17 Backyard Design Ideas for Next-Level Outdoor Living

Caroline Gilbert
Written by Caroline Gilbert
Updated December 14, 2021
Family spending time together in backyard
Gorodenkoff - stock.adobe.com

Outdoor living at its finest

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Whether you’re looking to host a cookout, spend more quality time with family, or simply relax and unwind, creating a backyard sanctuary can open up a world of possibilities. Check out these backyard design ideas to capitalize on untapped potential in your outdoor space.

1. Social Fire Pit

Backyard fire pit and stone patio
Neil - stock.adobe.com

Exchanging stories with friends and family around a fire is one of the best ways to socialize outdoors, so promote togetherness in your yard with an integrated hardscaped fire pit.  

To replicate this backyard design, lay down pavers, and build up the fire pit using stone. Continue using the stone to create bench seating so you always have enough space for guests. Extend your fire pit season by using a gas insert for instant warmth during chilly months. 

2. Secluded Gazebo

White lattice gazebo in backyard
Leslie C Saber - stock.adobe.com

A major benefit to installing a gazebo is always having a shady place to relax under, even when the sun is at its highest peak. What’s more, you can enjoy your backyard when it’s raining thanks to the gazebo’s roof. But the best part has to be the privacy that it offers, making it especially good for houses on corner lots without a true backyard. 

3. Sizzling Outdoor Kitchen

Modern outdoor kitchen
alexandre zveiger - stock.adobe.com

Take al fresco dining to a new level by adding an outdoor kitchen space to your backyard. Install weatherproof cabinets and countertops, and add a water line so you can have a sink and even an outdoor dishwasher. Keep melamine plates and weatherproof cookware in your cabinets so you don’t have to keep running back and forth between your indoor and outdoor cooking spaces.  

4. Contained Fencing

Fenced-in backyard
Iriana Shiyan - stock.adobe.com

Add privacy to your yard and elevate your landscape design by enclosing the space with a fence. Even though fencing tends to have a high upfront cost, the benefits it provides are sought after by potential buyers, increasing your resale value. 

5. Natural Wildlife Habitat

Pair of fawns in a backyard
cmh51 – stock.adobe.com

If your idea of relaxation is being immersed in the wilderness, turn your backyard into a habitat for wildlife. Attract birds, deer, or butterflies to your home by giving them shelter and food in your yard. Add birdseed feeders, flowering plants, and shrubs that bear fruits to serve as food sources. And don’t forget water sources in the form of a pond complete with a waterfall, or a modest bird bath. 

6. Multi-level Decking

Multi-level deck in backyard
Javani LLC - stock.adobe.com

If you don’t have an area that leads to your yard directly from your main floor, consider installing a multi-level deck. Having a deck that connects your main living space to your backyard will encourage you and your family to use your outdoor space more. 

A large upper deck can also provide views you can enjoy as the seasons change. While large, intricate decking like this may have a high upfront cost, it adds value to your home and provides a better layout for your backyard landscape design. 

7. Stone Retaining Wall

 Stone retaining wall in backyard
Natalie Schorr - stock.adobe.com

Contain sloped yards or steep drop-offs by building a stone retaining wall. Using large stone blocks for the wall material is natural-looking and visually appealing. Retaining walls are also super practical by helping to mitigate moisture and control floods with a proper drainage system.

8. Breezy Pergola

Outdoor pergola with table and chairs
Andy Dean - stock.adobe.com

A pergola provides a light and airy feel while defining your outdoor living space. Place a set of oversized cozy chairs with an outdoor table under the structure. Then, add a patio and walkway leading up to the pergola to create cohesion and an easy transition from other areas on your property. Plant climbing greenery up the beams for extra charm. 

9. Rock Waterfall

Rock waterfall in backyard
rabbitti - stock.adobe.com

Another backyard design idea is to incorporate rocks into the area by creating a tiered waterfall. Rocks are a low-maintenance material and can add tranquility when combined with a water feature. Integrate plants and stone statues into the waterfall to put your personal spin on the design.

10. Calming Hot Tub

Hot tub and chairs on backyard deck
Finmiki - stock.adobe.com

Turn up the heat and add a hot tub to your backyard for a stress-relieving space that you can enjoy with friends and family all year round. Add lounge chairs next to the hot tub for maximum relaxation. 

11. Container Garden

Tomatoes growing in containers
vaivirga - stock.adobe.com

If you have a small backyard but still enjoy gardening, consider a container garden. It’s a simple way to enjoy the benefits of fresh plants, even if your outdoor space is limited. Plus, containers are low-maintenance because you can move your potted plants as you please, and they are less susceptible to weeds.  

12. Paver Walkway

Paver walkway in yard
jpldesigns - stock.adobe.com

Use interlocking low-maintenance pavers to make a path from your front yard to your backyard. Line the walkway with mulch, greenery, and hearty plants like hydrangeas for a pop of color. Integrating a paver walkway to other stone hardscaped areas of your yard, like a patio, can add visual appeal and increase the value of your home.

13. Mood Lighting

Outdoor patio with string lights and lanterns
Photographee.eu - stock.adobe.com

String up lights in your outdoor living space for a festive glow that makes a patio usable long into the night. Hang trendy globe lights, and place solar lanterns near outdoor furniture so you can entertain even when the sun goes down. 

14. Zen Rock Garden

garden made of rocks and moss
yanikap - stock.adobe.com

Rock gardens can add variety and dimension to your yard. Compared to traditional gardens, they are lower maintenance and hold up well in harsh weather conditions. 

That’s right—gone are the days of covering plants at the first sign of frost. Instead, all you have to do is pick a variety of rock colors and sizes, and then plant some hearty shrubbery for a dash of green.

15. Pool Paradise

Backyard pool and hardscaping
xy - stock.adobe.com

If you already have a swimming pool but it lacks flair, consider the ways you can elevate your backyard design by using it as a centerpiece. Add hardscaping around the border, then plant brightly colored flowers and lush shrubs around the side. Transforming your pool creates an inspiring area that encourages more use and summer fun. 

16. Cozy Fireplace

Outdoor stone fireplace
Ursula Page - stock.adobe.com

Maximize the time you spend in your backyard by installing a built-in fireplace. Use stacked stone all the way up the wall to create a focal point and designated place for guests to gather. A wood fireplace has the added benefit of helping prevent bugs, giving you more opportunities for outdoor year-round fun.

17. Integrated Treehouse

Kids playing in backyard treehouse
Alina - stock.adobe.com

A classic treehouse can provide lifelong memories and an area for kids to play that is immersed in nature. Pick a sturdy tree in your yard, and choose a treehouse design that has a covered roof so they can enjoy it even when it’s raining. Bonus points if you include your family in the planning and building process for an opportunity to bond. Building your own custom treehouse can be achieved in just under a week with an extra set of hands and a pile of lumber. You can also hire a treehouse builder to handle this backyard project if you’d rather not DIY.

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