16 Ideas for Outdoor Privacy and Backyard Retreats

Horizontal fencing used in a back yard to create a private retreat

The Spruce / Jacob Fox

With a wall, shrubs or fence, you can add some much-needed privacy to your pool or spa area. Maybe you're seeking a private space for a backyard retreat or a patio, deck, or balcony. An outdoor privacy screen gives you personal space away from the view of neighbors or passers-by. Check out this gallery of 16 creative solutions to gain privacy in your backyard or outdoor living space.

  • 01 of 16

    Bamboo Fence

    Gravel Patio and Outdoor Furniture
    GCShutter / Getty Images

    The bamboo fence in this Seattle garden is made more intriguing with repurposed old wood-framed windows in one corner. A mix of plants, like arborvitae and feather grass, soften the garden, while a buddha statue, a fountain, and pottery give it a personal touch.

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  • 02 of 16

    Rough on the Outside

    Home by polly privacy fence

    Home by Polly / Instagram

    You can achieve a weathered look to a fence by painting it white, then black, then sanding down the black to the point you like it. A chalk paint will also give you a more subtle weathered finish as opposed to a satin finish.

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  • 03 of 16

    Growing the Real Thing

    bamboo in yard
    Francois De Heel/Getty Images

    Taking the concept of a bamboo fence one step further, why not grow the real thing? Bamboo is a fast-growing grass and is available in clumping and running varieties—check with your nursery to make sure you select a plant that is right for the size of the space you want to screen.

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  • 04 of 16

    Horizontal Fencing

    Julian Porcino privacy fence

    Home Consultant

    When fencing goes from vertical to horizontal, it shifts from accidental to elevated—it's a choice. Install beams horizontally to create an aesthetically pleasing privacy wall. Add hooks and nails for hanging a hammock, storing blankets, or to add some summery art.

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  • 05 of 16

    Greenery Ladder Accents

    Calimia Home privacy fence

    Calimia Home

    Rather than just having a wooden wall or a jungle of greenery, Calimia Home mixed the two together. Painting the wall black helps to make the greenery-woven ladders stand out even more. Keep the vines trimmed to maintain the look or let them grow and become a lush wall—it's your choice.

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  • 06 of 16

    Wall of Cactus

    Gabriel Perez cactus privacy wall

    Gabriel Perez / Getty Images

    Who says the plants you choose for a living fence or wall have to be a traditional boxwood or Indian Hawthorne? As demonstrated here, cactus works just as well, particularly in regions where it grows and for homes that have a ranch, Spanish, or southwestern architectural style.

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  • 07 of 16

    It's Curtain Time

    SUSAP instagram privacy curtain

    S.U.S.A.P / Instagram

    A homeowners' association or apartment complex may not let this fly, but if you feel like you can push the envelope, go for it. Obviously don't consider replacing your garage door with drapes, however lovely the fabric may be. But for a backyard privacy screen, hanging on the inside of a balcony or tacked to the side of a pergola, drapes, a sheet, or a lightweight blanket will do the trick.

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  • 08 of 16

    Living Privacy Fences: Shrubs, Trees, Vines and Other Plants

    fence with shrubs
    Stephen Shepherd/Getty Images

    Living screens—otherwise known as shrubs, trees, vines or other plants—have always been an excellent, natural way to gain privacy while forming barriers or walls. They can stand on their own, such as closely planted trees and shrubs, or be trained to climb and cover a plain or unsightly wall or fence. While traditional and always popular, formal rectilinear-clipped and trimmed hedges are not your only option. Think about planting rows of tall cactus or something else that grows tall and wide.

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  • 09 of 16

    Palms and Ferns

    Cake and confetti privacy ferns

    Cake and Confetti

    The next-door neighbors could potentially see into the yard if the dense planting of palms, ferns, and ivy weren't there. At the same time, the view from the outdoor dining table features these tropical plants. Bringing nature even closer, the residents enjoy the hummingbirds that make their nests in the palms each spring, which is a much more delightful sight than the fence and their neighbor's side yard.

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  • 10 of 16

    Blended Into Furniture

    SUSAP privacy fence

    S.U.S.A.P / Instagram

    A worn fence may look tired on its own, but up against some wooden pallets of a similar wood stain, the two create a purposeful boho corner. If you can't find wood pallets that are the same shade as your fence (or vice versa), get what you can and then buy some wood stain to use on both.

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  • 11 of 16

    Trash Container Hideaway

    trash container fence

    Lisa Hallett Taylor

    This simple wood-slat panel hides trash containers from the street view and makes an attractive backdrop for a jade plant and some potted plants. It could also be used to conceal a patio or spa area. A project like this can be completed over a weekend.

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  • 12 of 16

    Colorful Fence Makeover

    Modern house vibes privacy fence

    Modern House Vibes / Instagram

    An existing wooden fence—once an eyesore—can get a new life with a coat of paint. If you have colorful yard furniture, like Modern House Vibes does, make sure the paint color allows it to shine. A neutral beige fence makes the white umbrella, black table, and pink pillows pop.

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  • 13 of 16

    Taste of Tuscany

    living privacy fence
    Tall cypress trees evenly spaced give this garden a Mediterranean charm. Lisa Hallett Taylor

    There may be just a plain concrete block wall or wood fence standing between you and your neighbor, but the actual site does not have to be a sore one. Take a cue from this homeowner, who created a charming vignette with Mediterranean plants placed and pruned in the popular Tuscan style.

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  • 14 of 16

    Metal Siding

    Mindy Gayer privacy fence

    Designed by Mindy Gayer / Photographed by Lane Dittoe

    Metal siding may seem like an unsightly choice, but hear us out: when framed by white wood, it looks industrial and modern. To create some privacy between the side yard and the street, interior designer Mindy Gayer added a wall and door made of wood and metal siding between the brick wall bordering the property and the side of the house. A large piece of shrubbery keeps the siding from standing out too much.

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  • 15 of 16

    Let's Get Lost

    Ann living tall grasses bamboo privacy screen

    Ann Living / Instagram

    A thin-caned species of giant grass can grow so densely that you can hide in it. In a backyard, neighbors would have to use a chainsaw to cut through bamboo this thick just to sneak a peek.

    Just the sight of bamboo brings a feeling of peace and a sense of exotic lands. Dubbed the "friend of the people" by the Chinese and "gift of the gods" by Colombians, bamboo transforms a garden into a tropical getaway and makes an excellent privacy screen. Some culms shoot up to their full height (30 feet or more) in one growing season. Bamboo spreads two different ways: by running or clumping. As the name implies, running bamboo runs wild, while clumping is more likely to stay contained.

    Types of Bamboo

    Bamboo evokes a sense of peacefulness and of faraway, exotic lands. The plant is actually a giant grass with more than 2,400 species. Some species can grow 4 feet in one day, while the culms of other bamboos can shoot up to their mature height (30 feet or more) in one growing season. If you choose to grow bamboo in your outdoor space, pay attention to the type you're getting. Clumping bamboo tends to be more contained, while running bamboo can "run wild" and invade your and your neighbors' properties.

    Whether you elect to grow the vertical green canes or create a panel or fence with dried bamboo or reed, take a look at the endless possibilities to fashion your own bamboo paradise.

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  • 16 of 16

    Vines and Wall Pots

    mexican courtyard patio
    Lisa Hallett Taylor

    Here's a case of turning a small stucco courtyard wall into a living work of art. Clay and terracotta wall pots and vases adorn the wall, while a lush green vine bursts and spills over the top and down the wall. A small banana tree, pink geraniums, and potted palms provide more color and plantlife. This wall is in Ajijic, Mexico.

  • How tall do you want a privacy hedge?

    Hedges should be six feet tall, at least, for you to have privacy from neighbors or the street.

  • What are some of the fastest growing plants for privacy hedges?

    Use arborvitae, boxwood, Indian Hawthorne, bamboo, or cactus for privacy if you want a type of plant that grows quickly. Take in consideration the amount of maintenance for the long-term you will need to keep them trimmed and in shape before planting.

  • Do you need a permit to put up a privacy fence?

    If you're adding a fence to your yard, most likely, you will need a permit. Check with your local building department for zoning and regulations. There might also be height limitations, and if your home is located within an HOA, there could be only specific fencing materials allowed.