Backyard Design Ideas That Make a Big Impact

When considering home improvement projects, the reasons to invest in your property are more than just monetary. Homeowners who take on improvement projects are seeing benefits beyond increased home values, including things like better health, improved relationships and lower utility bills.

One area for improvement that might go overlooked is the backyard. While you might think your backyard is a lost cause due to limited space, lack of privacy and landscaping challenges, there are plenty of ways to add extrinsic and intrinsic value to your outdoor space.

Below, we've highlighted five of our favorite backyard design ideas that can make a big difference in your home, whether you're trying to completely revamp your outdoor space or just add an element (or more) to the existing area.

Outdoor Living Spaces

Outdoor lounging area with a grill. The area has comfortable seating, a grill, and a fire pit. The background is a lush green lawn.

As more studies show the benefits of spending time in nature, people around the world are moving their activities into the fresh air, if possible. Many of us have already put hours of thought and effort into a relaxing living area inside our homes, so why not extend the comfort of that indoor space beyond the back door?

Ryan Fitzgerald, Realtor and owner of Homes Raleigh, has seen this concept skyrocket in his clients' homes. "They're investing in quality patio furniture, installing outdoor kitchens, and even setting up weather-proof entertainment systems," he says. Adding temperature control tools - such as fans, misters or heaters - can extend the time you're able to spend outdoors and increase your return on the investment.

Fire Pits or Outdoor Fireplaces

An outdoor living area with a firepit. The firepit is surrounded by comfortable seating and a lush green lawn. The image is a great example of backyard design ideas that incorporate firepits.

Picture you and your family roasting marshmallows for s'mores over a crackling fire or catching up with friends as the flames of a fire pit keep you warm. Where are you? If you said "camping" (or anywhere other than your home), reconsider the possibility of having your own "campfire" right in your backyard.

Adding a fire pit or outdoor fireplace at your home can add ambiance, visual interest and new lounging areas for family and friends. While a fire pit is (relatively) mobile and less expensive, an outdoor fireplace is a long-lasting investment with countless design options. You can build in permanent seating surrounding the fire, or choose to set up lawn chairs or blankets when using the fireplace or pit.

Tiana Masaniai, actress and design specialist, considers an outdoor fireplace a dream addition to her backyard. "If I could splurge on any backyard item, it would be a large outdoor fireplace. I would want a tall stucco fireplace built up against the outer wall of my house," she says. "It makes for a great focal point of an outdoor living room. I would be out there all the time!"

Natural, Eco-Conscious Designs

Image of raised beds in a potager garden in a backyard. The beds are filled with vegetables and herbs. The garden is a great example of Eco-Conscious backyard design ideas.

With sustainability becoming more of a priority for individuals, corporations and organizations across the world, you don't have to look far to make a positive impact on the environment. More homeowners and design experts are making eco-conscious decisions during home improvement projects, and these choices are extremely approachable to the average consumer.

When selecting flowers and plants for your outdoor space, choose flora that's native to your area. These plants are the most suited to the environment, which means they require less water and upkeep. Luke Caldwell, designer and HGTV personality, likes to lean on trees native to his home state. "Because I live in Idaho, I love to use evergreens - that way the backyard stays green throughout the whole year!"

Using organic materials such as wood, stone and clay is a great way to easily incorporate natural elements into your space. You can even lean on reclaimed materials like recycled metal, glass or bricks for a less expensive (and eco-friendly) way to enhance the natural vibe of your backyard.

Fitzgerald has seen many homes with rainwater harvesting systems to cut back on water usage and utility bills. Rainwater can be used for watering lawns and plants, water features, composting and more.

Lastly, good lighting is key to a great outdoor space, but no one likes the wires, extension cords and plugs that come with it. Consider energy-friendly lights, like solar-powered options or switch out fluorescent bulbs for LEDs that draw much less power than alternatives.

Wellness Features

A man working out in an outdoor setting near a Caldera Spas' Utopia Hot Tub.

Self-care has never been more popular, and people around the world are investing big in their health, happiness and general well-being. Healthy living now goes beyond food and exercise, spilling over into mental health, recovery and sleep. Homeowners are making these lifestyles more accessible by adding wellness tools within steps of their back doors.

The benefits of hydrotherapy have been studied for years, showing physical, mental and relational health advantages. These feel-good benefits have led homeowners to invest in hot tubs that hit all three aspects of wellness. On the physical side, the high temperatures and buoyancy of hot tub water can aid in benefits like inflammation reduction, arthritis relief, faster muscle recovery and improved circulation. Mentally, Caldera spa owners are seeing reduced stress levels, better sleep, and more opportunities for meditation and reflection. Hot tubs are also a wonderful way to strengthen relationships with loved ones as you carve out time sans technology to talk, laugh, or simply be with each other.

(Read what real Caldera owners have to say about the wellness benefits they're seeing from their spas at home!)

Homeowners are also considering pools, swim spas and cold plunges for their own use right in the comfort of their backyard. These tools allow people to prioritize their health and well-being in as little as a few minutes a day.

Outside of water therapy, homeowners are reaping the benefits of building dedicated workout spaces, complete with exercise equipment, mats, fans/misters and some type of cover to provide sun protection and privacy. When combined with digital fitness classes and apps, this removes the need for public gyms and provides an accessible, private space to move your body whenever, however you want.

For a mental health focus, homeowners are considering "zen spaces" that provide a calming, quiet area to meditate, practice yoga or simply contemplate life without distraction. A zen space can be created by clearing ample space, eliminating clutter, adding pillows or yoga mats, using earth colors (greens, browns, tans) in decor, and considering a white noise machine.

Vertical Gardens

Woman relaxing spa side in chair reading a book

Vertical gardens are particularly useful in small spaces or urban areas with little privacy. Instead of creating plant or flower beds that span across a yard, build upward to save space and create dividers that define the outdoor living space. Jason Farr, founder and president of Aviara Pavers, is incorporating plenty of vertical gardens for his clients. "Vertical gardens create a great statement piece for any backyard," he says, and their versatility means the design options are nearly endless. Use reclaimed materials like wooden pallets, fence panels or bricks for an environment-friendly project; or purchase specifically designed vertical planters from Amazon, Home Depot or Wayfair.

As trends come and go, we believe these backyard design ideas will stand the test of time. Each one can create a timeless design that matches any climate, yard or style. Incorporate one (or more) of these designs into your backyard to create a personal haven for you and your family.

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