Backyard ideas: 29 ways to create a stunning outdoor space
On the lookout for new backyard ideas? We've put together plenty of design and landscaping schemes to get you inspired
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Are you searching for new backyard ideas to give your outdoor space a lift? It could be that you're starting completely afresh with a plot, or maybe it's simply time to update what you already have. Whatever the case, there are tons of styling and design possibilities to consider.
With the right choices, you can create a space that's perfect for you – whether that's a cozy extension of your home for entertaining and relaxing, a lush garden full of your favorite flowers, a modern setup that all the family can enjoy, or something in-between. It might seem tricky to know where to start, but we're here to lend a hand by sharing plenty of stunning ways to implement the latest looks.
From backyard landscaping ideas to planting schemes, there's something for all sizes and styles of plots, and all different budgets. And while some are perfect for DIYers and don't require much more than a bit of elbow grease, others are a little more hands-on and should be left to the professionals (like installing a pool).
Transform your outdoor space with the help of these 29 backyard ideas
Ready to give your plot a makeover? You're bound to find something you love in this round-up of backyard garden ideas.
1. Cook up a storm with an outdoor kitchen
Cooking outdoors is a joy – whether you're grilling up barbecued goodies on one of the best gas grills or hosting a pizza night with one of the best pizza ovens. But to really impress your guests (and make your life easier), consider going one step further by adding a fridge, sleek worktops, and even a sink – in other words, a fully-functional outdoor kitchen.
Set up a casual dining space next to it and you've got the perfect outdoor entertaining zone for family and friends – just like in this chic decked example.
2. Opt for low-maintenance gravel in your garden
Landscaping with gravel has tons of benefits, making it a great option to consider when planning new backyard ideas.
First of all, it tends to be much cheaper than paving or decking. And it's easier and quicker to install, too. It's also good for absorbing rainwater, so can help prevent your backyard from flooding.
But that's not all – gravel is also surprisingly complementary to all sorts of garden schemes – from contemporary to classic. Here, it's used to form a patio area and pathway down to a summer house, and with the addition of the modern furniture, it looks laid-back yet certainly stylish.
3. Create a chic industrial vibe with hardscaping materials
True, there's quite a bit of labor and money involved to build and maintain a pool, but it's worth it. Nothing beats having a place to take a refreshing dip when the weather's warm.
If you're planning a complete outdoor transformation with lots of landscaping work, this is the perfect time to incorporate the latest backyard pool ideas into your design. Or, for something a little different, consider a natural pool – they're less maintenance, chemical-free, and are great if you're after a more organic effect.
When it comes to pool landscaping, there are all kinds of approaches you can take. Here, the space follows a contemporary, industrial theme, with plenty of pale gray, concrete, and sleek lines, softened by ornamental grasses.
4. Disguise a slope with boulders
Love a more natural look for your backyard? Then landscaping with boulders may well be the way forward. It'll instantly give your plot a more rugged, organic aesthetic, especially when softened by wilder-style planting.
Here, an array of stacked stones and boulders are used to form a rockery that disguises the steep slope. With the addition of greenery dotted throughout, it provides a stylish backdrop for the freeform-shaped pool.
5. Build a covered patio
If you need a little break from the hot sun, a patio cover will offer a sheltered space for relaxation. Just make sure you include some seating in order to be able to fully enjoy that shade.
We love the elegant look of this setup, off the bedroom of a guest house in Monte Sereno, California, by Kendall Wilkinson Design (opens in new tab). It beautifully complements the contemporary scheme. Bonus points for the large glass door that embodies that indoor-outdoor mentality.
There are all kinds of alternatives you can try – from parasols to enclosed patios.
6. Opt for a sunken seating area
Split-level patios are perfect for making the most of a slightly-awkward shaped plot. But it's also a great method to zone a backyard into distinct areas.
Here, a sunken seating area provides a cozy, sheltered nook away from the house. Tall, built-in planters surround the sides, boosting a feeling of privacy. We like the herringbone paver pattern used here too, which adds another layer of visual interest.
7. Design a sociable layout around your pool
An open-plan layout for your pool patio is a great way to keep things feeling social.
This area has tons to get inspired by, from the hot tub with its soothing spillover, the pool's baja shelf fit for catching the sun's rays amongst cool water, and the covered dining and kitchen area for post-swim snacks.
Note the outdoor shower on the far wall too, a practical addition for rinsing off before jumping in the pool. And that pale paving underfoot beautifully complements the exterior of the home and ties in with the garden furniture.
Overall, it's the perfect base for a pool party, or just relaxing with a good book.
8. Lead the way with a stepping stone path
Creating a stepping stone walkway has to be one of our favorite backyard ideas with pavers. It immediately adds a sense of fun to a garden and can be designed in all sorts of ways to fit the scheme.
For instance, in this contemporary yard, sleek, rectangular slabs are used to form a neat path to a small, paved seating zone. The grass spilling over from one side adds an element of softness to the look.
But, for more laid-back schemes, you could create a more winding pathway, or use irregular shapes and sizes of slabs. You could even use slices of logs for a budget backyard idea that's full of whimsical charm.
9. Line your plot with jungle-like plants
Create a jungle-inspired oasis in your backyard to make you feel as if you're in some far-flung destination. Ferns and tree ferns are great choices, but you'll find plenty more top picks in our guide to the best tropical garden plants.
We love the leafy fronds surrounding this sectional sofa from a project published in Urban Oasis: Tranquil Outdoor Spaces at Home (opens in new tab). Naturally, you can complete the vibe with on-theme backyard garden decor ideas like these cushions, and perhaps a fruity drink in hand.
10. Add plenty of backyard lighting
If you plan on having an entertaining area in your yard, take the time to consider outdoor lighting ideas. Not only will they help guide you and your guests around your space, but they can also do wonders at showing off your landscaping and plants when night falls.
This patio shown above is a great example. Modern wall lights frame the back door to illuminate surrounding foliage, adding show-stopping drama. Meanwhile, a series of lanterns offer a more relaxed, cozy ambiance that's perfect for the seating zone.
11. Create a seating area around a fire pit
The best fire pits can be enjoyed throughout the year, from summertime s'mores cookouts to cozy winter stargazing sessions. And there are tons of designs to choose from, as our fire pit ideas feature shows.
To make the most of yours as the evening draws in, surround it with some kind of seating, whether that's log benches for a rustic look, a cozy corner sofa, or Adirondack chairs for lounging. We love how this one takes center stage in a smart sunken seating area – it makes the perfect mood-boosting focal point.
12. Or, upgrade your fire pit to a fireplace
If you want to take your backyard ideas to the next level, then consider building an outdoor fireplace. It has less of the rustic appeal of an old-school fire pit, but is a winning choice if you're after an impressive statement that plays a big role in your landscaping scheme.
We're head-over-heels with this design, complete with symmetrical log storage and surrounded by luxe corner sofas. Sure, it might be on the more expensive side of things, but it's worth the investment if you want guaranteed warmth in your backyard whatever the time of year.
13. Divide a patio with a covered outdoor living area
We're big fans of this sleek setup: it's definitely a space for outdoor living in style.
It's a functional and stylish way to break up a stretch of paving and provides a hub for cooking, relaxing, socializing over drinks, and catching up with your favorite TV show alfresco.
What's more, with the extended roof keeping off rain showers and the hot midday sun, the zone can be used comfortably all year round. You could add a patio heater for extra warmth when the temperatures drop.
14. Add a pond to your garden
A pool of water adds a sense of tranquility to any yard, whether you keep it simple with some lily pads or you upgrade to a koi pond for the ultimate Zen vibe. And they don't have to be expensive – in fact, you can even learn how to build a garden pond with our practical guide.
Keep in mind that stagnant water can attract mosquitoes, so you'll want to add something that'll keep the water flowing, like a waterfall or a small fountain. The sounds will simply add to the soothing effect of your backyard pond, plus it'll help to keep algae at bay, too.
15. Terrace your backyard
Looking for sloping garden ideas? Try incorporating terraces to create level surfaces for you to landscape. These can then be used to plant gardens, build an entertaining area, or even install a pool if you have the space.
It even works for smaller plots – just take a look at this smart arrangement of rockery-style raised beds that sit neatly alongside decked steps. You can also use natural-looking boulders to build your retaining walls, or you could try something more formal like bricks or textured concrete blocks.
16. Zone the space
It can be useful to zone areas in your garden for different purposes and features. For instance, you might like a sheltered seating space near the house, an office building tucked at the bottom of the plot for maximum peace and quiet, and a lawn for the kids to run around.
Considering this as you plan your backyard makeover will enable you to make the most of your space, and makes it easier to decide how to lay out pathways and landscaping. In this yard above, for instance, different groundcover materials and levels are used to subtly define the different areas. The result is one that's clean and considered. There are other garden divider ideas to try too – our feature has plenty to peruse.
17. Plant a vegetable garden
For those with a green thumb – or a penchant for using home-grown ingredients in the kitchen – planting some edible crops is a super-rewarding and productive use of your backyard.
Raised garden beds are ideal for easy maintenance and always look smart. Or, if you're a little short on space, there are plenty of veggies that will happily grow in containers. And there are lots of varieties to try that will add a splash of vibrancy to your yard as well as being tasty – think rainbow chard, tomatoes, or squash, for example.
18. Set up an area for outdoor dining
Gathering around a table of good food out in the fresh air is one of life's simplest yet greatest pleasures. And with the right outdoor dining ideas, every alfresco meal can feel like a special occasion – whether it's an intimate dinner with friends or a big brunch with all the family.
Keep things simple and practical with a picnic table, or go all-out with a bohemian-style setup, like this one above. Be sure to add plenty of soft glowy lighting for evening ambiance – whether that's a simple scattering of tealights, a string of festoons overhead, or hanging pendants.
Our buying guide to the best outdoor furniture has lots of brilliant dining space picks to help you get started.
19. Install a raised deck
Decking provides a stable base for outdoor furniture, is great for hilly plots, and looks smart too. Plus, if you go for composite designs, it's super low maintenance.
This impressive, elevated example makes for a great entertaining or lounge space. It's a perfect backyard idea for families, as there's plenty of room for everyone to spread out and relax, and parents can easily keep an eye on the pool down below, too.
20. Go floral
Flowers are one of the easiest ways to add vibrancy to your backyard ideas. And they can offer so much character to a space, too. From modern planting schemes that mix architectural blooms with textural foliage to soft billowing borders that are perfect for cottage garden themes, it's worth thinking carefully about the effect you want to achieve.
Consider a color scheme too – picking a tonal palette will help to give your backyard a sense of harmony, like in this beautiful example shown above.
Just make sure you pick varieties that grow best in your particular climate for the most success – our guides on shade loving plants and the best drought tolerant plants will come in useful.
21. Install a water feature
If an entire pool isn't on the cards, you can still enjoy adding a stunning water feature to your backyard.
A fountain is a great way to boost a space – not only do they look beautiful but also the sound of trickling water is super relaxing. And there are tons of designs to choose from so you can be sure that there's one that's perfect for your theme.
Don't forget to create a lovely seating area nearby to take in the soothing view.
22. Keep things a little wild
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), and opting for rustic materials.
One way to do this is to plan meandering pathways made from cobbles or red brick, which will offer a vintage charm and only look better as they age. Line with borders full of tall, structural planting – think ornamental grasses and vibrant verbena, as used in this display. The result will have an enchantingly organic feel and pollinators will love it.
You can add to the theme with a rough-hewn garden fence, and maybe throw a few upcycled and antique pieces into the mix, too. If you're looking for wildlife garden ideas, you could let areas of your lawn grow freely, plant wildflower seeds, or introduce a nature pond, too.
23. Set up a pergola for some shade
Louvered designs are a great choice if you're considering pergola ideas as they can be easily adjusted, letting you control the amount of shelter and shade as and when needed.
This design gives a paved seating space a real sense of definition. And it looks the part too – we love how it ties together with the furniture due to the sleek lines and on-trend gray hue. The border of flowers is a lovely finishing touch.
Look out for designs that have built-in lighting and even heating for all-weather enjoyment. Alternatively, even a simple wooden design can be elevated with swags of outdoor string lights.
24. Keep things tidy with a shed
As any apartment dweller knows, storage space is key. And that also applies to large and small backyards. So, consider keeping your gardening and landscaping supplies neatly tucked away in a shed, which doubles as a lovely focal point.
A shed can also be a bonus room (think she shed, man cave, art studio, or an in-law suite!). Colorado-based company Studio Shed (opens in new tab) builds stylish sheds that are designed just for this purpose. There are a number of prefab designs from which to choose from, each of which has customizable options.
25. Set up an outdoor bar
While outdoor dining spaces are grand, on-trend outdoor bar ideas 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. Pop it by the pool for ultimate vacation vibes – your guests will thank you.
26. Achieve peak indoor-outdoor living with a TV
Level up your outdoor living space with a TV. If you're big into celebrating game day, this is a must-have for your backyard ideas.
Position it in your seating area and fire up the BBQ nearby. Be warned – friends will always want to party at your place if you have this setup.
27. Use planters for your flowers
If you don't want to worry about managing an entire garden, you can still enjoy blossoms and blooms by opting for container gardening ideas instead. Use a few strategically placed planters for your flowers, like gardener Elle Meager, founder of Outdoor Happens (opens in new tab), 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.
28. Let your plants climb a trellis
Riffing on the idea of planters, you can also install trellis ideas for gardens and let your plants create a lovely entryway or screen for 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 the best 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 Prince Gardening (opens in new tab), suggests clematis, abutilon, nasturtium, Thunbergia alata, Cobaea scandens, ipomoea, or petunias.
29. Relax with an outdoor spa
Not every backyard is big enough for a pool–hot tub combination, but a standalone hot tub can be squeezed in almost anywhere. They're a fun backyard gadget to use all year round, whether you're staying nice and warm under the bubbles during the winter or enjoying a soothing soak after a bonfire during the summer.
And don't worry about your hot tub being an eyesore – there are many ways you can camouflage them so that they fit in well with your landscape design. Our hot tub privacy ideas feature has plenty of chic ways to screen them (and anyone using them) from view.
What do you need to consider when planning the planting for your backyard?
'To create a garden you can enjoy year-round, consider a variety of plants that will stagger interest and color throughout the year,' suggests Matt Fieldwick, head gardener at Terlingham Gardens by property developer Pentland Homes (opens in new tab).
'Virburnum opulus, for example, has white flowers in late spring/early summer, followed by clusters of red berries in autumn. Hydrangeas and crab apple trees are also great year-round plants.
'Creating a garden planner can be a nice way to spend an afternoon pondering over plants to bring outdoor spaces to life and track your garden's blooms throughout the year,' Matt continues. 'I'd also always recommend taking before and after photographs of your garden makeover projects to show your hard work and progression and to remember your favorite plants.'
Matt also suggests thinking about using plants for privacy. 'For many, gardens to the front or even the back of the house might have an open feel, that can leave you feeling overlooked by neighbors. No matter how much you may get along, sometimes privacy becomes a priority. Screens, hedging, and trellis, available at most garden centers, are an easy way to not only create separate zones to the garden but also to provide seclusion.' We've rounded up the best screening plants in our useful guide to help you get started.
Marcus Eyles, Horticultural Director at Dobbies (opens in new tab), also shares his advice when it comes to planting your backyard – especially if yours is on the smaller side. 'Small gardens can become easily overcrowded, so before you introduce any plant or shrub, be sure to check its eventual size and determine how much of the area it will occupy when fully grown.
'Don’t be afraid to experiment with different heights and textures but try to keep colors of both your plants and pots complementary and of a similar palette to avoid the space looking too busy,' he adds.
More top tips for planning a backyard
'Planning is an important part of any garden project, but never more so than in landscaping, which can be difficult to reverse,' says Marcus Eyles. 'Before you begin, make sure you have taken the time to create a really detailed plan. The best way to avoid mistakes or mishaps is to ensure your plan includes measurements that will keep you on track when you begin.' You can get the full lowdown on common landscaping mistakes (and how to avoid them) in our dedicated guide.
In terms of hard landscaping, Samuel Moore, garden designer and Director of Consilium Hortus (opens in new tab), recommends to 'use paving which is as large as possible to maximize the feel of the space; the larger the tile, the larger the space will feel.' He adds: 'Going alongside this I would always recommend using porcelain paving too,' – this gives a sleek finish and is incredibly durable.
Samuel also recommends always creating function within the spaces you design. 'Whether this is creating a dining area, evening lounging area, or a bistro-style zone, always ensure there's a reason to use the space.
'Think about the size of the furniture you want to use from the start of the project,' Samuel adds. 'If it's not a good fit you won't want to use it!'
The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion.
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