Despite living somewhere beautiful like Southern California where we can go out in nature regularly, our own outdoor home spaces are the place we bring our children out for an hour or two, let the dog run, go sit for a fun meal, grill with friends, or have a party. With some planning, your backyard design can even improve our moods, our health, and make our days and nights more enjoyable.
If you’re no stranger to our Design Blog, you know that we’ve covered psychology in design multiple ways in the past, from colors, your interior design, and even lighting in every room. We’ve talked too about protecting your skin and investments from harmful UV rays, whether you’re indoors or outside. Making spaces more comfortable and functional for people who live there is really what we care most about and why we do what we do.
But backyards we haven’t covered much at all. It’s an area we’ve been itching to talk about, so let’s go!
What backyard design makes the most sense for me?
Not everyone’s preferences are the same, so this is certainly the place to start! Figuring out what you want from your space is the first step to making it as comfortable as possible for you uniquely:
- Are you an avid gardener who loves to watch flowers grow, or prefer something that takes less upkeep (or a need to pay for upkeep)?
- Do you enjoy talking with neighbors over the fence or would you prefer you both never see or hear each other?
- Are there pets or small children who need room to run, or places to sit or relax out of direct sun?
- Is entertaining guests, whether family or friends, a regular occurrence at your home?
- Do you enjoy reading or chatting while outdoors?
- Does hanging out around a firepit sound like a wonderful night?
- What other designs of backyards or even nature do I enjoy and why?
- Is attracting nature or providing food for bees and butterflies high priority for you?
The most common psychological preference for people, regardless of setting, is to have a space where we feel comfortable, safe, and like we have privacy, but with the ability to still have good views of our surroundings – when we want them. But that safety and security for you could mean high hedges, or it could mean having as close to a completed unobstructed view of everything. In the primitive mind, that’s like wanting to see if a predator is coming! While we don’t really anticipate that as a real issue in the city, consider what feels the best for you and your family.
For small children or pets, not only does security shift to considering what’s within their reach, but also what can enter or exit your yard. No one wants to find that their toddler left the yard through the gate in the time it took for you to get your shoes on, or walk outside and yet another peafowl has come in to drink from your fountain.
If you find that the idea of entertaining in your backyard is the polar opposite of “comfort” to you, then you know privacy is likely going to be of the utmost importance for you to fully relax. On the flipside, if entertaining is all you can think about, then wide, open spaces with plenty of comfortable seating in the shade is likely going to be your go-to for success.
If gardening is a big hobby of yours, along with watching bees and butterflies, that matters! You’re going to want paths through flowerbeds so you can walk amongst your work. You’ll also want seating to be positioned where you can watch pollinators help your work grow.
Position yourself outdoors for comfort & ease-of-use.
Once you’ve identified what feels comfortable, relaxing, and secure for you, get to bringing it to life! If you enjoy feeling like your back is to a wall for security, place your outdoor patio table near your house’s wall. If that’s not feasible, consider adding a trellis, hedge, fence, or even large tree near as that comfort barrier.
Positioning of seating doesn’t mean a lot either if it’s not comfortable to be in because of the weather. If you have an overhang in place, you may already have that covered. Many people have roof extensions over their back patio that create plenty of shade. If you don’t, consider adding it with an awning. That way you know you’re protected from direct UV rays all day. Temperatures are also significantly lower in the shade, which will make all the difference in your ability to read a book in July or take kids into the yard onto the patio. No puppies like burning their paws either, so shade is really important for all members of your family.
Make logical pathways to your seating and activities.
Consider what you’ll be bringing outside – if food, you may want your seating closer to the kitchen door to prevent people from having to traverse the whole yard with plates and glasses. If you’re bringing small children out regularly, having your seating closer to their play area, or a family room door may make more sense. The paths you take across your space are usually defined with patio paving, but you can also use paths to create decorative lines throughout your yard to define paths and unique spaces too.
If you love yourself a good fire pit, you know it can’t be up next to your home. However, you can create a beautiful path that extends your outdoor living area over to a space firepit space with comfortable seating, and line that path with decorative flowers, shrubs, or even some trees (just keep the fire area itself clear!).
Think about your home’s interior design.
Our outdoor spaces often get treated like they’re entirely separate from our homes, but they shouldn’t be! By bringing colors, materials, or other identify-creating materials from indoors to the outdoors, you can create an outdoor space that is an extension of your interior. While fabrics for the outdoors should be waterproof and easy-to-clean, don’t shy away from accent pillows on outdoor benches. Consider adding outdoor shades or draperies if you have a pergola or overhang that could provide you with a way to make a space feel even more private. Fabrics also soften any design! If your outdoor furniture doesn’t look comfortable, adding an outdoor rug and throw pillows to soften the space easily.
Everything outdoors needs to be sturdy and made for it. There are beautiful hardwoods that can make a space even more attractive than stucco or stone. Adding a colorful awning can help bring peaceful, calming colors to your yard. A fountain has unique properties with psychology to really help you relax. Just like your living room or bedroom, art also belongs outside! Just make sure nothing can blow away in the wind, even if it is waterproof. You can also get simple outdoor storage to toss extra pillows or other items in when you’re not outside with it.
Potted plants, just like indoors, can be great additions too. You may be outdoors already, but there’s no reason you can’t use plants decoratively within your seating area too!
Add lighting you love to your backyard design.
Especially if you’re an entertainer, don’t forget one of the most important parts of design – light! Without outdoor lighting, no amount of wonderful design will get used at night. No one wants to take a lantern out or stumble through darkness. Fortunately, outdoor lighting has come a long way. Think beyond path lights to LED strips, bulbs, or beyond. The right lighting is as decorative as it is useful. It can add quite a lot of charm to your space.
For path lights, look at solar stakes. That way you don’t have to worry about batteries or turning them on and off. They’re also small enough they won’t disrupt the neighbors’ sleep through their windows. For bigger lighting, remote controls are a great way to ensure lights are on when you need them and off when you don’t. If you have a SunSetter awning, you can even have LED strips as part of the frame. Those use the same remote as the awning itself, and can also be turned on or off with Alexa or Google Home devices.
We’re not landscapers, but many backyard design rules are the same.
While we wouldn’t dream of pretending that plants are our bread and butter, they still matter. Just like with interior design, think ahead about height. If you plant incredibly tall things near your home that tower over your roof, it’ll make your house look shorter. If you plant short flowering bushes near your pergola, it can make it look taller. Spreading colors out in a pattern that guides the eye down paths, you’ll create movement in your design. And of course, a variety of textures is design magic. From sleek, smooth, bright green tropicals to fluffy, dark, and mottled sage leaves, you can create beautiful visuals with plants alone.
When designing your outdoor space, think ahead, but don’t get overwhelmed. You can always add more to it later! The most important takeaways are to be comfortable. Make yourself feel safe and happy. Protect yourself and your furniture from direct UV rays. And make sure you love it!