A backyard is an extension of what’s going on inside your home. Usually, it is more colorful, casual, fun, and the possibilities are up to the terrain, your design skills, and your do-it-yourself know-how.
You can always hire a landscape designer or architect to help your outdoor space realize its potential. A skilled professional can guide you through the process of figuring out a style, deciding who will be using the yard, creating zones of activity, choosing materials and plants, and recommending builders and contractors for everything from swimming pools to outdoor structures to installing irrigation.
Explore 49 ideas that show you how to transform a backyard into your favorite space.
How do you design a backyard for children and parents that is safe, engaging, and attractive? Creo Landscape Architecture designed the backyard for this San Francisco area home that includes dining and seating spaces along with a grass-covered berm and interactive sculptures for the children.
The fence and bench are made of redwood. The fence features a light stain while the bench is natural. Podocarpus (plum pines) were planted to provide greenery and enhance privacy. No-mow fescue planted on the berm allows the children to roll, tumble, and enjoy the backyard. Durable bluegrass is planted on the flat areas of the lawn, and recycled brick is used for a small patio. To make smart use of the space, the redwood benches have storage space to store outdoor toys.
Developer Joseph Eichler built thousands of California housing tract homes in the 1950s and 1960s. His name is now associated with the style we now know as midcentury modern.
In the Visitacion Valley neighborhood of San Francisco, the Garden Route Co. remodeled the landscape of this two-story Diamond Heights Eichler house with a steep hillside garden. The challenge was to create flat, usable outdoor living spaces by building terraces and stairs connecting the different levels. With an emphasis on texture, bold forms, and colors, this garden softens the angular landscape architecture and gives the backyard a more contemporary feeling.
A Blade of Grass
The owners of this Boston area property wanted to stretch their living space to enjoy the beautiful woodland setting outside their back door. Landscape designers A Blade of Grass reconfigured the back porch to step down to an adjacent raised bluestone patio. The designer created a series of outdoor rooms that transition from a highly developed space to a natural setting with native plantings, an outdoor fireplace, a koi pond, a shade garden, and irregular bluestone paths.
Plants chosen for the landscape include viburnum dentatum, pink flowering astilbe ‘Vision in Pink’, malus ‘Whitney’, buxus ‘Green Mountain’, yellow grass Hakonechloa ‘Aureola’, pennisetum ‘Hameln’, and the tree betula ‘Whitespire’.
Richard Brown Photography Ltd.
A large water basin is the centerpiece of this Islamic-style courtyard garden in Hertfordshire, England. The clients previously lived in the Middle East and wanted their English garden to reflect the styles of their former home. Following the classic principles of Islamic garden design, Green Tree Garden Design designed a courtyard with a water feature in one corner and a new summerhouse in the opposite corner, viewable from the courtyard seating area. They completed the renovation by replacing the plants with specimens that offer year-round jewel-tone colors, texture, and scent.
A Midcentury Modern With ‘Wow’ Factor
Josh White, JW Pictures Inc.
Tasked with respecting the 1959 midcentury modern origins of this home, Fer Studio improved the Sherman Oaks hilltop home owned by Davis Factor, photographer and founder of Smashbox cosmetics company.
The designer preserved its post-and-beam construction and added a carport, cabana, and gym with a private patio serving the master suite.
Fer Studio, along with Place Landscape Design and Architecture, designed a plan for the enlarged property’s natural upslope. A railroad-tie path traverses the entire width of the estate. The enlarged entryway/driveway consists of concrete pavers and permeable Grasscrete, which allows grass to grow in voids or spaces in the concrete decoratively. The pool and outdoor activity zones emphasize the horizontal lines of the property. They maintain a low profile so that nothing obstructs that fabulous view.
CNC Building Professionals designed a long, floating bench that links the interior with the exterior of this home in Sydney, Australia. The homeowners’ children enjoy climbing the stairs that lead from one slate-covered patio to another. The higher patio acts as a stage for impromptu performances.
When children grow up or leave the house, landscape designers can be a big help redesigning a space. In the case of this house in Northamptonshire, England, Jane Harries Garden Design helped when this family’s children had “grown out of football and guinea pig ownership, and they wanted a restyle.”
They removed the oversized trees and reconfigured the lawn to create larger borders and an informal planting design with a romantic feel. The children’s swing was replaced with a porch-style swing settee. A water feature near the house provides a natural transition from the indoors to the terrace.
Water-Wise, Multi-Use Yard
In this landscape, BE Landscape Design removed the lawn and replaced it with raised stacked-stone planter boxes for growing vegetables and herbs. This drought-tolerant landscape design in the Los Angeles area now includes benches, a fire pit, containers set on decomposed granite gravel, and concrete stepping stones.
Intimate English Garden
The owners of this home located in the Clapham neighborhood of London contacted Kate Eyre Garden Design for a redo that includes attractive wood fencing, a cozy seating area, and lots of gorgeous viburnum bushes. The choice of fencing styles sets the style of a landscape. The narrow horizontal rails give it a very contemporary look.
Relaxing and Informal
A winding path made of decomposed granite connects areas of this yard in Woodcote, London, England. Woven rattan lounge chairs add a modern touch to this lush landscape created by Joanne Winn Garden Design. Flower beds soften the transition between the turf lawn and the paver patio.
Hursthouse Landscape Architects
A woodland backyard near Chicago designed by Hursthouse Landscape Architects and Contractors features pathways made from pavers and shredded bark. The designers carefully respected the existing trees while creating additional privacy for the homeowners. Plants include Annabelle hydrangeas, Pachysandra ‘Green Carpet’ ground cover, and Mission arborvitae evergreen shrubs.
Backyard Vegetable Garden
@backyardgardener84 / Instagram
Take a cue from this gardener and use your empty backyard to create the ultimate vegetable garden. The geometry of a vegetable garden makes for an exciting design element while serving practical needs. You can grow vegetables in raised boxes, including big, beautiful heirloom tomatoes in a variety of colors.
Earth Mama Landscape Design
A woodland garden in upstate New York created by Earth Mama Landscape Design features a gravel sitting area with a stacked-stone retaining wall and flagstone steps leading to the nearby woods. The seamless transition from the backyard to the forest is appealing for homeowners who enjoy afternoon strolls and outdoor adventures. The extensive use of natural stone is perfect for a rustic landscape.
@daisyhomedesign / Instagram
Featured on Beautiful Homes of Instagram in Long Island, New York, this she-shed, dubbed “Minnie,” is the star of this outdoor space. Other eye-catching elements are the hydrangeas and more than 80-plus species of shrubs in varying colors. If you’re looking for an escape, a she- or he-shed might just be the refuge you need.
Colorful California Landscape
A cast-stone path in Northern California created by Michelle Derviss Landscape Design meanders past a colorful mix of succulents, ornamental grasses, and subtropicals such as blooming cannas. Pathways in a landscape help direct the eye and guide foot traffic.
Simon Orchard Garden Designs
Cast stone pavers crawl through the tall-growing lawn in this Lewisham district backyard in London. Designed by Simon Orchard Garden Designs, the urban space includes a separate vertical garden that maximizes space for growing fresh herbs and vegetables.
Coastal Landscape in Melbourne
A beautiful contemporary home in the seaside town of Blairgowrie in Victoria, Melbourne, Australia includes a swimming pool, spa, outdoor kitchen, patio, and softscape plants to add greenery to the yard. Acre designed the landscape architecture. Straight, square edges in the landscape match the lines used in the contemporary home.
@andrea_lambert_home / Instagram
This backyard features beautiful hydrangeas in a range of pinks, blues, and lavenders that glow with neon intensity in the bright sunlight around the pool.
Brooklyn Outdoor Living
Flo’s Gardens worked on the yard of this brownstone in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn in New York. The makeover included a flagstone patio, a built-in ipe wood (Brazilian walnut) seating and dining area, and shade-tolerant plants, including ferns and Japanese maple. Small urban landscapes are often best served by patio surfaces and potted plants rather than turf lawns and flower beds.
The landscape architects Dear Garden Associates in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, retrofitted existing farm buildings on a property with a new house and lots of land. Steep slopes backing up to the farmhouse were modified to accommodate terraces, gardens, and paths that link different areas of the property. The hardscaping was softened by plants chosen for their flowers and foliage, such as purple smokebush, spiraea ‘Mellow Yellow’, Russian sage, and smooth viburnum. Terraces are a perfect solution for steep slopes where planting is difficult.
Shades of Green
J. Dabney Peeples Design Assoc.
A monochrome planting scheme makes for an ultra-restful landscape. In this landscape designed by the Collins Group of South Carolina, an all-green color pallet features autumn fern, mondo grass, and impatiens providing small spots of color grow under a canopy of Atlas cedar trees. The pavers are locally sourced recycled granite curbing with low-growing mazus ground cover growing in the joints.
Redesigned by Falling Waters Landscape, this updated midcentury home and yard is in the Harbor Highlands neighborhood of the Dover Shores area of Newport Beach, California. The emphasis here is simple, clean, and consistent with its midcentury roots. The square geometry and wide-open layout blend the cooking area and seating area, using a classic midcentury modern aesthetic.
The Wild Paysages firm from Saint-Ouen, France, created this privacy garden by using vines along the garden wall, tall bamboo, Japanese privet, and fragrant Burkwood osmanthus. The children’s sandbox, cleverly designed with a tight-fitting cover that stores the sand and toys when not in use, creates usable deck space.
Richard Brown Photography Ltd.
A dull English garden was transformed here into a vibrant yard with circular spaces that lead to a lower-level patio. Created by Green Tree Garden Design, the garden features a cobbled path and interlinking grass circles with pruned “ball” boxwoods that emphasize the circular theme.
Woods’ Edge Patio
A large Chicago area backyard was redesigned by James Martin and Associates to include a traditional patio with pavers, broad lawn, and stepping stones that lead to an arbor and pergola with another outdoor seating area. Plants include white viburnum ‘Snowball’ and large pots with tropicals.
Our Little Fox House
@ourlittlefoxhouse / Instagram
This Houston, Texas, circular patio with curved garden wall and seating area provides the perfect vantage for enjoying an expansive yard that transitions into woods.
A small urban yard in London makes the most of its space by using walls to hold vertical gardens. Designed by Living Colour Gardens, the outdoor room features a zigzag bench of ipe hardwood (Brazilian walnut) with hidden illumination for fun outside parties at night. The patio is paved with travertine, and the raised planting beds mirror the shape of the bench. Plants used here include African lilies, Japanese maples, and large alliums.
Richard Brown Photography Ltd.
Green Tree Garden Design transformed a neglected backyard once full of weeds, overgrown shrubs, and trees. Circular stairs link the stone patio to the lawn and garden level, defined by brick retaining walls. The terraced beds are planted with colorful perennials, small evergreen shrubs, and vines. Carefully defined outdoor “rooms” make a landscape more functional and visually interesting.
Pergola-Covered Outdoor Recreation
Outdoor projects are a passion of North Carolina craftsman company Outdoor Artisan, including this outdoor living room with a pergola. Complete with cooking appliances, a big-screen TV, and eating counters, this outdoor space is just as full-featured as any indoor open-concept kitchen and entertainment space.
Even inside the city limits of Lafayette, Louisiana, Designs by Robin managed to maximize lawn space by creating a narrow custom pool. Although small, the pool includes a tanning ledge, a fountain, and decking that separates it from the lawn, while allowing easy entry and exit for swimmers.
A Burst of Color
For homeowners who formerly lived in Lebanon in the Middle East, A. J. Miller Landscape Architecture of Syracuse, New York, opened up the backyard and chose colorful plants with a Mediterranean look. Given a limited amount of outdoor space, the firm designed areas for frequent outdoor entertaining and dining.
Using a color palette based on the tones of a tree in the center of the garden, O Plus L blended the interior with the exterior of this California modern home in the Ravoli Estates in Pacific Palisades. They used the same surface and flooring materials in and out of the home and echoed the home’s horizontal architectural lines in the hardscape.
Potrero Hill Yard with a View
Steve Ritchey and Travis Rhoads Photography
Seed Studio redesigned the backyard of this Potrero Hill home near San Francisco so it would feel intimate while accommodating large gatherings. Offering views of nearby Bernal Hill, this outdoor living room features a seat-high deck surrounding a Corten steel wood-burning fire pit. Succulents and bamboo plants grow well in rocky soil.
Kansas City Contemporary
Pergola and Privacy
This self-contained stone patio designed by Rolling Landscapes is situated near the house to provide the owners with an outdoor kitchen, living room, and vine-covered pergola, providing shelter and privacy.
James Martin and Assoc.
A geometric backyard designed by James Martin and Associates of Vernon Hills, Illinois, features bluestone steps, a retaining wall, and embedded pavers. Deciduous shrubs and small trees maximize the seasonal color standard in midwestern landscapes.
A townhouse in Tucson, Arizona, was expertly remodeled by Prideaux Design incorporating the colors found the surrounding desert in a spa, outdoor kitchen, seating and dining areas, and a place to lounge. In climates where the weather is favorable year-round, well-planned landscaping is critical to complete enjoyment of a home.
Empty Nesters’ Fire Pit
Sycamore Design created a more adult-oriented backyard for a Menlo Park, California, family when their children left home. This backyard has an emphasis on entertaining, dining, and relaxing by the fire pit. No-fuss features include gravel paving and low-maintenance native plants.
Long Garden in Strawberry Hill
Echinops Garden Design
By day, this long, narrow London backyard redesigned by Echinops Garden Design is a series of modern terraces with ipe hardwood (Brazilian walnut) seating and Western red cedar fencing. At night, the garden lights up as each level offers a different vibe with built-in seating and plants illuminated in different colors.
Pool Area Paradise
Ed Chappell Photography
Once a dull courtyard, this renovation in Naples, Florida, became an outdoor space that reflects the flair of its location. Designed by Malibu West Interiors, the patio is surfaced in a non-skid textured porcelain tile. The pool coping was custom-cast in concrete to mimic the shape of the swimming pool. A colorful wall piece made of teak includes pops of glass tile.
Modern Dining Terrace
Genus Loci Ecological Landscapes
By losing the lawn, installing drought-tolerant plants, adding a water feature, and raising a dining terrace, Genus Loci Ecological Landscapes updated this yard in Toronto, Canada. The dining area wall also provides another layer of privacy and sound isolation.
Bliss Garden Design
A backyard designed by Bliss Garden Design of Seattle takes advantage of the frequent rainfall by incorporating plants that are appropriate to the climate. It gives the effect of a northern coastal rainforest and forms a lush, private backyard that offers its owners a true escape.
Pool and Patio for Entertaining
A home in the Chicago suburbs designed by James Martin and Associates focuses on outdoor entertaining, including a swimming pool, patio, view, and several seating areas. Good landscape design takes advantage of local scenery, and in this case, you can see the vast expanse of Lake Michigan in the distance.
Small Urban Backyard
Portland Yard Transformation
Paradise Restored based in Portland, Oregon, gave the owners of this newish tract home a customized backyard that includes an outdoor kitchen, seating areas, spa, some grass lawn, and a fire pit. With good design, a backyard does not need to be huge to offer a lot of features.
Heffernan Landscape Design bought the property next door and combined a home with their office space in Chicago. Clients can visit the office and see the home’s transformation firsthand. This space includes a patio with an outdoor fireplace.
A synthetic lawn gives the look of a lush English backyard without the maintenance, as seen in this design by Tom Howard Garden Design and Landscaping. Square pavers are embedded in the faux lawn near a narrow planting bed that features Spanish olive trees and leads to a corner built-in seating area.
Kentish Town City Garden
Fork Garden Design
A petite plot in the northwest London burg of Kentish Town was designed by Fork Garden Design to include a storage seating bench with synthetic decking and lawn carpeting. Small landscapes call for features that serve multiple functions.
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Eckersley Garden Architecture
An outdoor dining space designed by Eckersley Garden Architecture of Victoria, Australia, features a vine-covered pergola that provides shade and ambiance. In good landscape design, you incorporate vertical and overhead elements.