30 Easy but Effective Backyard Makeover Ideas
With summer on the way, you might be thinking about giving your backyard space a boost. But it can be difficult to know where to start or what’s going to give you the most bang for your buck.
It all starts with a little creativity — especially if you have a small yard or limited space, according to Los Angeles interior designer John Linden. And don’t get too obsessed with what other people are doing (and showing off on Instagram). “Remember, reality is not as important as perception!” Linden says. “What you think is beautiful will most of the time be more than enough to please you.”
Here are 30 backyard makeover ideas that are simple and affordable — but truly effective.
1. Define Your Space
Before you buy a bunch of new stuff for your backyard, look at what you already have. A good makeover starts with defining your space, says Jen Stark, gardener, home improvement expert, and founder of Happy DIY Home.
Decide whether you want a shady lounging area, a play area or a cooking/dining area.
More Ways to Define Your Space
When you know what your priority is, defining the space can be as quick and easy as setting up furniture or repositioning the accessories you already have, Stark explains.
2. Use Hanging Baskets and Pots
One of the easiest ways to add color to your outdoor space, no matter how small it is, is with baskets and pots.
More Ways to Use Hanging Baskets and Pots
You can choose flowers and plants based on your personal preference, and there are options to suit any budget.
3. Paint the Shed
A lick of paint can turn a shabby shed into a pretty backyard feature.
With a wide range of protective wood paints and stains to choose from, you can be as subtle or adventurous as you like.
More Ways to Paint
While you’re at it, why not paint the fence, too?
Linden suggests a bright yellow to instantly change the look and feel of your yard.
4. Create a Path or Patio
A simple path or a small area for a bistro table and chairs can really transform your backyard and invite visitors to gather around the garden.
More Ways to Create a Path or Patio
But if your budget doesn’t stretch to a paved path or patio, don’t worry.
Gravel is an affordable alternative, and if it’s a lightly used area, you don’t need to have a hardcore base as long as the soil is compacted and level and there’s a membrane base to stop weeds from coming through.
5. Decorate Your Fences
Fences aren’t typically the most attractive part of a garden, but you can easily spruce them up.
Try adding some hanging flower pots or wind chimes. Or you could get really ambitious and paint a mural.
More Ways to Decorate Your Fences
You can switch up your decorations by season, Linden says.
For instance, hang pumpkins from your fence posts for Halloween, then replace them with giant hanging snowflakes at Christmas.
6. Give Your Lawn Some TLC
There’s no point filling your backyard with fancy features if you neglect the basics.
If your lawn is past its best, tackle those problems first.
More Ways to Give Your Lawn Some TLC
Brown patches, bald spots and moss growth can all be dealt with fairly easily.
But if you’re not sure about any of it, get an expert opinion.
7. Cut Your Lawn Into a Defined Shape
If you have string, a spade and a free afternoon, you can reshape your lawn into something stylish or quirky. All you need to do is mark out your shape and use the spade to remove the surplus grass.
More Ways to Cut Your Lawn Into a Defined Shape
Why not try a circle, oval or square?
8. Bring Your Patio to Life
No lawn? No problem. Container gardening is perfect for patios and balconies.
Other Ways to Bring Your Patio to Life
If you don’t want to wait for the blooms, go for pre-planted pots, and you can add even more personality by choosing brightly colored or patterned pots.
Just remember that containers can restrict root growth, so make sure your pots have the right type of soil and good drainage.
9. Reuse Old Furniture
You might have upcycled furniture inside your home — well, you can do the same to revive your backyard.
You’ll even be able to save money while you’re at it.
Other Ways to Reuse Old Furniture
If you have any old, tired pieces, moving them outside can make them look fresh again.
Anything from sinks to bookshelves is fair game!
10. Attract Wildlife
Enticing birds, bees and other wildlife into your backyard is the most natural way to turn it into a beautiful space.
Try planting flowers that are known to attract bees.
Other Ways to Attract Wildlife
Another good way to attract wildlife is with a bird feeder — and you don’t even have to spend any money.
Simply wash out old tin cans, paint them, fill them with bird seed and then hang them around your backyard.
11. Start a Vegetable Patch
Cultivating a vegetable patch in your backyard turns it into a productive space — and a supplier of nutritious veggies. It’s fairly easy to get started, too.
Simply section off part of your garden, prepare the soil and plant whatever vegetables you want to be adding to your salads, soups and stews in the future.
Other Ways to Start a Vegetable Patch
You can even plant herbs or vegetables in pots to make a smaller space or balcony equally productive.
12. Add a DIY Cocktail (or Mocktail) Bar
You can make your backyard a party venue by adding your very own bar.
You can buy a readymade one, of course, or you can save money by turning a potting bench into a drinks station with the paint of your choice. Don’t forget to apply primer and undercoat before your paint, and then seal it with a weatherproof wax.
More Ways to Add a DIY Cocktail (or Mocktail) Bar
Then, you can add cool accents like a drink cart or retro glassware filled with your favorite beverages.
13. Take Your Living Room Outdoors
If you think of your backyard as an extension of your home, you’ll find it easier to make it a welcoming space. A weatherproof rug, cushions and backyard lanterns are great starter items for your outdoor living room.
Then, think about accessories like art and mirrors to reflect your personal style. By adding an electric or gas heater, you’ll stay warm when the sun goes down.
More Ways to Take Your Living Room Outdoors
Shannon Schomaker, product manager at Springs Window Fashions, suggests going for relaxing, calm colors and designs when decorating your outdoor space, with complementary accent pops.
14. Light It Up
Outdoor lights bring a warm glow to your patio, whether you go for the solar option or prefer battery-powered.
Drape fairy lights through tree or shrub branches, across a pergola or around a parasol, or stick stake lights into your lawn or window boxes.
More Ways to Light It Up
You can also simply arrange your patio or backyard to make better use of any current outdoor light fixtures you have or even ones from inside that spill light out into the backyard.
When your outdoor space is lit up, you’ll be more likely to spend time there when the sun goes down.
15. Add a Water Feature
If you have space for a pond, this is another way to attract wildlife to your backyard.
Landscape designer Bryan McKenzie suggests an artificial pond with an electronic filtering system and lighting for a magical effect, but you can also create your own. First, dig a hole in your chosen spot, protect the base with a pond liner, then cover this with pebbles and stone, and fill it with water.
More Ways to Add a Water Feature
An even easier option is a “pond in a pot” using a large ceramic container.
Apply a coat of waterproof paint, add bricks or rocks to create height, add some aquatic plants like iris and bulrush, and then wait for the creatures to come visit.
16. Create an Outdoor Movie Theater
What’s better for warm summer nights than an outdoor movie theater?
Online stores like Amazon have a choice of projectors, and then all you need are pegs, string and a large white sheet.
More Ways to Create an Outdoor Movie Theater
Place the projector on a garden table and run the leads underneath your seating area.
Make it even more authentic seats restored from an old movie theater and, of course, a popcorn machine.
17. Decorate Your Trees
If you’re lucky enough to have trees in your backyard, these will already provide height and interest.
But you can liven up the outdoor atmosphere even more by decorating them.
More Ways to Decorate Your Trees
McKenzie suggests hanging beautiful metal tree decorations with gemstones from the branches.
18. Reuse Plastic Bottles
Don’t throw away those plastic water bottles that take 450 years to biodegrade.
Instead, think about how you can use them in your backyard. For instance, you could cut them in half and create bird feeders.
More Ways to Reuse Plastic Bottles
Or you could cut open one side, fill it with compost and plant seedlings.
19. Make a Butterfly House
If you live in a warm climate, you can easily attract butterflies to your garden with a butterfly house, says McKenzie.
There are lots of ready-made ones available to purchase.
More Ways to Make a Butterfly House
You can also make your own butterfly house out of cedar wood, moisture-proof glue and galvanized nails.
Place your butterfly house in an area with lots of flowering plants, 2 to 3 feet off the ground.
20. Add Sculptures
If you think garden sculptures are ugly, think again.
“You can find something inspiring, like ancient-style statues, magical creatures and animals,” says McKenzie.
More Ways to Add Sculptures
Looking for handmade statues on Instagram instead of at your average gardening store will make them uniquely yours, McKenzie adds.
21. Create a Concrete Rug
Yes, you could add a weatherproof rug to your outdoor space, but why not go a step further and make one out of concrete?
More Ways to Create a Concrete Rug
It simply involves painting a stencil directly onto concrete to give the illusion of a rug.
Before you start, watch an online video tutorial like this one from Cricut.
22. Think Vertically
If your backyard has a large, flat lawn, you can add dimension by adding a few boulders throughout the space.
Stark suggests spreading them out or arranging them in clusters to suit your preference.
More Ways to Think Vertically
“Plant a few small shrubs or brightly colored perennials around the boulders to draw the eye around your yard,” Stark adds.
23. Mix Real Plants With Faux Foliage
If real plants are too high maintenance, you could go for artificial blooms instead — or have a combination of both.
More Ways to Mix Real Plants With Faux Foliage
A major perk of going faux is that they’re not weather dependent, meaning you’ll have that lush look all year round.
24. Grow a Wildflower Garden
Not all foliage is high maintenance.
Scatter mixed packets of wildflower seeds on your compost patch, and leave it to grow without worrying about constant upkeep — all you really have to do is mow it back once in a while.
More Ways to Grow a Wildflower Garden
Try edging the area with stones or sleepers, so they won’t spread out of control.
25. Create a Quiet Nook
If you want your backyard to be a calm retreat, create a place where you can relax, read or meditate.
A garden bench or chair in a private corner, surrounded by your favorite plants and flowers, is perfect.
More Ways to Create a Quiet Nook
Better yet, create a yoga space complete with a Buddha statue and a babbling fountain.
26. Hang a Mirror
In a small, dark backyard, a weatherproof mirror can create the illusion of more space.
More Ways to Hang a Mirror
It can also become a conversation starter — how many people do you know who have a mirror in their outdoor space?
27. Lay Artificial Grass
If a lush, green lawn is your backyard goal, consider artificial grass.
You don’t need to spend time, money and resources keeping it neat and watered.
More Ways to Use Artificial Grass
Today’s options look just like the real thing.
This is also a great switch if you have kids or pets and are fed up with them ruining your lawn.
28. Add a Trellis
Adding a trellis can create a focal point in your garden, says Stark.
It looks even better if you cover it with climbing vines or flowers, she adds.
More Ways to Add a Trellis
You can set it over a garden path to create a whimsical look and feel, or to create an entrance to your sitting or entertainment area.
29. Choose Hardy Succulents
If you really can’t keep plants alive (we’re not all master gardeners, after all), you can still have greenery in your backyard with hardy succulents.
These plants don’t need daily water and are pretty much indestructible.
More Ways to Think About Hardy Succulents
There are dozens of varieties, from stunning aeoniums to tropical kalanchoe.
To ensure you choose the succulents that grow best in your region, buy them from local suppliers.
30. Let Nature Do Its Thing
Sometimes, you just have to give your pruning shears a rest and leave nature to its own devices.
If you let your plants grow unruly for a while, you may just end up with the most magical backyard you’ve always dreamed of.
More Ways to Let Nature Do Its Thing
Just remember to make sure your plants are well fed and get the amount of sun they need to thrive.