How to upgrade your backyard this summer. I spent hours on a reel holding all this information, but then I decided I wanted this information to be put somewhere permanently so anyone can reference back to it as needed. I am actually very passionate about this topic so it was not hard for me to decide to put it in a blog post. Believe it or not, before I really dove into interior design, I dabbled in outdoor “stuff.” What I mean by that is lawn and landscaping. I don’t know enough to call myself an expert, but over the years I have learned how to make a basic, unusable space much better! And guess what – it doesn’t have to break the bank!
I think before we dive in, lets discuss where you are probably at right now. You are either in 1 of 2 places.
Most of us are probably in the second option unless you have some sort of new build. I will share tips with both to help you be able to design your backyard dreams with confidence!
If you are starting with a blank slate, I would say that your options aren’t as limited when it comes to creating your backyard dreams. This makes it easier in some ways because you get to dream up exactly what you want. In some ways this can be hard for those that prefer to have options to choose from. Here are my biggest tips.
Plan ahead. If you are starting with a blank slate, the best advice I can give is to plan ahead and do NOT rush the process. It’s amazing how ideas get better and more refined the longer you think on them. Plan out as much as you can before every calling in the professionals. It’s a lot cheaper to know exactly what you want on the front end than to keep changing your mind and adding things like I did. And don’t rush the process. I know if you are anything like me you probably want a space done as quickly as possible, but there is one key problem with that. You don’t know what you want and how you live until you’ve actually lived to know. What I mean by that is this: It takes time to know how you want a place to function. Pets and kids may end up in your lives and if we would’ve planned our backyard before them, it would have looked NOTHING like what it looks like today. We lived here 5 years before touching our backyard. I personally would rather wait and save a few years and get exactly what we want than rush into something after a few months just to want to change it a few years down the road. (There are tips to making your backyard dreams come true if you don’t have a blank slate and I’ll share those below next.)
Think about continuity. This is probably the biggest tip I can give when we get down to an architectural, design / aesthetic point of view. I think this is the one thing that sets an ordinary backyard from an extraordinary backyard. For example, instead of building a structure randomly placed in your backyard, try thinking about building the structure off one of your back windows to tie into your house. To go one step further, try using the same materials that your house is built from. Try using the same stains, same wood types, etc to go for a more uniform look. This creates the illusion that it was always there.
Consider lighting, gas, water, and finishes. I often think that this is one area that gets put on the back burner when designing a space. We tend to think about the overall function so much that we forget about these details. But I want to challenge you to always keep this in your mind throughout the design process. Lots of times we don’t want to just use an outdoor space during the day. We want to enjoy it at night too! Great lighting is essential to a well functioning, beautiful outdoor space. One tip that helped me was drawing my layout out on paper and then highlighting in yellow the areas where I put lighting. This helped me see the areas that were going to be “dark” and allowed me to properly fix it. For gas and water, always consider the location and the function. Do you want to put the grill in a place that is uncovered? Or a spot that you have to walk really far to get to? Consider placement and if it would be an eyesore. Think about where it makes the most sense for what you’d use it for. For example, we were going to put our grill on the uncovered pergola side against our brick wall but then we realized that 1) it wasn’t going to be in a covered area and 2) it was going to be front and center blocking our view of the backyard looking out our breakfast nook window. We ended up putting it under our already finished area on an unused wall. This is something I will say that probably matters most to me. I would much rather skimp on function than form. I would much rather splurge on a tile than have an outdoor shower/ kitchen, but that’s just me. To me, having durable, natural finishes that are pleasing to the eye is what would make me enjoy a space the most. I do feel like if I would have properly planned and considered finishes from the beginning, I wouldn’t have had to cut the budget in this specific area.
Try to create a common ground with everything. So at this point, you’ve probably figured out exactly what you want and how you want the space to function. My best advice is to try and find a common ground with everything. Try to find little places that you can keep symmetry. Lots of times our houses are NOT symmetrical but if you can find a way to bring symmetry in to your space, it will make the space so much more pleasing to the eye and therefore make so much more sense. The back of our house is not symmetrical at all, but we added two curves off the back of our pool and that brought everything together, making it symmetrical and therefore making “sense” for all you logical thinkers out there.
TRUST YOURSELF. I say this every time but it is SO important. Only you know how you want the space to function. Only you know what you need and only you can know what you like and don’t like. You don’t need a designer to tell you what looks good. You don’t need a designer, architect, or engineer to tell you how to design your space. YOU can do it!
If you are limited to what you can do with your backyard space, then this section is for you. Many of us do not have the ability to start with a blank slate and quite often that can be intimidating in itself. Personally speaking, my favorite spaces to design are NOT spaces with a blank slates. I love the spaces where you have to work within your means. I think you can still create the backyard of your dreams without changing layouts if you focus on these 3 things below.
Great lighting. A set of string lights, light posts, a fire, or solar lights.
Great sound: bluetooth speakers, water fountain, a bird feeder
Great texture: outdoor rugs, plants, curtains, hammock, swings, and furniture
Focusing on each of these 3 areas can be so powerful. Each magnifies the senses of sight, sound, and touch. What better way to enjoy your outdoor area than to experience each of these. If you can take at least one of these from each category, you will be well on your way to creating a space that will be beautiful. And if you have an extra moment, please review the “starting with a blank space” section for extra tidbits regarding lighting. Got any more questions or tips? I’d love to hear from you!
Where we discuss all things design, obviously.