformation with lots of landscaping work, this is the perfect time to incorporate a pool into your designs.

6. Install a water feature

Two colourful garden chairs in front of a water feature

(Image credit: The Citizenry)

If an entire pool isn’t on the cards for you, you can still enjoy a water feature like a fountain, a pond, or even a well-designed hot tub, like the one shown here. Don’t forget to create a lovely seating area nearby to take in the soothing sounds: the chairs here are from The Citizenry – its new Aldama Chair provides a similar look.

7. Keep things a little wild

wild backyard in America

(Image credit: Unsplash/Louis Prowe)

Not every backyard needs to be impeccably manicured! In fact, we love taking a walk on the wild side by letting nature do its thing (within reason, of course). Keep things rustic with a rough-hewn fence, and maybe throw a few antique pieces in for added charm, just like the weathered door frame at the entrance to the garden here.

8. Build a patio for your grill

American backyard with outdoor grill, lounger and dining area

(Image credit: Pixabay/Midascode)

Nothing says summertime like a good old-fashioned barbecue. But grills are actually great to use year-round – create a patio for yours to enjoy your outdoor kitchen space throughout the seasons. Set up a casual dining space next to it and you've got the perfect outdoor entertaining space for family and friends. 

9. Set up a pergola for some shade

large pergola with comfy seating and outdoor lighting

(Image credit: Unsplash/Randy Fath)

Just look at this outdoor lounge! It’s absolutely magnificent. Even if you’re not going all out with curtains and string lights, you should consider building a pergola or a gazebo to create a shaded sitting area in your backyard. Add a spacious outdoor sofa and ramp up the comfort factor with blankets and cushions for lazy evenings outdoors. 

10. Keep things tidy with a shed

large painted garden shed

(Image credit: Pixabay/Manfred Antranias Zimmer)

As any apartment dweller knows, storage space is key! But that also applies to houses with large backyards. Keep your gardening and landscaping supplies neatly tucked away in a shed, which doubles as a lovely focal point for your backyard. Paint the exterior in your choice of color to add some extra personality to your outdoor space. 

11. Kick back and relax in an Adirondack chair

three Adirondack chairs in a garden overlooking the ocean

(Image credit: Pixabay/Peter Benoit)

One of the simplest additions to a backyard, an Adirondack chair is perfect for sitting, reading, sipping a cocktail, or gazing at the landscape. Bonus points if your backyard has an incredible view, like the waterfront yard shown here!

12. Upgrade your fire pit to a fireplace

outdoor fireplace on a large paved terrace with garden seating

(Image credit: Pixabay/Davinder Sangha)

Take your backyard fire feature to the next level by building a full-out outdoor fireplace. It has a bit less rustic appeal than an old-school pit, but we’re loving these upgraded vibes. It's worth the investment if you want guaranteed warmth in your backyard, whatever the time of year.

13. Set up an outdoor bar

Large outdoor kitchen and bar area in a garden space

(Image credit: Pixabay/Toddpharistx)

While outdoor dining spaces are grand, outdoor bars are ideal for entertainers who like to be the life of the party. While you can keep things easy (and DIY-able) by simply installing a bar surface and lining it with chairs, you can also go all-out with plumbing for a wet bar, plus electricity for a mini-fridge. Your guests will thank you.

14. Achieve peak indoor/outdoor living with a waterproof TV

outdoor room with comfy sofas and waterproof TV on the wall

(Image credit: Pixabay/Andre Casti)

Level up your outdoor lounge not with a fireplace, not with a grill, but with an outdoor TV. If you’re big into celebrating game day, this is a must-have for your backyard. Be warned – friends will always want to party at your place if you have this setup.

15. Use planters for your flowers

Trio of large planters with red tulips

(Image credit: Elle Meager)

If you don’t want to worry about managing an entire garden, you can still enjoy blossoms and blooms – just use a few strategically placed planters for your flowers, like gardener Elle Meager, founder of Outdoor Happens, has done here. One of the upsides of this strategy is that if you move, it’s far easier to take your plants with you!

16. Let your plants climb a trellis

arch with plants growing over it

(Image credit: Derek Gaughan)

Riffing on the idea of planters, you can also install a climbing trellis and let your plants create a lovely entryway to your backyard, patio or deck.  You can buy a pre-made trellis from a hardware or gardening store, or you can put one together yourself. As for choosing your climbing plants, there’s a wide variety out there, so you’ll have to do a little research to pick your favorite. Derek Gaughan, owner of both Prince Gardening, whose trellis is featured here, suggests clematis, abutilon, nasturtium, Thunbergia alata, Cobaea scandens, Ipomoea, or petunias.

17. Install a deck

Decked terrace with spiral staircase leading to a upper deck

(Image credit: Lindus Construction)

A deck doesn’t have to just be a simple wooden attachment to your home. Just take a look at this impressive double-decker example by Lindus Construction, which makes for a great entertaining or lounge space.

18. Set up a tent

large bell tent with living area inside it

(Image credit: Life in Tents)

Tents aren’t just for camping. Set one up in your backyard as an extra guest room, a spare office space, or a playroom for the kids. Life in Tents sells models like the one shown here, but it also rents them out if you just want to test the waters. We think it's perfect for creating an instant staycation vibe in your backyard. 

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