When it comes to tackling a home renovation, the backyard can be an afterthought. But more and more, homeowners are thinking about this prime living space a bit differently. In 2020, outdoor contracting professionals, like pool and spa installers, saw a large increase in work requests—and the new approach to yards doesn’t end there.
The backyard is a necessity now more than ever. With increased time spent at home, it is a safe haven and recreation space all in one. But there are so many factors to consider when you’re looking to upgrade your yard, like “How can I get the most bang for my buck?” “What improvements will benefit my family and me?” and “Can I handle the job myself?”
This guide provides answers to all these questions and more! So let’s get started.
Tips to Give Your Small Backyard a Makeover
The typical American home has increased in size over the years, and, with this shift, the backyard has subsequently shrunk. Although it varies by state, the average yard in the United States is now around a quarter-acre, making anything less, by definition, smaller than average. However, working with less square footage doesn’t mean you have to do less when it comes to your renovation.
A modest backyard doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice when it comes to renovating. Whether you’re looking for a better way to utilize a small patch of grass in the city or redecorate your patio, these tips are for you. Below are four ways you can upgrade your small outdoor space and guarantee a welcoming and relaxing environment that suits your needs.
Create an illusion.
You may already be familiar with the idea that adding height gives the impression of more space. This principle is often used in interior decorating, but the same can be applied when updating your backyard.
Installing a tall fence can be particularly beneficial in urban environments. Here, yards are often stacked one on top of the other, but height can be utilized to create dimension regardless of your location. If you’re worried about the fence looking too harsh, opt for natural materials like cedar, redwood, or teak, and incorporate greenery or vines throughout.
If you have a little more space to work with, consider installing a pergola or another tall, decorative structure over the seating area. Most retailers sell pergolas in a variety of sizes, so you shouldn’t have too much difficulty finding one that suits your yard without overwhelming it. These structures are perfect for hanging lanterns on or wrapping with string lights to increase ambience and evoke the feeling of a much bigger space.
Choose furniture wisely.
When you have space to play with, you can go big with furniture. However, when space is tight, it’s important to consider the amount of surface area that seating and tables will consume. Instead of going with a clunky metal or glass table and chair set that’s hard to move, choose pieces that are easily collapsible and can be moved out of the way for more standing room when needed. Natural wood or faux wood folding Adirondack chairs are a great option, as they are stylish, can be easily upgraded by adding colorful cushions, and fold up in a snap.
Make use of small folding tables as well, which can accommodate a variety of arrangements. These tables should be big enough to hold a few drinks, yet small enough that they don’t feel out of place with the minimalistic seating.
A cantilever umbrella is another good investment to provide your yard with adjustable shade. Home Depot has a great tool that allows you to search for umbrellas by size, ensuring the umbrella you choose won’t overwhelm your yard and seating area. Cantilever umbrellas, in particular, are perfect for small yards because they are freestanding and can be angled up or down to protect most of or part of your yard from the sun.
Hide hard surfaces and add greenery.
A backyard devoid of greenery doesn’t feel like much of a backyard at all, but a lush setting can be hard to achieve, especially if you’re in a city environment with little to no grass. Instead of installing faux grass, create the feel of nature with natural- or neutral-colored rugs. If you’re going with a pattern, diagonals can have a lengthening effect on a space and draw the eye outward.
You can also add greenery by investing in easy-to-care-for plants that are well-suited for the climate you live in. (For instance, palm trees look pretty, but if you live in upstate New York, you might have a hard time keeping them alive). Costa Farms is a national plant retailer that ships plants direct to consumers. Its website has a Plant Finder feature, allowing you to search based on very specific criteria, including the plant type, lighting, and even personality, helping to ensure you choose the perfect plant for your outdoor space
When adding plants and flowers to your small yard, it’s important to make sure the greenery is balanced and that it doesn’t overshadow any other decorative features. Keep large-leaved plants toward the perimeter, and disperse smaller plants or flowers throughout the rest of the space.
The pièce de résistance.
You might think that because your backyard is small, there’s no room for recreation. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth; all you have to do is think outside the box. There are plenty of extras that can prime your space for gatherings, including a small firepit, lawn games like giant Jenga, and even an outdoor bar.
Think about the kind of gatherings you like to host and make sure you have the tools to make it happen. You don’t have to go over-the-top, either. All of the aforementioned items can be created yourself or purchased relatively inexpensively, but they will have a big impact on the ambiance of your backyard.
Tips to Give Your Large Backyard a Makeover
If you’ve been blessed with the gift of a large backyard, you should make sure that you’re making the most of all that extra outdoor space. If you have more than a quarter acre of land to work with, it can feel overwhelming to care for. But the tips below are designed to help you segment your backyard space and maximize your use of each area.
Create distinct zones.
With so much space, breaking your yard into sections can help the process of renovating feel less taxing. Start by thinking about what you need and want out of your yard. Perhaps you’ve been meaning to start a garden or grow your own fruits and vegetables. Or maybe you want to install a playset for your children to help them spend more time outdoors.
No matter what you choose to do, pay attention to where the sun hits your yard at different times of the day, and plan strategically for your zones. For example, a particularly sunny spot would be a good place for a garden, while a shaded area might be better for seating.
One of the best ways to start developing these areas is through building a deck or laying down separate types of pavers—you could even add height with a series of different paved sections connected by stone steps. A contractor can help you achieve these more dramatic upgrades. However, if you’re looking to start small, begin with laying down a smaller section of pavers close to your home for a DIY patio.
Recreate your way.
A big yard is perfect for recreation for the whole family, but be careful not to overdo it. Installing a pool and a pond and a playset can quickly make a large backyard feel cluttered. Instead, stick to one or two features you will get the most use out of.
If you enjoy hosting, a large firepit or outdoor kitchen is perfect for creating a hospitable and enjoyable space. You can work with a contractor to create a built-in effect with stone or invest in a high-quality, freestanding grill with counter space for prepping your food outside. Just make sure to follow the safety instructions and install items with an open flame away from the side of your home. Craft an area specifically for eating and drinking by setting up a comfortable set of table and chairs. Circular tables are great for creating an atmosphere primed for good conversation; just make sure the seats you choose have comfortable cushions!
Not ready to dive into the deep end and install a pool? Hot tubs can be a great, simpler alternative, and they can provide just as much enjoyment. Imagine hopping into a steamy, bubbly bath under the stars after a long day of work. Regular upkeep is essential for getting the most out of your hot tub, but it is be well worth it when you enjoy years of relaxing, alfresco soaks.
Focus your colors.
Incorporating bright colors into your exterior decor can do wonders for your backyard, but you have to be strategic about how you do it. Decide on a color scheme, and create variations of it throughout your patio or seating areas to guarantee a cohesive look. For example, if your color scheme is made up of yellows, oranges, and reds, you could utilize deep-red seat cushions offset with a brown or copper table and tie the space together with planters in a rich golden shade.
Your color scheme can also help influence the lighting you choose. If you opt for vibrant colors, you could contrast that vibrancy with more minimalistic and romantic lighting via table candles or copper fixtures. A neutral color scheme lends itself to more dramatic lighting, which can be achieved through hanging fairy lights or utilizing larger statement pieces.
Increase your storage capabilities.
Installing a shed is the perfect way to eliminate clutter from your garage. If you lack space inside your home, use the extra space you have outdoors to create added storage for items like gardening equipment, exterior decorations, and power tools.
Conversely, if you have plenty of storage space in your garage, a shed can still provide an outdoor-indoor area for recreation. She-sheds, as some have been dubbed, are structures used as a space away from the home for relaxing or practicing a creative outlet. Nowadays, the she-shed can be used for virtually anything, such as an extra office for a work-from-home setup or a workout space.
To create a natural connection between your shed and home, consider installing a stone path from your patio or back door to the shed. You could even line the path with small landscaping elements like flowers or plants to add additional visual appeal and make your backyard feel more complete.