11 Ways to Create a More Relaxing Backyard

relaxing outdoor space

The Spruce / Candace Madonna 

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.

  • 01 of 11

    Clear the Clutter

    Calimia Home

    Calimia Home

    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. Store anything that can be.

    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.

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  • 02 of 11

    Comfortable Seating

    Jc designs seating

    JC Design

    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?

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  • 03 of 11

    The Right Landscaping

    Calimia Home landscape

    Calimia Home

    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.

    Tip

    If your yard is mostly cement or patio, or you're an apartment-dweller with only a balcony, go for tall container plants, happy patio plants, or easy houseplants you can take outside (conditions permitting).

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  • 04 of 11

    Take Advantage of a View

    Julie Blanner view

    Julie Blanner

    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. Don't block the view with trees and hedges, and avoid getting big or cumbersome outdoor furniture that can also block the view.

    Landscaping should blend in with the neighboring view and environment, not compete with it.

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  • 05 of 11

    Design a More Inviting Patio or Deck

    Down South Darling

    Down South Darling

    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. Add pillows, blankets, flowers, and lanterns to make the space cozy.

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  • 06 of 11

    Shade

    Afro Bohemian Living shade

    Afro Bohemian Living

    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. 

    Not all shade has to come from umbrellas, though. You can create shade using umbrellas, gazebos or pergolas, awnings, vines growing over arbors, and leafy trees.

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  • 07 of 11

    A Water Feature

    Jon Lovette water feature

    Jon Lovette / Getty Images

    Even the sight and sound of water has a calming, restorative effect. The perfect water feature in a yard is a private swimming pool, which cools you off and allows you to exercise all within the privacy of your own yard. But most people don't have the space or budget to have one added in. Fortunately, there are smaller, more affordable water features to consider that could even be more calming—listen to the sound of trickling water, or a bird splashing in a birdbath—like these:

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  • 08 of 11

    Create Privacy

    A privacy wall of living bamboo and other tropical plants.
    Francois De Heel/Getty Images

    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. If you prefer a more natural space, go for tall shrubs, thick bushes, hedges, or maybe even bamboo.

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  • 09 of 11

    Add Fire

    Julian porcino firepit

    Julian Porcino

    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.

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  • 10 of 11

    Add Fragrant Plants

    Julie Blanner flowers

    Julie Blanner

    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.

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  • 11 of 11

    Lighting

    patio lighting at night
    Astronaut Images/Getty Images

    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.