Since backyard design takes place behind the house, it may not be obvious as you drive down the street, but there are changes taking place in backyards everywhere. We are spending more time relaxing on our decks and patios after long work weeks. We’re leaving the comfort of our air conditioned interiors to entertain and cook outdoors.
This shift is changing the way we approach backyard design. Increasingly, backyards are being compartmentalized, encompassing a wide range of inviting spaces designed for recreation and relaxation.
Technology plays a key role in helping us spend more time with our families, and to make the most of the spaces we have – both inside and outside the house. Advances in outdoor lighting make exterior areas more inviting after dark.
Heaters and outdoor fireplaces provide greater comfort and extend the outdoor season. Backyard design can now transform your barbeque into an outdoor kitchen, able to provide gourmet meals. Innovations have made pools and hot tubs more affordable.
The development of durable, weather-resistant materials for furniture and fabrics continues to enhance the style and comfort of outdoor furnishings. However, successful backyard design involves more than adding accessories.
Backyard landscaping ideas are best approached as part of the overall home designing process – one that considers the relationship between indoor and outdoor spaces. When porches, decks, and patios are planned as integral parts of a new or renovated home, they can be designed to create transitions that are so subtle they blur the line between the house and the landscape.
When planning outdoor spaces, take backyard design hints from your home’s indoor rooms. By designing exterior areas with the same attention given to an indoor room, you can create a place to gather with your family, or escape after a long day at work.
These outdoor rooms can have floors, walls, ceilings, comfortable furnishings, and decorative accents, just like your living room. Keep in mind the outdoor elements which will dictate fabric choices, life cycle of your furnishings, and how your backyard design will work with local wildlife.
Throughout your backyard, spaces should vary in shape, size, and character. Relaxing spaces, for instance, should include comfortable seating, while dining areas need sturdy tables and outdoor cooking amenities. Both should be positioned for afternoon shade.
While some areas are for sitting, others should be for standing or strolling, and at least one area should be for activities – especially if you have children. How you divide the overall plot into these spaces will be determined by its general size and shape, how you usually spend your outdoor time, and the composition of your family.
A combination of several cozy areas has a way of feeling larger than a single medium-sized space. If there’s no room to divide, lay out paths, patios, or lawns diagonally or along an S-curve. This makes a yard appear bigger by allowing it to unfold gradually rather than in a single glance.
Paying attention to details, such as paving materials or planting zones, also makes a small space seem larger. This is because it takes longer to visually absorb all of the elements.
With larger spaces, you can divide them into smaller, functional spaces, so they appear more inviting and manageable. When you’re planning your backyard design, identify areas for cooking, dining, entertaining, gardening, and activities. Determine how much space is needed for each.
Also define areas that you wish to leave natural. I have a natural area at the rear of my plot and it really comes in handy for depositing grass clippings weeds, and other natural debris, while providing a natural barrier between homes.
Regardless of size, backyard spaces should be clearly defined and conveniently connected. This may be as simple as changing the paving materials – like stepping from a stone patio onto a lawn. Building a low step between two such areas will distinguish the spaces while preserving the open feeling.
It takes time to implement the plans for a backyard design. Take it slow and tackle one area at a time. Don’t be surprised if it takes longer than you expected.
You will probably change plants and make improvements over several years. Start with areas closest to the house because you can see them from the indoors and because they will be used most. And finally, address any urgent outdoor needs up front – such as storage needs or play areas for children.