Basking in your yard is bliss, but not if you have a nosy neighbor peeping as you cook out or hang in a hammock. It’s virtually impossible to relax, knowing that a pair of eyeballs is on you.
“Blocking a neighbor's view isn't about shutting out the world, it's about curating it,” says Pete Kiriakopoulos, a designer and Partner at Studio 1NINE1. “By thoughtfully considering which views to keep and which to conceal, you can create a more intentional and immersive outdoor experience and allow yourself to truly relax.”
Read on to find 16 cheap ways to block neighbors' views and add design-forward outdoor elements without sacrificing on alfresco style.
01 of 16
Install a Fence
A fence is an obvious solution that pretty much guarantees privacy, selecting one is more than settling for the typical wooden fence. “Choose a fence that complements the style of the home and surrounding landscape,” says Kiriakopoulos.
A contemporary home will be elevated with a sleek, black horizontal beam fence, while a house in a traditional neighborhood will look chic with a white vinyl one. Before you install, however, check municipal laws to ensure the fence is not too high.
Also, keep in mind that a high fence in a dense residential setting can also hinder airflow. “It can result in no breeze coming through, creating a suffocated space in the summer especially,” adds Kiriakopoulos. When in doubt, go for a fence with gapped slats at the top.
02 of 16
Consider Breeze Blocks
If your style leans midcentury modern, the geometric breeze blocks can add a splash of style and are super functional for privacy and ventilation, says Kevin Lenhart, a design director at Yardzen.
Those not in the market for a full-length fence can recreate the retro look by strategically placing the cement or terracotta blocks to create a mini-wall. For a more cohesive look, use cement blocks to create a pathway and add greenery with low-laying plants, like succulents.
03 of 16
Plant a Hedge Fence
A hedge is a natural boundary that can separate your property from that of your neighbor. “A well-maintained hedge can add beauty and natural charm to the space,” says Kiriakopoulos, who recommends boxwoods, arborvitae, and hollies as popular hedge options.
For a four-season climate, Hick’s Yew will give you dense, verdant year-round coverage. Bonus: You can also grow your hedge fence higher than a typical fence and the natural gaps in the foliage are perfect for a breeze to pass through.
04 of 16
Don’t Shy Away From Shrubs
Not in the mood for the more uniform hedge fence, look to planting shrubs. Western Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia), for instance, is a deciduous large shrub native to much of the western United States and is an ideal species to work into a mixed hedgerow, notes Lenhart.
This evergreen species changes with each season, so you won’t get bored looking at the same thing year-round—the white flower clusters emerge in spring before the leaves, which are followed by edible purplish-blue berries, and fall color ranges from orange to red.
Those in the eastern US might consider the Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum), a deciduous shrub. “Its flowers and fruit are attractive to pollinators and songbirds, but the plant itself is deer resistant,” adds Lenhart.Continue to 5 of 16 below.
05 of 16
Hang Outdoor Curtains
If you’re not much of a green thumb but still crave privacy, look no further than curtains made from a piece of weather-resistant fabric, like Sunbrella, to create an outdoor cocoon. Kiriakopoulos recommends styling these on a pergola or a canopy. Alternatively, create a more laidback setup by placing gauzy drapes that will keep out mosquitos and nosy neighbors.
06 of 16
Get a Trellis
For a creative way to add greenery that blocks a neighbor’s view, consider installing a trellis as a partition. It's a more affordable option than putting up an entire fence. Then allow climbing plants like clematis, star jasmine, and trumpet vine to flourish. Your separation will look like nature’s wallpaper.
07 of 16
Plant a Tree
Investing in a tree, especially one that flowers in the spring like a magnolia or a cherry blossom is a gorgeous way to make an outdoor space into a secret garden. Even if you have a fence, a tree not only adds overhead privacy but also adds character. “Trees make for a stunning focal point in the garden and supply additional shade,” says Kate Anne Gross of Kate Anne Designs in Los Angeles.
08 of 16
Build a Pergola
Consider adding a pergola to your backyard. Not only does it create a room-within-a-room setup, but you’ll also gain shade. The slats on the pergola are also excellent from blocking the view overhead, notes Gross, so curious neighbors can’t spy on you from their second-level bedroom window.Continue to 9 of 16 below.
09 of 16
Think About Shade Sails
You’re probably familiar with shade sails on playgrounds, why not install one in your backyard, even if you don’t have a toddler? Shade sails add a modern touch, plenty of shade, and a nice cover that creates a secluded resort touch. Hang bulb lights beneath for added charm during nighttime gatherings.
10 of 16
Bring on the Bamboo
Bamboo fencing is a natural way to make a privacy screen. This tree-like grass comes in two categories–running and clumping—so you should select the right option for you. Clumping bamboo cane, like the cold-hardy Fargesia genus, grows in dense patches, which makes it great for privacy. Running bamboo, like Golden Grove, is good for spacious backyards, but it can spread quickly and even take over the garden if you neglect it. The solution to this is using bottom-heavy planters made of concrete, metal, and hardwood that will keep the bamboo in place.
For a small space, like a balcony, or even a side of a pergola, consider the bushy Sunset Glow (Fargesia rufa) in planters as it grows very quickly.
11 of 16
Curate a Container Garden
A container garden can be more than colorful decor. Planting tall, lush foliage not only adds a partition but allows you to enhance your backyard or balcony with a bespoke touch. As you select foliage, look for plants with distinct forms and bright flowers, such as Elephant Ears and Provence Lavender, which can grow up to three-feet tall. The large snowball clusters of hydrangea shrubs also make for a decadent background to any nook.
12 of 16
Gather Tall Outdoor Planters
Create a wall by artfully arranging tall planters around your outdoor space, say a fire pit. Make sure to space these equally for a curated effect seen on paths in museums and botanical gardens. When deciding on what to put inside, remember this rule: thriller, filler, spiller. Start with a thriller, the showcase piece, such as a butterfly bush. Fillers are textured, billowy plants like begonias or caladium. Finally, find some spilling plants to anchor the container garden, like petunias, that trail down.
For a more permanent solution, consider installing a pony wall, which creates a natural barrier without obstructing views.
Continue to 13 of 16 below.
13 of 16
Play With Ornamental Grasses
For a zen garden that feels like an alcove, look no further than a landscape design using ornamental grasses. Since this plant grows quickly and offers dense cover, it is an affordable option to create a natural barrier in your backyard. To orchestrate variety, play with different textures and silhouettes.
Pampas grass grows in clumps and has the tell-tale golden plumes. Pink Hair grass looks like puffs of cotton candy and adds a romantic air to any garden. Fountain grass spills its foliage into winter so you can enjoy privacy while huddling around a fire pit when the temperature drops.
14 of 16
Buy a Privacy Screen
Retailers like Pottery Barn, and Wayfair have plenty of options for movable privacy screens. You can find trendy slatted acacia wood partitions as well as weather-resistant screen dividers with planters. The best part is that you can transport them without much effort, a bonus perk for those who love to rearrange their outdoor furniture.
15 of 16
Add Furniture Accessories
If a new fence is not in your budget and you don't want to be bothered with maintaining foliage, shrubs, and container gardens, block your neighbor's views with outdoor furniture that comes with built-in privacy. Look to cabanas or day beds with a canopy. Or invest in a large cantilevered sun umbrella that can cover an entire patio set. Think of this approach as one-and-done.
16 of 16
Embrace Colorful Vines
For a homeowner with a knack for landscaping, install a simple metal fence, and then plant a colorful climbing plant around it. "The benefit of building a climbing wall of lush greenery is that it not only adds privacy, but also a pop of color," says Kathy Taslitz, a designer and artist of Kathy Taslitz Studio. "The Bougainvillea vine gives the space a tropical vacation feel."
Usda plants database.