If designed right, your backyard can make a huge change.
1. Designing the Room Outside
A backyard is an extension of what’s going on inside our home, maybe more colorful, casual, fun, and without a ceiling to put a lid on our needs and desires. In a yard, trees and vines can climb to their ultimate heights, light and weather can quickly change, and the possibilities—within the confines of our property lines—are up to the terrain, our design skills, and our do-it-yourself know-how.
If your DIY design and construction skills aren’t up to tackling a major backyard remodeling project, you can 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.
2. An Eichler Remodel
Developer Joseph Eichler built thousands of California housing tract homes in the 1950s and 1960s, and his name is now associated with the style we now know as mid-century modern. While most of these developments were in the suburbs, the Diamond Heights Eichlers built in 1962 are in the Visitacion Valley neighborhood of San Francisco.
The Garden Route Co. remodeled this landscape of a two-story Diamond Heights Eichler with a steep hillside garden. The challenge: creating 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.
The owners of this Boston area property wanted to stretch their living space to the outside while enjoying the beautiful woodland setting at easy reach from the 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 more naturalized native plantings, including an outdoor fireplace, a koi pond, a shade garden, and irregular bluestone paths.
Landscape designers are often consulted when homeowners’ lifestyles and needs change. For these clients of Jane Harries Garden Design, the children had “grown out of football and guinea pig ownership, and they wanted a restyle,” says Harries, of Northamptonshire, England.
Starting with the removal of oversized trees, Harries 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, and a water feature near the house provides a natural transition from indoors to the terrace.
5.Water-Wise, Multi-Use Yard
In this landscape, Beth Edelstein of the Los Angeles area firm BE Landscape Design removed the lawn and replaced it with raised stacked-stone planter boxes for growing vegetables and herbs. The drought-tolerant landscape design now includes benches, a fire pit, containers set on decomposed granite (DG) gravel, and concrete stepping stones.
6. 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 can do much to set the style of a landscape—the narrow horizontal rails used here make for a very contemporary look.
7. Relaxing and Informal
A winding path made of decomposed granite (DG) connects areas of this yard in Woodcote, London, England, created by Joanne Winn Garden Design. Woven rattan lounge chairs add a modern touch to this lush landscape. Flower beds soften the transition between the turf lawn and paver patio.
A woodland garden in upstate New York created by Earth Mama Landscape Design features a gravel sitting area with stacked-stone retaining wall and flagstone steps leading to the nearby woods.
The seamless transition from backyard to forest is appealing for homeowners who enjoy afternoon strolls and outdoor adventures. The extensive use of natural stone is a perfect fit for this rustic landscape.
9. Clean-Line Backyard Design
Symmetry, geometric design, and organization are often key to designing small backyards. Christy Webber Landscapes was inspired by this Chicago homeowner’s recent interior renovation–modern and using clean lines–to extend living space to the yard. The patio is paved with bluestone with blue-chip joints. A privacy fence is softened with Japanese maple trees, along with birch and spruce trees, while boxwood, rhododendron, arborvitae and pachysandra add year-round interest.
10. Colorful California Landscape
Here, 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 as well as serving the practical function of guiding foot traffic.
11. Cottage Garden
The landscape architects Dear Garden Associates in bucks County, Pennsylvania were tasked with retrofitting 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. Among the selections: purple smokebush, Mellow Yellow spiraea, Russian sage, and smooth viburnum. Terraces are a perfect solution for steep slopes where planting is difficult.
12. Circle Garden
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” box woods that emphasize the circular theme.
13. Two-Level Yard
A neglected backyard once full of weeds, overgrown shrubs, and trees was transformed by Green Tree Garden Design. 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.
14. Bluestone Hardscape
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 were selected to maximize the seasonal color that is so common in Midwest landscapes.
15. Fulham Garden
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.