Whether you’re throwing steaks on the grill, hosting a flag football game, or relaxing with friends by a cozy fire, a well-thought out backyard design can create a wonderful place for entertaining. Not only is it refreshing to get outdoors, but a backyard outdoor patio can also serve as an extension of your home. Here are a few things to consider when getting started with your backyard design.
Consider the Number of People
Are you designing a small, private space for your family to enjoy or are you planning large gatherings? Designing for five people or 50 people is a big difference in how you tackle a space and how much space you’ll need.
Designing flexible spaces that serve a dual-purpose can be a good way to leave room for extra guests without looking empty without them.
Also, be sure to consider the overall size of your backyard. Some people like the idea of designing out every square inch of their backyard while others enjoy the look of a fresh, green lawn.
Backyards can serve a wide variety of different purposes and are designed based on these activities. Not sure what exactly to use your space for? Here are a few ideas for ways to make the most of your backyard oasis:
Add a dining table onto a patio or under a pergola to create the perfect outdoor dining space. You can even hand string lights from the rafters for a truly picturesque evening. Use it for large gatherings or special nights under the stars with your family. [
Use a projection screen and a wall of your house for a fun at-home movie night. Lay out blankets and pillows onto the grass or a patio and serve bowls of popcorn or candy!
Design spaces where water fun could happen. Consider a hill for a slip-&-slide or a safe zone for a kiddie pool.
Use raised planter beds to design a wonderful herb garden that you can use in the kitchen. Some of the most popular herbs grown at home includes basil, rosemary, thyme, lavender, and mint. Check out this aerogarden kit for a small scale indoor garden.
Use flowering shrubs and plants to create a magical butterfly garden that will have fluttery visitors all spring and summer long. You can add in some winding paths and serene seating for a relaxing oasis out back. Plants that attract butterflies include: zinnia, sage, marigold, daylily, purple coneflower, or the butterfly bush.
Grill Master Zone
Installing an outdoor kitchen extends you cooking space and can make outdoor entertaining a breeze. Add a TV so you don’t miss the big game and some comfortable seating to keep guests there past halftime!
Kids Play Space
To let adventure run rampant in your backyard, consider adding a fun place just for kids. Incorporating an outdoor play gym, sand box, or trampoline in the overall design of your yard is a fun way to let the kids join the action. In areas that get a high amount of kid traffic, consider swapping out the grass for rubber mulch, which would be easier to maintain.
If sports are your game, be sure to leave enough room in your yard for whatever size field you need to play. Also, avoid obstacles like unnecessary terraces or raised beds, which may be a trip hazard.
For the best outdoor reading areas in the warmer months, look for large shade trees or ways to carve out unique areas for seating. Hammocks, loungers, retaining walls, or even lawn berms can be designed in a way that makes a cozy reading spot.
For pet owners, consider adding special treats for your furry friend to enjoy. Planting interesting herbs like cat nip, rosemary, or dandelion root (for cats) or peppermint, oregano, or basil (for dogs) may be just the incentive your pet needs to get out and enjoy the great outdoors.
Hardscape vs. Landscape
What is hardscape?
Hardscape includes elements in your backyard that are hard surfaces and often man-made. Concrete patios, brick pavers, tiled spaces, or raised planter beds would all contribute to a backyard’s hardscape.
What is landscape?
On the contrary, the landscape in a backyard is compiled of natural areas. Greenspace, flower beds, trees, hedges, ground cover, or berms, would all be a part of the overall landscape.
The balance between hardscape and landscape helps a backyard serve as space that is both functional and beautiful. Designing hardscape and landscape to flow interchangeably within the space can create a seamless unity within your backyard design.
Considering the seasons that you want to use your backyard most is another huge factor when designing. Some people only enjoy the backyard when the yard is green, leaves are on the trees and there’s a warm breeze. But believe it or not, backyards can serve as extra entertaining space all year long. Adding a fire pit or chimenea is a great way for a backyard to continue to be used through the winter. Hedge-like landscaping can help break a chilly north wind or including a covered back porch may also provide some additional shelter for entertaining in the winter months.
Be sure to never light a fire under a covered porch or too close to any structure. Locating your chimenea or fire pit in an open area and free of excessive debris will help to limit the chance of unwanted fire spread.
DIY vs. Professionals
Deciding whether or not you want to tackle a project on your own or leave it to the pros can make a big difference when considering what type of project you want, as well as your budget. Building a project yourself will generally save you quite a bit of money. This extra cash can be used for fun upgrades to your backyard design, more mature landscaping, or just lowering the overall cost of the project. As a downside, choosing to build a project yourself may take longer than expected and there may be a learning curve. You will likely need to consider your skillset before deciding if this approach would be right for you and your project. Having a professional build your project helps to make sure that your project will be completed properly, quickly and within budget. While this isn’t always the case, professionals generally know what to expect before beginning a project and if you choose a reputable contractor, chances are that they’ve done a project like yours before!
If you decide to hire a professional, be sure to get at least 3 quotes from local contractors. Material cost, labor cost, and profit percentages may all vary between companies, so this is an important way to make sure that you’re paying a fair price.
When designing a backyard, considering maintenance can be the difference between a successful project and once that quickly dies away or looks disheveled. Maintenance could come in terms of labor, time, money, or a combination of all three. Some landscape may require additional pruning, shaping, or even seasonal replacement.
To keep maintenance at a minimum, consider using rubber mulch instead of traditional wood mulch. It has less fade, does not attract termites, and does not need to be replaced every year like a wood mulch does. If properly cared for, rubber mulch can last upwards of 10 years or more. [
High Maintenance Backyard Designs
Backyard designs that include a wide variety of landscape, water features, lighting, multiple planter beds, or extensive outdoor furniture may all be considered high maintenance backyard designs. Considering things like solar powered lighted and planting more perennials are two effortless ways to keep an entertaining backyard like this, looking its best. In addition, be sure to consider how landscape elements will look in all seasons. Planting a mix of flowering perennials and wintry evergreens help to make this space inviting all year round.
Average Maintenance Backyard Designs
Backyards with a small number of planting beds, an assortment of mature trees, a paver or brick patio, or outdoor furniture would be considered average maintenance. While you would have to keep an eye on the furniture during storms, and sometimes remove small weeds from the patio, this backyard has minimal seasonal plants or pruning. To keep the maintenance even simpler, be sure to install weed cloth under your patio, which helps to keep small greens from popping through.
Low Maintenance Backyard Designs
Backyards with no planter beds, limited trees, a pea gravel fire pit, or limited outdoor furniture would be considered low maintenance. Pea gravel or decomposed granite makes an excellent patio material for a quick, easy, and budget friendly option. Fire pits make excellent backyards for entertaining since they can be used all year-round and creates a focal point, without creating a lot of extra work. You can add built-in seating with bricks or stones around the fireplace or use outdoor furniture. If a low maintenance lifestyle is important check out these low maintenance robot vacuum reviews for help with your indoor maintenance.
Perhaps budget should have been at the top of the list, because it’s likely one of the first things you think about when planning a project. Budgets for a well-designed backyard can range from a couple hundred dollars to many thousands, all depending on the factors listed above. If your budget is tight for your dream backyard, consider scaling it down in size or swapping out a material. For instance, a large concrete or paver patio is very pricy. Consider using pea gravel, decomposed granite, or rubber mulch to carve out special spaces to hang out with friends and family. For additional information check out these 40 cheap landscaping ideas.
Small Space — Big Potential
Even if you have a small backyard, there is still big potential to create a space that is inviting and perfect for entertaining. If you can’t build outwards, consider building upwards. Adding a wooden pergola or overhead shade structure can help to visually elongate your space and truly begins to blur the line between indoors and out.
Of all the tips included in this backyard design review, the best piece of advice I could offer may be to get creative. Every backyard comes with its own sets of challenges and assets. Identifying your vision for the backyard and then executing in a way that is creative and unique to your space will likely yield the best result. Consider what your background already offers. Is it on a hill? Maybe that’s the perfect area for some interesting retaining walls. Is it shady and relaxing? Adding some flowering shrubs and small dining area might be some easy ways to take it to the next level. Also, if your dream does not fit the budget, do not give up on the dream! In the world of design, there are many substitutes that have a similar look, but a vastly different price tag. Look for these opportunities to save money where you can, so that you can splurge on the really important features.
Of course, with all your efforts put into the backyard, it may be easy to overlook some of the other “to-do’s” when company is on the way. Before the party arrives, be sure to check out this quick checklist for the perfect party:
- Water the plants (100+ ways to conserve water).
- Stock the fridge.
- Supply ice and cups.
- Don’t forget the food.
- Vacuum the house.
- Get out extra seating if needed.
- Turn on some music.
- Relax and enjoy your company!
Using the tips above, it is possible to create a beautiful and functional space that you can enjoy for years to come. With a design plan, a little know-how, and some manual labor, your perfect backyard for entertaining may be more achievable than you think!