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Backyard Design Ideas: How-To Tips for Beginners & 12 Outstanding Ideas

In the wake of the past few years… Outdoor living spaces have surged in popularity!

And it’s no surprise why.

Now that you’ve had a taste of what it’s like to spend more time at home… It only makes sense why you want to spice up your backyard!

The more enjoyment you can get out of your home, the better.

Hence, why you’re searching for some backyard design ideas!

We’ll get to some excellent ideas for inspiration in this article… But first, let’s discuss what it takes to get the best backyard design.

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Couple plating food next to outdoor kitchen

How to Design a Beautiful Backyard

Everyone has to start somewhere. And while it can feel overwhelming at first… There’s no need to be!

Here, we’ll outline three options to get your backyard landscape design. Your skill level and confidence will determine which option is best for you and your space. 

We’ll begin with complete DIY!

DIY Backyard Design Plans

patio bar ideas with pavers and seating area

If you’re an avid DIYer… It only seems natural you’ll want to take backyard landscaping design into your own hands, too!

Just a quick word of warning… The process might not be as easy as it looks!

There’s actually quite a lot you must keep in mind when it comes to landscape backyard design. You’re not focusing on a single feature of the outdoor space, but how all the elements work together. This requires a different thought process!

But if you do have a knack for design… You might be up for the challenge. 

If so, here’s a backyard landscaping design trick to keep in mind.

Study the principles of design behind classical gardens. These are tried and true designs that work well, no matter what your outdoor space looks like. (The classics are classics for a reason!)

But if you think you’ll need more assistance… Let’s look at the next tier. 

Want to bring your idea to life?

Use our free 3D design tool to bring the outdoor kitchen of your dreams to reality in just a few minutes.

Online Backyard Home Design Company

If you want a more curated experience… A full-service landscape design company might be right up your alley!

While there are some differences here and there… Most of these options offer a remote experience for your outdoor living design.

Take Yardzen , for example. 

You’ll begin with sending them photos of your current backyard landscape. Then, their team of expert designers and horticulturalists will get to work creating a unique home backyard landscaping design.

You’ll receive a virtual render of your future design… And work with the designers to nail down the details of your project. Hardscaping, patios, pavers, and greenery will all be discussed at this point!

Once you are happy with how things are progressing… Yardzen will introduce you to a vetted local contractor to complete the project. 

Overall, this is a streamlined, hands-on process that’s tailored to your needs! (It’s also great if you have a moderate budget for your outdoor living space.)

However, you might want a single point of contact to take the entire project off your hands. 

If so, you might be on the hunt for a landscape designer to design the perfect backyard.

yardzen logo
yardzen ocean side plunge pool

Professional Landscape Designer

yardzen rta collab outdoor kitchen

If you want beautiful backyard landscaping with the least amount of energy on your part… A landscape designer could be the right fit!

An experienced landscape designer will know exactly how to take your backyard space to the next level… And incorporate elements unique to your outdoor space. 

However, not all landscape designers are created equal! It’s important to heavily vet someone before hiring them. (Just like any other contractor!)

You want to ensure your landscape designer is punctual, truly experienced, has excellent reviews, and is completely upfront with pricing.

Also note that hiring a landscape designer will generally cost more than a remote, full-service option. 

So if you find someone who checks all the boxes and you’ve got the budget… This is a near-foolproof way to get an excellent backyard design!

And to give you an example of what an experienced landscape designer looks like… Mike Pyle and Paul Keyes are fantastic professionals to look into.

No matter what option you choose… Let’s look to some backyard landscaping ideas for inspiration!

12 Great Backyard Design Ideas

As you begin to design your outdoor space… Naturally, you’ll want some landscaping ideas at the ready!

You can’t decide how to plan out your space if you don’t know the options, after all!

The following section will outline both large backyard landscaping ideas and small backyard design ideas… But if you see something you like, we have something for you to keep in mind!

Before jumping in headfirst on a design idea… It’s smart to consult with a professional designer. They’ll be able to best assess what will work in your outdoor space.

Without further ado, let’s review the best backyard design ideas!

1. Pergolas, Gazebos, & Other Covered Structures

l shaped outdoor kitchen with refrigerator and double burner under pergola
Pergola
l shaped outdoor kitchen with asado smoker under a gazebo next to a pool
Gazebo
ward schraeders custom rta outdoor kitchen under awning roof structure
Awning

Pergolas, gazebos, and other covered structures are an evergreen backyard design idea!

They’re a stunning addition to your space… And serve multiple functional purposes.

They can easily be used as an outdoor kitchen roof, to keep your island safe from the elements.

On the same token, a well-designed cozy seating area is perfect under cover! A gazebo or roof will provide full shade in your outdoor area… While a pergola will allow some light to filter in. (Also consider adding curtains to your pergola for a boho look!)

Covered structures become the focal point of your outdoor living space. So it’s essential to ensure the design is just right!

However, you don’t just have to use a covered structure for a seating area or outdoor kitchen.

Some homeowners will use a pergola as a connection point between two spaces.

Let’s say you have a garden area that’s disconnected from the rest of your backyard. A well-placed pergola could create a beautiful connection between the two areas!

Speaking of gardens…

2. Ideas for Backyard Garden Design

Backyard gardens have always been a popular feature… And it’s increased dramatically over the past few years!

If you’re looking to dip your toes in the water… An edible landscape garden could be an excellent option!

A carefully-crafted garden can retain the beauty of the most impressive landscape design… And also give you some culinary benefits, while you’re at it!

Herbs like rosemary are an attractive and fairly low-maintenance addition to consider. (Purple basil offers a nice pop of aromatic color, too!)

Edible flowers could add some stunning color variance… And same goes for rainbow chard!

Don’t forget about shrubbery, either! A blueberry bush provides delicious flavor in the summer… And beautiful foliage all year-round!

Point is, an edible garden can dovetail perfectly into your outdoor space. It just requires some extra planning!

And do keep in mind… Any edible plants you grow will require even more attention than standard landscape plantings.

If you don’t have time to maintain a vegetable garden (even a small garden)… A garden backyard landscape design won’t be the best idea for your lifestyle.

Let’s take a look at a simple backyard design idea that might be more your speed!

purple basil and other herbs

3. Outdoor Backyard Ideas with a Café Feel

If your primary goal is to use your backyard space for relaxation… There are few things better than creating a bistro, café vibe in your outdoor room!

A wrought iron outdoor bar table (and matching chairs!) will immediately bring a coffee shop feel to your backyard.

Whether your preferred brew is pour over, French press, or percolated… Each sip will be caffeinated bliss while seated at your own backyard café!

With your favorite book in hand… The entire morning could easily drift away.

Or if you prefer not to enjoy your morning coffee solo… Invite a loved one to the table for some stimulating conversation!

And the best part about this idea?

Even if you have a small backyard… This concept is effortless to incorporate!

Most bistro-style tables are only meant to seat two. So there’s only a small space being taken up in your backyard!

This exterior backyard design might sound great to you… But maybe you want a more private setting in your outdoor space.

4. Screens for Backyard Privacy

Don’t want prying eyes in your backyard?

Getting an outdoor screen is the simple solution for your outdoor living space!

Not only does it allow your backyard living space to feel more private… It also creates a more intimate feel for your guests!

Most options are easy to install… And come in just about any aesthetic you could imagine!

For example, you might consider a metal privacy screen if you want some light to filter through. Often, they have ornamental designs to further heighten the look of your outdoor living room.

If you’re looking for full coverage… Wooden screens made from planks will likely be a better choice for you.

But even if you’re not seeking more privacy… There are plenty of cool backyard landscaping ideas left to consider!

5. Outdoor Lighting Design for Backyard

new jersey outdoor kitchen by rta at night with lighting

As the sun sets, there’s no reason to take the party indoors. That’s what outdoor lighting is for!

Plus, if you have an outdoor kitchen or bar… Lighting those areas will allow you to grill and serve up drinks all night long!

Also consider lighting seating areas, or anywhere your guests may gather. If you have a covered structure… Pendant lights, string lights, or recessed lighting is always an excellent choice!

Additionally… Consider lighting all areas of your backyard. Walkways and steps deserve to be showcased, too. (Plus, it’s safer!)

Don’t ignore artistic lighting, either! This is especially important in the world of backyard design.

If you want your outdoor living room to look as captivating and refined as possible… Illuminate backdrops with interesting textures, or incorporate unique lighting fixtures in your space.

Outdoor lighting is also an excellent way to draw attention to this next backyard landscaping idea!

6. Flower Garden Design

Flower gardens are is an ever-popular design choice for your backyard space.

They’re beautiful, emit a lovely aroma, and enrich the aesthetic of your inviting space! What’s not to like?

Plus, there’s a near-limitless amount of species to choose from. Hydrangeas, lilacs, roses, gardenias, and marigolds are just a few on the list.

As far as design goes, flower beds will be the most common option. But also don’t be afraid to pepper flower plants throughout your backyard. This will create a sense of continuity that connects all elements in your backyard.

Some flower varieties also grow well on a trellis, which creates a stunning and dramatic look!

And to keep things easy maintenance-wise, perennials are your best friend!

If you’re open to expanding your horizons… Ornamental grasses and succulents also provide a lovely, low-maintenance look.

All said and done… Flower gardens are a fantastic addition to enhance the beauty of your outdoor area.

But what if you’re looking for a backyard landscape design that also keeps you active?

7. Swimming Pool Backyard Landscaping Ideas

modern linear outdoor kitchen with pizza oven by pool

Backyard ideas with a pool can create a luxurious aesthetic in your outdoor living room!

These days, you’re not limited to the standard round pool design. In fact, the sky is the limit!

One of the most impressive ways to design your pool is to use decorative tile as the liner. This technique will make your backyard area feel like part of a palace!

A newer spin on pool design is making the pool coping (edge) sit flush with the water. (And by extension, the ground.)

This creates a stunning effect where your pool looks like a natural body of water. And if you color the lining of your pool a blue-green hue, it will look reminiscent of a real backyard pond!

Playing off of the nature theme… Also consider putting an asymmetrical pool off to the side, surrounded by greenery. This will feel like a private watering hole you stumbled upon in the woods!

And if you need a small backyard pool design idea… A plunge pool is an excellent option!

Let’s get to our next cool backyard design.

Complete Your backyard Oasis

Add an Outdoor Kitchen to your backyard and create the perfect hangout spot. Use our free 3D design tool today.

8. Backyard Ideas with Outdoor Fire Pit

patio idea with dining area and outdoor kitchen

There’s nothing quite like cozying up to a warm fire… Especially when it’s in your own backyard!

While you could certainly surround your outdoor fire pit with some adirondack chairs and call it a day… You might be looking for more!

In recent years… Modern backyard design ideas with a fire pit have become more abundant!

Rather than the standard round fire pit, you might prefer a rectangular or square fire pit table. Oftentimes, these are made with concrete… Offering a sleek and upscale aesthetic.

No need to limit yourself to a fire pit, either! Outdoor fireplaces offer an even more refined look to your backyard space.

And here’s another backyard fire pit design idea for you… Consider installing a comfortable seating wall surrounding the feature. This design feature not only looks beautiful, it also creates intimacy in the space.

But if you’re looking for a way to work with what you already have… You’ll love this DIY backyard landscaping idea!

9. Shed Makeover

shed in backyard space with outdoor seating

Gone are the days when your shed is just used to store all the things you forgot you had.

It’s time your tired, old shed got a facelift! (And a new lease on life!)

Many homeowners are turning to DIY shed makeovers to get the most out of their entire backyard… Which of course, also makes the design far better!

Not sure what you would use it for?

A home gym, home office, art studio, tea house, small movie theater, private library, or game room are just a few transformation ideas.

From the outside… Give your shed a fresh coat of paint in a color that will compliment your space. Add a window or two… And also think about a set of French doors for extra class!

From there, throw in some exterior lighting and surround it with native plants.

What may have been a stressful eyesore will now become a backyard retreat!

10. Elegant Water Features

patio paver idea with pavilion and outdoor kitchen

If you’re going for a high-end aesthetic with your backyard design… A water feature is going to be a must-have!

Just about any option you choose is going to increase the serenity of your space.

If you already have a swimming pool… One of the more popular options is installing a stone waterfall to pour directly into the pool.

And if you’re prepared for the maintenance… A koi pond is a popular choice as well.

But the possibilities are endless!

There are water walls, streams that can run through your entire yard, courtyard fountains, staircase waterfalls, and others!

And if you’re planning to install a water feature with a long runway… Having a sloped backyard can help make it more efficient!

Regardless of what you choose… Make sure you work with your backyard, not against it.

And if a water feature aren’t for you, this next design idea certainly will be!

11. Outdoor Dining Area

linear grill island with dining table under roof with chandelier lighting

Everyone needs to eat. So it certainly follows that an outdoor dining area could make its way into any backyard space!

This doesn’t just have to be a table with matching chairs, either. Pair it with other elements of your backyard design to create the perfect ambiance.

Give the area some shade with a decorative umbrella… Or place it underneath a pergola or other covered structure.

Lining the table with decorations and candles will kick the design up a couple notches, too!

Don’t forget about outdoor lighting, either. Depending on your setup… A chandelier or string lights will create an intimate feel for dining al fresco.

We’re nearly to the end of the list of backyard design ideas… But it wouldn’t be complete without this final entry!


12. Backyard Barbecue Design Ideas

men grilling food at outdoor kitchen on patio

It’s no secret to anyone that food is a binding aspect of community.

No matter your culture or background… Food is what brings people together. Simple as that.

So, why not make that experience all the more tangible?

Just think about how much better it would be to grill a delicious meal right outside… Surrounded by loved ones.

For that reason alone, an outdoor kitchen should be seriously considered for your backyard!

Additionally, an outdoor kitchen can be combined with a bar to create a complete dining area. (If you have a large backyard, the backyard bar design ideas are limitless!)

Just grab some stools, and you’re good to go.

Plus, if you want your outdoor living room to be the place where loved ones gather… An outdoor kitchen will ensure you’re always the host, no matter the occasion!

Now that you’ve seen all manner of backyard design ideas… We’ll leave you with this thought to chew on.

The First Backyard Design Idea on Your List

moks outdoor kitchen with bar and stools on patio

When you’re in the midst of a complete backyard overhaul… Priorities are going to have to be made.

The groundwork has to be laid first, of course!

But once that’s done… What features will you install first?

If you’re planning an outdoor kitchen project, we’d argue this should be bumped up to the top of the list for most outdoor spaces!

Why?

There’s a few reasons… But really, it boils down to the fact that an outdoor kitchen is the most functional feature you could add to your backyard.

You’ll use it to grill delicious food (practical and fun!)... Host the ones you love most… Or simply use it to “get away” from the world for a few hours.

An outdoor grill station is something you can use and enjoy right away… Regardless of if the rest of your backyard is complete or not!

We even have an easier way for you to get started with one.

It’s the RTA outdoor kitchen!

Just like with your overall backyard design… It’s likely you want to work with a design expert for your outdoor kitchen, too!

Well, you’re in luck.

At RTA… We have an entire suite of Design Experts ready to help you at a moment’s notice.

They’re rigorously trained on every aspect of BBQ island design, to ensure you get the best results. Your dream island should come without compromise!

Should you decide to take the first step… One of our Design Experts will be assigned to your project. They’ll see the entire process through with you, start to finish.

But if you’re not quite ready for that, there’s another option.

Give our free online design tool a whirl… And we’ll go from there!

Happy designing!

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FAQ

Although the pros make it look easy… There’s a lot to know about backyard design! To get started, it’s always recommended to speak with a landscape designer. Even if you don’t hire them, this will give you some fuel to start a design on your own.

Many basic backyard designs will include flower beds or garden beds surrounded by mulch, fire pits, hammocks, or simple paver patios.

Some of the key things to consider when designing backyard spaces are thinking about how you will use the space, what native plants you can incorporate, how much maintenance you’re willing to do, and learning about local zoning laws to know what permits you need.

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