Have you ever had one of those days at work where you can’t do anything but dream of going home and getting outside?
You’re not alone. of US households have outdoor living spaces, and 70% of these households use the space at least once per week.
If you’re looking to build the backyard living space you’ve been dreaming of, here are 15 tips to get you started.
1. Have a Plan
Some people like an eclectic backyard that has been put together one plant and brick at a time. If you have a large backyard, it’s easier to get away with designing this way.
However, if you have a small backyard or a backyard with quirks like a hill or pond, you need to plan ahead. Especially if you’re going to tear up your backyard for significant landscaping changes.
Planning ahead will ensure that your backyard space is well-balanced and functional. It will also help you figure out what features matter most to you, and properly budget for the project.
2. Establish Traffic Patterns
Traffic patterns aren’t limited to air traffic controllers or traffic lights.
While you’re considering outdoor living space ideas and planning your landscaping project, it’s important to consider the traffic patterns.
After all, people will have to pass through the backyard whether you’re hanging out in the summertime or hosting a party. The most successful living areas make this movement feel natural.
You can do this through direct ways, like a formal walkway, or you can use more subtle means, like the layout of shrubs and outdoor furniture.
The trick is to lay out your yard properly. Here are a few tips to try.
A significant part of your planning should also include privacy. After all, your backyard is a lot less relaxing if it feels like Rear Window.
There are a number of ways to keep your backyard sheltered from prying eyes. If you don’t like the look of a fence, you can use trees or shrubs as a natural barrier.
You can even repurpose weatherproof products like outdoor rugs to act as a screen.
4. A Variety of Comfortable Seating Options
Of course, one of the best ways to ensure that family and friends enjoy an outdoor space is to give them a variety of seating options.
Chairs are easy to move–set them around a table for dinner, or set them together for a chat. You can also use benches for more seating.
Regardless of what you choose, be careful not to overcrowd your living space in favor of more seating. Otherwise, you’ll make it difficult to move around in the space, and it will look cluttered.
If you’re not sure what kind of furniture would be best for your space, read more here.
5. Focal Point
Well-designed rooms, whether they’re confined by four walls or open to the stars, have one thing in common: a focal point.
A focal point is something that gives the eye a place to land when viewing a scene. In a room, this is often a sofa or piece of art–something that’s large enough or has a striking design.
The rest of the furniture and accents, when done properly, support that focal point for a cohesive, visually pleasing room.
With an outdoor living space, this could be a piece of furniture like a dining table, but it could also be a tree, pond, or even an outdoor fountain.
6. Smart Use of Outdoor Tables
That said, your choice of furnishings matters a great deal in an outdoor space, especially tables.
Sure, you could choose a table for the sole utilitarian function of having a place to put your drink, but you’d be missing out on some of the great design opportunities a table has to offer.
For example, a side table could offer a pop of color to brighten the furnishings–a fun turquoise or dramatic red. You can also use it for a bit of pattern to add depth and flair.
7. Boost Your Visual Appeal
On a similar note, small accents, whether it’s a table, pillow, or bed of flowers, make all the difference in outdoor living spaces.
A great way to make yours look more original is to dig around in flea markets, garage sales, vintage stores, or architectural salvage shops for unique accents that add visual appeal (without the expense or kitsch of shopping at your typical home goods store).
You might, for example, find a few flower pots you can use for small shrubs, or some old tile that can be artfully repurposed.
8. Brighter Ambiance
That said, if you want your accents to stand out (and your space to be usable after the sun goes down) it helps to bring in some lights. Remember, this is your outdoor living room, not a camping excursion.
If you want to create eco-friendly ambiance, invest in small solar lights. They charge during the day with the sun, and by night, they’re lighting your way. And since you don’t have to worry about wiring, they’re easy to stake in a path or plant containers.
If you need ideas for solar lights, here are eight DIY options to try.
9. Fire Source
Of course, if you want to bring light and warmth (and an extra something special) why not spend the extra time to get a fire source?
Maybe your kids (or the adults) will want to roast marshmallows. Or maybe you just want to curl up with a book and a blanket in front of a crackling fire.
If you have the lawn space (and the budget) consider going all-in with a full fireplace for friends and family to gather around. If not, you can also investigate fire pits.
Either way, make sure you know your local building codes so you aren’t breaking any fire safety rules. This will even change the placement of your fireplace, so make sure to do your homework.
10. Throw Some Shade
During the day, though, you want to protect your skin from the sun, especially if you plan on sitting outside for a while.
The simplest way to do this is with an umbrella. It’s relatively inexpensive and easy to set up–it often comes with patio furniture. But if you have the budget and creativity, you can explore other options.
For example, you could build a pergola. It’s a little more time-consuming, but if you know your way around wood, tools, and a measuring tape, you can set one up no problem.
And if you’re feeling especially creative, you could create outdoor curtains with a dropcloth and hang them on a curtain rod attached to the pergola. It really makes your space feel like an outdoor room, and it’s great for blocking the glaring sun.
11. Pops of Color and Texture
Even if you have a small space to work with, a bit of color and texture goes a long way to making your space visually appealing (and making it look more spacious).
Accents are your friend on this one. It’s your backyard, so why not make the most of your flowers? Some strategically-placed pots or a well-cultivated flower bed will go a long way.
You can also do quite a lot with a bright, patterned fabric or a brightly painted chair in blue, coral, green, or whatever color strikes your fancy.
12. Landscape in Layers
And now, for some technical tips: landscape in layers, which creates a sense of depth.
It’s simpler than it sounds, and it’s actually logical. A common example of layered landscaping is planting the shortest flowers at the front of your flower bed and putting the tallest ones at the back so that all the plants are visible and give the appearance of depth.
If you have centrally-located flower beds, though, you’ll want to put the tallest plants in the center and work outwards with the smallest plants at the border.
That said, if you have a small yard, use tall plants with care, as they can make your yard look even smaller.
13. A Sense of Discovery
Paths and natural barriers from shrubs or bushes are good for more than just traffic control.
Something as simple as a curved pathway leading you to a secluded backyard getaway adds a delightful feeling of discovery and adventure, especially if you make the most of your landscaping.
14. Get Creative with Containers
Of course, your creativity shouldn’t be limited to your flowers. Why not house them in beautiful, colorful containers?
A patterned, colorful planter is a great way to make a statement, but you can also use containers to create space.
For example, if you’ve been dreaming of an herb garden but just don’t have space, you can use a vertical garden on a wall or fence, or build shelves to house small pots.
15. Make Furnishings Work Twice as Hard
Finally, if you really want to make the most of your outdoor living space design, make your furnishings work double-time.
After all, space is at a premium in outdoor living areas.
A common example is a bench doubling as a storage space, but you can also get inventive by having your tables double as planters, which can work especially well on a table with a glass top.
Make the Most of Outdoor Living Spaces
Making the most of your outdoor living spaces requires planning, but it’s also a time to get inventive and see what surprises your backyard can offer.
Check out our blog for more tips and ideas, like this post on how to build a beautiful garden pond.