Backyard design on a budget

Household 4 min read

Spring is springing, and it’s not a moment too soon. From the moment the temperature takes its first furtive steps past 50 degrees and the days when we first notice that the sun is sticking around a little longer, our minds immediately look ahead to days spent luxuriating out in the sun. But to do it right, we need our outdoor spaces to look their very best. Getting the most out of your outdoor space might mean a bit of work, but the good news is that the backyard oasis of your dreams doesn’t have to be a nightmare for your wallet. In fact, with just a few of the right choices, you can turn your outdoor space into a magazine-worthy retreat that will have you wishing for warm days that never end.

1. Seating

Comfort is key when designing an outdoor space, and that starts with making sure that you have enough seating. If your warm weather plans include a lot of entertaining, but your backyard doesn’t offer as much space as you’d need for a big seating arrangement, don’t worry. Perimeter seating like the benches in the space seen here can help to maximize space while offering plenty of seating for large gatherings. Whether the seats you choose are free-standing benches or built into the fence or surrounding wall, they keep the center of the yard clear, opening the area for a buffet, tables, or even a grill. And for the handier homeowners out there, benches like these are easily built from raw wood. Topped with black paint and a simple cushion, they add an instant touch of fashion to go with all of the function.

2. Tile

The modern outdoor space is essentially designed to be an extension of your indoor living area, but with one important distinction—all of the materials have to be able to stand up to the elements, from the paint to the furniture and accessories. Other than that, however, all of the same rules apply. One of the best tips for designing a room (whether indoor or outdoor) is to start from the bottom up. While in a living room that might mean a Moroccan rug, outside you’ll need something a little sturdier. There are a number of choices for outdoor flooring, but few offer the combination of aesthetics and functionality for a lower price than you can find with tile.

The beauty of tile is the built-in pattern that it creates, adding instant visual interest to your outdoor space. Even solidly colored tiles, like those seen above, build pattern through the intricate lattice that emerges from their geometric shapes and slight variations in color. Alongside the black walls, they offer a sophisticated and classic color palette that allows every other color in the space—even white—to pop. In addition, they are the perfect outdoor material, designed to hold up under any weather condition, and are easy and inexpensive to replace individually should any damage occur.

3. Paint

Just as indoors, outdoor spaces are defined by their colors. And just as indoors, there’s no better or more cost-effective way to make a colorful statement than with paint. If your outdoor space is enclosed by walls or a high fence, you’ve got a reason to invest in paint. Outdoor paints are specially formulated to survive the elements while still offering a range of colors that rival indoor selections. If you’re not sure which color to pick, strong neutral tones like black or gray are always good choices that offer a lot of flexibility for your subsequent color choices. And if you’d rather keep the feeling of wood, there are a number of striking, but naturally toned wood stains that will add a shot of color while keeping the natural aesthetic going all year long.

4. Plants

It’s true, the outdoors tends to come with its own plants, but that’s no reason for you not to add a few of your own. Plants can make every bit of the design statement outdoors that they make inside, and perhaps even more so. Without the limitation of ceilings, large statuesque plants can do even more to define a space, while smaller plants act as pops of color throughout. And in spaces like the one pictured here, with tile floors and painted wooden walls, the plants help to reiterate the outdoor feel of the space and liven up the look of the materials. Finally, the selection of styles, shapes, sizes and materials for outdoor planters is even larger than for indoor, making moments like the combination of black porcelain, white terra-cotta, and bronze metallic seen here, possible.  

5. Outdoor dining and art

One of the major benefits, already mentioned, to perimeter seating is the amount of space it can save for other design elements—including more seating. An intimate outdoor dining set is perfect for the times when you’re entertaining on a smaller scale—a few friends as opposed to a full-blown party. When creating a dining area that isn’t the main seating of the space, simplicity is the way to go. This small dining area is stylish and modern. It’s minimalist aesthetic allows it to blend well into a space with many other competing elements. It’s main distinguishing characteristic here is its height, which places it at a different level than the rest of the modular seating in the backyard.

Art is the final touch and a complement to every space. It’s a way to inject an extra level of personality into a room. Finding great art that’s designed to exist outdoors can require a bit of a search, but the results will be well worth it. It’s the kind of small detail that has a big impact, not only because of its design aesthetic but also for the fact that so few outdoor spaces include art, which guarantees that your space will not only be beautiful but also unique.  

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