In rural areas, privacy in your yard is often taken for granted. But residents of more densely populated areas might consider it a hard-to-attain luxury. Imagine being scrutinized by your neighbors from their windows while you entertain guests in your pool. Or maybe your balcony faces your neighbor's scrap pile—hardly a relaxing sight. Privacy solutions come in many forms to suit your needs. Follow these suggestions from design experts to gain privacy and block unsightly views.
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Wood fencing encloses this long, wide backyard near Portland, Oregon, and additional wood lattice panels add architectural interest and create privacy. "We always like to add a private retreat in the landscape as an escape for people to have some downtime," explains Kim Thibodeau of Paradise Restored in Portland. "The pathway in front of the privacy screens leads to the retreat."Continue to 2 of 13 below.
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This rooftop environment in New York's Chelsea district belongs to a creative couple—a theatrical lighting designer and a costume designer/artist—who collaborated with Brooklyn-based architect Lynn Gaffney and her team. A large wood water tank on the rooftop serves as design inspiration for the adjacent trellis-like enclosure that has deliberately uneven spacing to adjust for privacy, sound, light filtration, and even keeping the couple's cats from escaping.
"Since this is an urban rooftop, the concern was that the two cats would run and fall off," Gaffney says. "So we had to measure their heads and make sure they couldn't fit through the screen. It's one of those things we never thought we'd do, but it worked." The cats love their outdoor freedom above their owners' loft, where they can safely admire a garden with trees, shrubs, vines, and container plants.Continue to 3 of 13 below.
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The owners of this stylish formal garden in West London wanted an elegant outdoor space to entertain. Stefano Marinaz of Stefano Marinaz Landscape Architecture framed the perimeter with hedges, while fencing mounted on top of the existing boundary wall added privacy.
Fences are an easy and effective way to achieve privacy in a yard, though don't forget to check your local ordinances for height and placement. For fencing materials, Marinaz prefers hardwood over softwoods. "Hardwood lasts longer; it's like iron," Marinaz says. "It's more expensive than a softwood, but it's more durable and nicer." If you can't put up fencing, consider planting trees, hedges, or vines. Marinaz favors evergreens from the Taxus genus.Continue to 4 of 13 below.
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Sometimes a design feature can be multipurpose, which is especially useful in small spaces. Because their neighbors' deck is very close, the owners of this coastal home in Manzanita, Oregon, wanted designer Laura Sabo of 13 Design Lane Interiors to create "lots of privacy." Sabo says a cedar wall "did the trick. The homeowner requested slats to hang wall pockets, along with a shelf for potted plants."Continue to 5 of 13 below.
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Building Around a Tree
Architect Alan Ohashi of ODS Architecture in Emeryville, California, found clever ways to work with a huge old tree at a house situated on a busy street. The tree was pruned to reveal its sculptural branches, and it gently rests on an elegant fence that faces the street. Moreover, a new sandblasted-glass gate and carport walls provide additional privacy while allowing light to shine through.Continue to 6 of 13 below.
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One way to attain privacy in a yard is by creating a "room" with three or four walls. Unlike an interior, the walls of outdoor rooms can be real, implied, or both. Designed by Rolling Landscapes, the rich, dark wood enclosure of this backyard in Burr Ridge, Illinois, adds architectural interest in the garden while providing a cozy seating area with a custom gas fire pit. Plants provide additional privacy.Continue to 7 of 13 below.
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Focal Point Wall
The challenge in designing an urban garden is to create privacy screens without making them blatantly obvious. Jenn Lassa and Marcin Matlakowski of Rooftopia in Chicago succeeded with a vertical wood wall that is appealing both day and night. Architectural elements, such as the fountain, wall planters, and vertical succulent piece, are artistically lighted for a relaxing focal point.Continue to 8 of 13 below.
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The owners of a two-story home on a narrow lot in the San Francisco area wanted a yard that wasn't overpowered by their house. Andreas Flache of AFLA Landscape Design included a fun entertainment space with a hot tub, gas fire feature, and long bench. To gain privacy, a custom linear fence with hickory stain was built around the property, providing seclusion while remaining inviting. Horizontal fence panels are interspersed with shrubs, woody ornamentals, and perennials to soften the appearance. Entry to the home is through a fenced, open-air courtyard.Continue to 9 of 13 below.
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Walls of Green
Urrutia Design created a richly textured, dark green living wall for this outdoor seating area in Mill Valley, California. To prevent it from becoming an overgrown, uninviting forest, the shrubs must be pruned often and precisely. Furthermore, don't think that a living wall means you shouldn't design with other plants. Choose plants you like, keep them healthy, and enjoy the scenery.Continue to 10 of 13 below.
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Screen of Curtains
DIYer and blogger Alicia of Thrifty and Chic finally found a way to get some privacy in her yard after several years of dealing with neighbors whose big house on a hill gave them a great view of her backyard. "So after years of feeling a lack of privacy when hanging out on our porch, I finally came up with an idea! A cute little privacy screen that resembles the look of a pergola," Alicia says.Continue to 11 of 13 below.
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Private Raised Terrace
Fences help with boundaries, but they don't always offer privacy. By building a raised dining terrace with high walls—sort of like a permanent wooden screen—the designers at Genus Loci Ecological Landscapes were able to give their Toronto-area clients the privacy they requested in an otherwise exposed backyard. Just make sure such a structure is permitted in your area.Continue to 12 of 13 below.
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Intimate Deck Space
A wall of privacy hedges, along with a fence, create intimacy for the wood deck and built-in seating area at a home in the Eugene, Oregon, area. Chauncey Freeman of Fifth Season took advantage of the hedges' height and added a little evening ambiance: strings of lights that swing from the shrubs to other high parts of the yard. And even if you didn't want to put up a fence, these dense hedges can create privacy all on their own.Continue to 13 of 13 below.
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An outdoor structure, such as a trellis or an arbor, can easily block neighbors' views and add privacy to your yard. Plant a fast-growing vine to quickly get the full effect. A freestanding cedar trellis is part of a design created for a homeowner in Wilmette, Illinois, by landscape architect Marco Romani of Arrow Land + Structures.