How to Design Your Yard for Privacy

Go Ahead and Peek: Ideas and Tips for Gaining Privacy

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


    shoji screens
    &copy Lisa Hallett Taylor

    Yes, if you open your eyes to your surroundings, inspiration is lurking around every corner. Visit a local botanical garden and take pictures. Cruise your own or other neighborhoods for possibilities. And don't forget to check out this photo gallery of ideas for outdoor privacy screens, which is frequently updated.

  • 03 of 09

    Size and Proportion

    &copy Lisa Hallett Taylor
    Analyze the size of the area to be screened and 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 off-season when they're reduced to mere canes.
  • 04 of 09

    Consider Appropriate Materials and Plants

    bamboo privacy fence
    A bamboo privacy fence is an attractive solution to the usual block wall or wood fence. Lisa Hallett Taylor

    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

    What's It Gonna Cost?

    &copy Lisa Hallett Taylor
    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). A 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?

    &copy 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.

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

  • 07 of 09

    Architecture and Design

    &copy Lisa Hallett Taylor
    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!"
  • 08 of 09

    Is It Your Level of DIY?

    &copy Lisa Hallett Taylor
    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?
    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 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.