by Michael Buck
Backyards can act as an extension of your home, and there is no better time to tackle projects that will transform your own outdoor space into an even more inviting, entertaining retreat.
These backyard design ideas will help you create a space to enjoy outdoor living.
Try Landscaping without Grass
In backyards around the country, especially in drought-prone areas, more homeowners are trying landscaping without grass. Not only does grass-free landscaping conserve water, it also saves time on mowing and maintenance.
How to design for success: If you’re considering a loose landscaping material such as gravel or oyster shells, think ahead to the colder months. Shoveling snow over that area could leave a mess when springtime comes. And before you set a pathway or patio in stone (literally), call a landscaper to help you plan for any seasonal effect. Without a proper base and leveling, stone and brick can heave or cave in after periods of freeze and thaw.
Explore New Shapes
When installing new flower beds or berms this season, think outside the box. Uniquely shaped beds, berms, and gardens can make a striking impact on your backyard for a small investment of time and money.
How to design for success: Think about how your potential design will shape the surrounding lawn. Test your design by making the shape with a garden hose, rope, or stake flags before you dig. Make sure you can easily maneuver a lawn mower around it, and that you’re happy with the way it looks from inside the house before charging ahead.
It’s important to remember that your local climate will dictate what flowers will thrive in your particular zone. Learn how to prepare your garden with your local climate in mind.
Take your Kitchen al Fresco
Do you love hosting outdoor dinner parties? Bring your kitchen outside and create a workspace in the fresh air, under the sun for even more communal times. It’s not as complicated as it sounds and there are several places to turn to for design inspiration including our tips for creating the outdoor kitchen of your dreams.
How to design for success: Modular kitchens and pre-assembled models may be relatively easy to install, but they still require careful planning. Many are heavy and require reinforcement at the base. Local building codes might also dictate where and how they should be built. A landscape designer can help you assess your backyard’s needs and a contractor can help you plan for any impact to your home’s exterior.
Add an Outdoor Living Room
Extend your home’s living space even further with the addition of an outdoor living room. Expanding the patio to become a cozy nook is easier on the wallet than building an addition, and you won’t have to give up any indoor comforts in the process. These days you can find a sun-proof, waterproof version of nearly any furniture style.
How to design for success: As you choose landscaping for your outdoor living area, remember that certain plants—though lovely to look at—may attract uninvited guests such as bees and other pests. Some might also be prickly to the touch. Before you plant a trendy cactus near your cool new weather-proof couch, think about comfort and how people will move through the outdoor living space.
Want to enjoy your outdoor living space even as the temperatures begin to cool? Look into adding an outdoor fire pit to bring in some much need warmth for you and your guests. Need some design inspiration? Discover how to plan out your ideal outdoor fire pit.
Build an English Garden with Edible Landscaping Plants
Modernize an English garden by mixing in edible landscaping plants — think herbs, berry bushes, and vegetables—to coexist with the roses and other classic ornamental plantings. You will be growing some food for your kitchen and helping the environment at the same time: Native plants typically require less water and put fewer stresses on soil.
How to design for success: A landscaper can help you select edible native plants that will complement more traditional garden designs. Many botanic gardens also feature native plant gardens to help homeowners learn about local plants and get ideas for incorporating them into landscaping. Learn more about how to start a vegetable garden of your own.
Make the Pergola Permanent
Pergolas may be the hottest backyard trend thanks to home design shows, but the shade and comfort they provide can be longer-lasting than a fad. If you’re a pergola enthusiast, consider a more permanent option, such as a covered porch or patio that can act as a seamless extension of your home.
How to design for success: Work with a contractor to tackle any backyard renovations that will change the structure or look of your home’s exterior. Explore our guide to choosing and hiring a local contractor, and then partner with a pro to make your vision for a backyard retreat come to life.