11 Ways to Create a More Relaxing Backyard

hammock in garden
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Transform Your Yard Into an Oasis

french doors open to patio
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No matter the size, backyards are meant to be a source of enjoyment and refuge—a place in which to escape when you want to unwind, relax, and have fun.

Is your outdoor space more a place you want to get away from than an enticing getaway? A yard cluttered with too much patio furniture, outdoor structures (like gazebos), and children's play equipment is going to appear chaotic. In fact, you might find yourself trying to avoid the backyard if there's too much stuff, you find it difficult to move around, or there is always a project calling out your name.

Clear the Clutter

Rethink the yard by clearing out the clutter, pruning overgrown trees and hedges, relocating play equipment, or donating it if your children are too old for slides and swings. Get rid of or recycle broken furniture and accessories or things that don't seem to belong in the yard.

Starting with as clean or bare of a slate as possible, assess your yard for elements it needs to make it a place you want to get away to; a refuge for kicking back and relaxing or enjoying the things you love, like swimming, working out, or eating with friends and family.

An outdoor living space has much potential and can provide sun, shade, views and fresh air. Enjoy all it has to offer and consider the following ways to transform your space when transforming it into an oasis.

Take Advantage of a View

deck with view of ocean
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If you are lucky enough to live in a home with a view, don't be shy about creating a space from which to enjoy the scenery. When designing for a view, consider the following:

  • Don't block the view with trees and hedges.
  • Likewise, don't block the view with outdoor furniture.
  • Landscaping should blend in with the neighboring view and environment, not compete with it.
  • Frame the view with landscaping and furnishings.

Comfortable Seating

man and boy relaxing on deck
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Seating is one thing, but a deep seating set, lounge chairs, loungers, or chaise lounges really allow you to stretch out and relax, whether it's under an umbrella, by a swimming pool, on a deck, or even on the balcony of a high-rise apartment building.

If the seating is comfortable, you're more likely to kick back and spend some time outside, rather than sit down, say, at a patio dining table, eat a grilled burger, then go back inside. How about adding a hammock for some serious relaxation?

A Water Feature

beautiful stone fountain
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The perfect water feature in a yard is a private swimming pool, which cools you off, allows you to exercise all within the privacy of your own yard. Even the sight and sound of water has a calming, restorative effect. If your budget or space does not permit, consider these other water features:

  • Garden pond
  • Koi pond
  • Wading pool
  • Fountain
  • Birdbath

A Hot Tub

mature woman soaking in spa
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What could be more relaxing and soothing than a soak in a hot tub? Whether it is a tub for two or a larger spa that can accommodate six, hot water and bubbles epitomize relaxation.

Shade

relaxing under an umbrella
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Sure, an umbrella provides much-needed shade. But the sight of one conjures up images of a vacation at a resort, on a sandy shore or next to a pool. There's something about its round shape, projected above the other pieces of outdoor furniture, that looks fun and inviting, beckoning you to sit under its colorful form (or patterned or striped) and relax, maybe sip a cocktail or icy beverage. 

Ways to create shade in a garden include:

  • Umbrellas
  • Gazebos and pergolas
  • Awnings
  • Vines growing on overhead roofs or arbors
  • Trees

The Right Landscaping

tropical landscaping by pool
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Not just any landscaping, however. Carefully planned and selected plants that look natural in their setting can really set a theme or mood, even transport you to a favorite vacation spot. Who wouldn't want to step outside every day to a yard that reminded them of that trip to Maui, Tahiti or Sedona?

The key is to choose plants that adapt well to the environment in which you live: dying tropicals in your desert locale will not remind you of Aruba. Mix natives for your region with trees, shrubs, vines and perennials that are adapted to the climate—usually something that can be found at your local nursery or botanical garden shop. Enlist professional help from a landscape designer, or ask for suggestions from a garden store employee or the local university's master gardener program.

Design a More Inviting Patio or Deck

mixed materials patio
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A slab of concrete with a few plastic chairs and a charcoal grill just won't cut it. Create a space that beckons you to leave the warm nest of your den for a plant-filled, private oasis in your own backyard. Make a patio a place where you would want to spend time, perhaps relaxing in the sun, practicing yoga, reading, hanging out with friends—whatever your pleasure. Consider adding personal touches that make it uniquely yours.

Create Privacy

A privacy wall of living bamboo and other tropical plants.
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Privacy is an integral part of a relaxing outdoor room. Dividing and secluding the area with carefully placed screens, walls or fences of suitable height will give your space a sense of mystery and surprise as you move throughout the landscape. Arbors and overhead roofs also add to that feeling of seclusion and provide necessary shade.

Add Fire

modern chairs by fire pit
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A fire pit, chiminea, or fireplace instantly adds warmth to your yard, especially during the cooler months or in the evening. What can be more relaxing than talking with friends or family next to a fire, or cuddling with a partner as you stare at the flames?

With so many portable fire pit models available at reasonable prices, it's easy to create a sitting area around a pit. Just make sure it's not near any structures, under a roof, or on top of a wooden deck.

Add Fragrant Plants

iceberg climbing roses
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Sure, you can use scented candles outdoors, but why not plant the real thing? The intoxicating scents of some flowering shrubs and vines are especially strong in the evening, so choose specimens that you can grow near outdoor seating or dining areas.

Lighting

patio lighting at night
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Outdoor lighting—the right kind and placed to illuminate parts of the yard that experience activity in the evening—will lure you and guests outdoors and keep you there for as long as you desire.