How to Design Your Yard for Privacy

Go Ahead and Peek: Ideas and Tips for Gaining Privacy

brick wall privacy screen
A brick wall and fence with espaliered trees. Stefano Marinaz Landscaping

Need an outdoor privacy screen? It's not always a simple matter of one-type-suits-all. Palatial mansion or pint-sized plot, every yard has a place needing a privacy fence or backyard retreat, away from your neighbors' sight. Whether it's for the area near your pool, spa, outdoor kitchen, patio, or just a spot for enjoying some solitude, you're going to need to figure out how to create that outdoor privacy screen, barrier, fence, etc. Follow these suggestions for sizing-up and...MORE finding the right privacy screen for your outdoor space.

  • 01 of 09

    Look Before Leaping

    girl (4 yrs) peeking over fence
    MoMo Productions / Stone / Getty Images

    Obvious ways to create outdoor privacy screens are with walls, fences or hedges. But these structures aren't always necessary or smart solutions. Do you really need a stacked-stone retaining wall for the terrace of your condo? Would an 8-foot-high fortress of clipped boxwood look somewhat odd surrounding a 5-foot diameter spa?

    Play it smart and ponder the following considerations before finding a creative solution for making a privacy screen that works well for your particular situation.

  • 02 of 09
    japanese maple tree
    VWB photos / Getty Images

    Yes, if you open your eyes to your surroundings, inspiration is lurking around every corner. Visit a local botanical garden or garden show and take pictures. Go on a local spring garden or home tour to discover privacy solutions that other residents in your area have created. Look through books, magazines, and online. Cruise your own or other neighborhoods for ideas.

  • 03 of 09

    Size and Proportion

    low stone wall
    Lisa Hallett Taylor

    Analyze the size of the area to be screened along with the height of the actual screen. Something big and tall could dwarf an already-small space (remember the diminutive Stonehenge props in the film ​Spinal Tap?) Conversely, a 4-foot-high row of floribunda roses won't give you the privacy you might require, especially during the off-season when they're reduced to mere canes.​

  • 04 of 09

    Consider Appropriate Materials and Plants

    roses climbing on wall
    Ekely / Getty Images

    Materials and plants should be appropriate for the particular space and surrounding area. Don't count on a delicate annual vine covering a chain-link fence to provide the privacy required in a pool or spa area. Plant something that grows throughout the year and is prolific if you want fast and ample coverage.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Budget

    garden gate
    Cathryn Gallacher / Getty Images

    Cost is a consideration for most of us, which means summoning those creative brain cells to come up with a solution that you like and that works within your budget (or lack of). An old brick or stacked stone and mortared wall might look beautiful, but make sure you have enough financing to cover the width and height of the area you want fenced or screened.

  • 06 of 09

    Art for Art's Sake?

    mural in Mexico
    Lisa Hallett Taylor

    Speaking of creativity—sometimes you'll have to abandon artistic self-expression in favor of coming up with something that looks good and works well for you, your neighbors, your homeowners' association, and any passersby. Unless you live in a frat house, a wall of beer cans epoxyed together might be a fun morning-after-the-party project but probably won't win the approval of your neighbors.

    A colorful mural looks great on a wall of a shop in a small town in Mexico but would be better...MORE suited for the backyard than the front in most residential neighborhoods.

  • 07 of 09

    Is It Your Level of DIY?

    man building wood fence
    Corey Jenkins / Getty Images

    Think about feasibility: is your do-it-yourself skill level a match for the scope of the project? A round cut-out in a concrete wall is an amazing idea, but do you know the exact skills and know-how you'll need to do the job right? Keep the project easy and straightforward; resist the urge to carve wine bottles and grapes inspired by last summer's trip to Tuscany into the wooden fence you're making.

  • 08 of 09

    Architecture and Design

    midcentury modern palm springs patio
    George Gutenberg / Getty Images

    The style of the privacy screen should coordinate with the architecture of your home. Think about ornamentation, texture, color, design, weight, and again, materials. Examples: Victorian doesn't work with modern; southwestern and Tudor don't jive, etc. You want the screen to blend in with the rest of the structure and hardscape, not jump out and scream, "Look at me!" A basic, era-appropriate concrete-block wall looks great with a Midcentury modern home.

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    Hiring a Contractor

    landscape contractor
    A landscape contractor works on a deck above a pond. Getty Images

    If you realize your do-it-yourself skills are lacking for this particular project, are you willing to hire a contractor or landscape architect to carry out your vision? That takes money, time, disruption, and more money. Sometimes the best solution for a project is to keep it simple.