Expert Advice

How to Design Your Dream Backyard

Discover how to transform your backyard into a vibrant and welcoming oasis that seamlessly extends your living space outdoors.

February 21, 2024
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Your backyard is an extension of your home and can be just as lively and inviting a space as your living room. When it comes to designing a backyard garden, it’s all about the little details that work together to create a harmonious feel. Elements like decking, outdoor furniture, and well-appointed landscaping all contribute to a beautiful backyard. 

We’ll walk you through the various facets of designing a backyard that reflects your personal aesthetic and delivers the type of experience you want from it.

What Makes a Great Backyard? 

A great backyard is equal parts functional, fun, and attractive – appealing to the senses and giving you a space to create many memorable moments through the years. When mulling over how to design your backyard, consider what it is that you want from it. 

A great backyard makes the best possible use of available space. If you have a large and lovely backyard, you can devote sections of your yard to different functions or activities. Perhaps, an enclosed patio can be a great place to host outdoor movie nights, while a further corner is devoted to a thriving vegetable garden – or a play area for the kids. 

On the flipside, just because you have a smaller yard in a bustling city neighborhood doesn’t mean you can’t get a lot of enjoyment out of it. Look for furnishings that can cleverly double as storage options. This can help you maximize seating for guests without cramming too much “stuff” into your yard. 

When planning your backyard layout, think about the type of atmosphere you want to create. Start gathering imagery and inspiration to explore the possibilities. Seeing what others have done with spaces of comparable size and geographic region can help your vision take shape. This process can also help you determine what may feel too “busy” or what’s just right for your practical and aspirational needs. 

How Do I Decide What to Do With My Backyard? 

Treat creating a beautiful backyard the same way you would make a plan for any room inside your house. Your backyard is an extension of your home – and personality. It’s just an added area that happens to exist outdoors. 

With that in mind, think about how you plan to use your yard. Do you love to entertain? If so, a spacious deck or patio with ample seating and a grilling station might be the order of the day. Do you have small children? Think about adding a swing set, sandbox, or play area to part of your yard. If you live in the suburbs, but daydream about tulip fields in Holland or quaint English countryside locales, consider colorful flower beds strategically placed around your yard. Adding a pretty pergola or an attractive gazebo can lend added charm – and a shady space to beat the summer heat.

2109-14 Chad Magleby Backyard and Kalamazoo Kitchen

September 16, 2021

© 2021 / Meagan Larsen

How Do I Turn My Backyard Into an Oasis?

To create a welcoming sanctuary in the midst of the concrete jungle or a small corner of your backyard that helps you feel more in touch with nature, think about simple ways to invoke a relaxing vibe in your backyard. 

You don’t need an extravagant budget or ultra-luxe furnishings to transform your backyard into an oasis. Rather, consider what feels most relaxing to you. 

Tall bushes or shrubs can add a layer of privacy around your yard, making it easier to unwind away from prying eyes. Other landscaping features, like a soothing koi pond or rock garden, can also create a more tranquil atmosphere. 

Outdoor furniture with weather-proof cushions can also make your backyard a cozy space to unwind. A hammock is another great addition that can be nestled between any trees in your yard. Don’t have trees? Not to worry. There are plenty of free-standing hammocks currently available, too. A fire pit can be another way to create a warm, welcoming environment – and help you enjoy your backyard when temperatures take a tumble or after the sun has set. 

Designing Your Backyard Garden Landscape and Outdoor Living Space

Good design doesn’t happen with the snap of your fingers. There’s a method to shaping a backyard that works for your needs. Start by seeking out inspiration (Hello, Pinterest!) to prime your canvas. From there, consider how your backyard will complement your current lifestyle or take your aspirations to new heights. Having images to reference can help you craft a more fully realized vision for your backyard. 

Here are a few more design tips and points of inspiration to keep in mind when designing your backyard. 

Trex Transcend Lineage decking in Jasper color in a backyard with brick accents, patio furniture and plants

Create specific zones within your backyard

If you have a sprawling backyard, you can designate different areas or “rooms” within this larger space. For instance, you can devote one part of your yard to a vegetable garden or colorful flower beds. Or, section off another area for entertaining and hospitality if you enjoy cooking out for visitors. You can also carve out a relaxing little nook with soft lighting and a comfy outdoor chaise lounge for reading or relaxing. 

Unify different zones with thoughtful design and color palettes

Even if you choose to divide your yard into smaller areas, each with its own purpose, it’s important that they feel like part of a larger whole and not a patchwork quilt. To unify these areas, you can create little “pathways” with pavers or stonework that demarcate a given space.  

Another way to add a unifying element to your backyard is to stick with a similar color palette throughout. If minimalism strikes a chord with you, opt for bright white, dove gray, or cream-colored decor – like cushions, throws, and planters. If you want the feel of a beach house but live in the heart of the city, then soft pastels that invoke the hues of shells on a sandy beach can be a great choice. Or, if bright and modern is your thing, experiment with vibrant shades of red, turquoise, and yellow to warm up the space. 

Choose the right plants

Select a variety of plants that work with the soil and climate of your geographic region. Don’t hesitate to mix it up with flowering plants, shrubs, and trees to add color and texture to your yard. Investigate which plants work well within your hardiness zone so that you have something beautiful to look at through all seasons. 

Don’t overcrowd your yard

As the saying goes, “too much of a good thing can be bad.” Although your backyard can be a multipurpose space, adding too much to it can make it feel more cramped and less cozy. Give plants and shrubs space to breathe, setting them back two to three feet away from areas meant for people like an outdoor dining area or near your patio or pool. 

Outfit your deck with planters

Adding colorful planters to spots around your deck can make it feel more natural and at home with surrounding foliage or suspended from railings. If you’re particularly handy, you can even create easy DIY planters made from leftover composite decking boards, giving your space a coordinated feel. If you have a multi-level deck, consider training climbing vines to gracefully extend upwards, giving a “hanging garden” effect to your deck. 

Opt for low-maintenance rock gardens

If you aren’t blessed with a green thumb or don’t want to commit to maintaining a variety of plants, mulch beds and rock gardens are another way to add visual interest to your yard. Choose rocks of varying sizes to add depth and dimension, or use pebbles to create a striking contrast around mulch beds. 

Incorporate water features

Another low-maintenance way to create a backyard oasis is to weave in water features. A small fountain, pond, or bird bath can lend a soothing touch to your outdoor space and serve as an attractive focal point.

Have a covered area for shade

Whether it’s a hot summer day or you’re struck with a sudden shower, having a shady area to sit in your backyard can help you enjoy it more. Consider adding a covered pergola, gazebo, or tables with colorful outdoor umbrellas to provide you with coverage when the elements aren’t quite cooperating with your outdoor plans. 

Ultimately, there is no wrong way to design the backyard of your dreams, so long as it makes you happy. Adding personal touches that showcase your personality throughout your backyard is the heart and soul of good design and can be the perfect, harmonizing touch that brings it to life.

Use Trex’s Free Deck Designer Tool to Plan Your Backyard Deck

Need some more inspiration and help planning the backyard of your dreams? Check out our Deck Designer tool to visualize how different decking materials, colors, and layouts work together in any backyard space! 

Try the Deck Designer