As the weather warms up, you need a place to get away from it all without going too far. Your backyard should provide a sense of privacy, luxury, and remoteness, even if you live in the middle of the city. But how can you turn your bare half-acre property into a distant Shangri-La? It’s easier than you think and may only require a few simple touches of beauty and luxury. Here are several tips for making your backyard into an oasis.
Clean It Up
One of the best ways to feel at ease is to clean up the area in which you plan to reside. Give your backyard the once over, ensuring the grass is cut, the edges are trimmed, the vegetation is tamed, and a general sense of order is imposed. You can’t relax if you keep noticing things around you that you need to fix or clean. Act early in spring and leave the relaxation to your future self. You'll appreciate it!
Good Fences Make for Good Oases
You don’t need to blockade yourself in the backyard and keep out the neighbors to be alone with your thoughts, but a decent fence can provide an instant sense of privacy. Don’t like feeling walled in? Choose a fence style that provides charm and warmth as well as a sense of openness. Or plant some bushes around the perimeter of your yard. Whether set side by side or slightly separated, bushes supply a feeling of closeness with nature and can cut off any reminders of the “outside world.” Screens with hanging vines and tall potted plants can also do the trick.
Set Up a Living Area
Decks and patios are a platform for rest, conversation, dining, and even sleeping. Plan your recreational pursuits by deciding what will go on out there. Strictly reading and conversation? Dinner and wine parties? Game nights and stargazing? Or all the above? However, when you build a space, don’t let it dominate the backyard. Ensure it works in conjunction with your landscaping and blends in with the greenery. Do this by adding some trellises for vines and places to hang plants, creating a secret oasis within your oasis. And don’t forget to leave room for a grill—there’s always food and festivities at an oasis. Also, think of your deck or patio as another entryway to your home; keep it in harmony with the interior.
Don’t skimp on your patio furniture. It’s tempting to invest in cheap (and cheaply made) plastic tables, chairs, and loungers, but your eye—and your back—will know the difference between mass-produced ready-to-assemble furnishings and handmade wooden outdoor furniture. Always work to create a sense of harmony when designing your space. Whether you prefer modern pieces or a more rustic look, pick outdoor furniture that looks good and that you can feel good about. The size of your space naturally dictates how much you can put on your deck or patio but stick to a core set of complementary pieces: a table and chairs, a lounger, a set of comfy chairs, and a low table. Remember that this furniture will be outside all season long, so pick items that are easy to maintain and protect. Finally, add an outdoor rug as well as throw pillows and blankets to make the outdoor space feel like an extension of the indoors and provide some warmth when the temperature dips at night.
Set a mood for the evenings with the proper lighting. You may already have permanent lighting on the back of your home, but if it’s intended to keep the backyard flush with bright lighting, it’ll put an ironic damper on more casual and intimate get-togethers. Add some hanging lanterns, whether propane or battery-operated, that can be dimmed or illuminated as needed. Novelty light strings can be tacky, but there are more subtle and elegant designs that can provide illumination without being obtrusive. Candles are lovely on windless nights but be careful and keep them away from anything flammable.
Leave part of your backyard open for entertaining activities like lawn games. Typical yard games include horseshoes, croquet, cornhole, bocce, water balloon fights, giant Jenga, and so many more. Consider building a storage space on the deck or patio to keep all these playtime supplies organized. If you have younger children, a playground set is a nice touch, as is a sandbox that can double as a makeshift sand art Zen garden for your own use.
Nothing adds natural charm more than an artificial pond, waterfall, or similar backyard body of water. If you have the space and budget, add an area with tumbling, burbling, and sparkling waters that you can contemplate from your chair. A koi pond adds even more life and color to your backyard, especially when it's rigged with a meditative system of lights.
A Garden of Delights
Naturally, the more plants you have on display, the better the illusion of a distant getaway. We’ve mentioned vines and bushes in our tips for making your backyard into an oasis, but now you should concentrate on the accents and pops of color offered by various plants and their flowers. Choose plants that are appropriate for the seasons and soil, keeping in mind not only where they go but when they’ll be displaying their full glory. Landscapers and garden centers can make suggestions about placement and lifespan around your backyard. As for the deck, potted plants can thrive in your backyard during the warmer seasons, then be brought inside to beautify your home’s interior during the winter months. Also, don’t discount fruit trees and a vegetable garden to add that extra bit of Eden out back.
Find a Way To Keep the Sun at Bay
Much as you might like the feeling of the warm sun on your face, you’ll likely need a break from it during the dog days of summer. Setting up an umbrella is the easiest method of creating shade, but if you can build a covered area where you can hole up when the rains come, do it. If you have the means, building pergolas and gazebos can provide partial to full coverage from the elements, but you can also build a simple frame from which to hang curtains or a canopy.