15 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 15

    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 15

    Comfortable Seating

    Jc designs seating

    JC Design

    Seating is one thing, but a deep seating set, lounge chairs, loungers, or chaise lounges 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.

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  • 03 of 15

    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 15

    Take Advantage of a View

    backyard with a stunning view of mountains

    S.U.S.A.P

    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 15

    Design a More Inviting Patio or Deck

    patio with white and wood patio furniture, oversized umbrella

    Kristen Diane/Instagram

    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 15

    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 gazebos or pergolas, awnings, vines growing over arbors, and leafy trees.

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  • 07 of 15

    Create Privacy

    backyard privacy fence made of wood

    Julian Porcino

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

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  • 08 of 15

    A Water Feature

    backyard with water bowl feature

    Lady Landscape/Instagram

    Even the sight and sound of water has a calming, therapeutic 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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  • 09 of 15

    Add a Firepit

    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 15

    Include Fragrant Plants

    backyard pergola with flowering plants

    KG Designs

    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 15

    Decorate With Lighting

    patio setting with string lights and candles adding ambiance

    Home by Polly/Instagram

    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. 

    You can opt to kill two birds with one stone if you throw in citronella candles into the mix. With the ability to repel mosquitoes as well as create a lovely ambiance? It can't hurt!

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  • 12 of 15

    Add Some Color

    backyard patio with pink furniture and cacti

    Dazey Den

    Choosing a pleasing color scheme can make all the difference for your backyard. Whether it's choosing your favorite color or going for a light and relaxing palette for your decor, the result should cause you to want to spend more time in your backyard space—don't go for something too harsh or overbearing.

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  • 13 of 15

    A Hot Tub

    backyard patio with built in hot tub

    Herzen Stimme/Instagram

    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 tranquility. Just be sure to find a durable hot tub cover to keep unwanted debris out of your new oasis.

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  • 14 of 15

    Bring in a Hammock

    fenced in backyard enclave with hammock

    Julian Porcino

    Nothing says backyard relaxation quite like a hammock. Whether you attach it to two trees or position it to hang in a corner, a well-secured hammock is a perfect addition to create a relaxing atmosphere.

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  • 15 of 15

    Create a Small Dining Area

    small backyard table and chairs for dining

    S.U.S.A.P/Instagram

    While a large dining set has its perks, creating a small dining setup also has its advantages. A simple table and chairs can transform a bare backyard into a calming oasis to enjoy a quiet breakfast or a cup of coffee in the evening.