5 backyard design mistakes you’re probably making — and how to fix them

 Backyard style.
Backyard style.

Now that the weather is warming up, it’s a good time to get your backyard ready for summer. And since our backyards are an extension of our homes, we often forget to consider its design and layout — to make it a more functional and stylish space. This also makes it a more enjoyable space to relax and entertain guests once you've fired up the grill or pizza oven.

Most people are probably guilty of making one of these backyard design mistakes, and while this might seem hard to do, especially in city dwellings, all you need is the right layout, suitable plants, and practical furniture or accessories to create a more relaxing ambiance.

What’s more, avoiding these backyard mistakes can help to make your backyard look bigger and will make your space more inviting. So before you set about transforming your outdoor space, be sure to avoid these backyard design mistakes, and enjoy your summer.

1. Not creating ‘zones’

Patio Furniture
Patio Furniture

Whether you have a spacious or compact yard, one common mistake is to not consider functionality, or overcrowd the space. Most people tend to spread everything around such as plant pots, garden accessories or seating areas, without much thought behind it. This can often clutter up the space, making it feel cramped, and not making use of the full potential of your backyard space.

By creating zones or separate areas in your yard, this will clearly define each space and look aesthetically pleasing. For instance, separating areas with planters or flower beds, or dividing between your lawn with gravelled paths or paving stone.

It’s also a good idea to have a designated seating or entertaining area so that all your patio furniture is kept in one place — rather than spread out. This sense of order will not only create an organized space, but feel more spacious, and easier to navigate around.

2. Lack of plant variety

Living wall in garden
Living wall in garden

As well as creating a practical space, you also want visual impact in your backyard. Having the right plant variety can really boost its appeal, and create a bright and vibrant space.

“Small gardens especially, are commonly fully paved and can often lack natural greenery, making it look lifeless and uninviting,” states Molly Woodward-Moor, creative director at Stone Superstores. “Try adding low-maintenance flowers, herbs, and plants such as peonies, rosemary, and marigolds to add a touch of visual interest and breathe life into your outdoor space by attracting pollinators.

Additionally, using your wall space to create a vertical garden is a great idea for those with limited outdoor space such as urban terraces and balconies. Adding planters, wall-mounted shelving, or pallets to grow herbs and flowers can also create an illusion of a bigger space as your eye will naturally be drawn upwards.”

In addition, don’t neglect the use of color, as you don’t want your backyard to look lacklustre or dull with just one tone. “Choosing complementary tones or even contrasting colors, which are opposite each other on the color wheel, can provide a touch of vibrancy. Color schemes can be implemented in many ways, using paving slabs, furniture, flowers or decorative accessories.”

Plus, if you have nosey neighbors, or want to enjoy your garden in peace, check out these 7 plants to create more privacy in your backyard.

3. Positioning patio furniture in wrong place

Furniture on grass
Furniture on grass

Another common backyard mistake is placing outdoor furniture in the wrong place. In particular, putting patio furniture or outdoor storage on grass. According to experts, this is a no-no, as the heavy weight of the legs from furniture can cause long-term damage to your lawn. If possible, stick to a paved patio or concrete area that is solid and flat.

“Heavy furniture and legs from garden chairs and tables can compress the grass, eventually creating bare patches of lawn or yellow/brown patches where the grass is dead and will need reseeding,” agrees Woodward-Moor. “If your space is limited and grass is the only area you have to work with, there are a few things you can do to prevent damage. Consider adding furniture caps to the bottom of table and chair legs to help minimize the pressure on the grass and make sure to regularly move the furniture around to prevent compression on the grass.”

So if you’re hosting parties, you can purchase caps like these 1-1/2" Wrought Iron Patio Furniture Feet Caps ($15, Amazon), that are easy to install onto the feet of your furniture, and will protect the grass.

4. Playing it safe with fences

Painting fence a sage color
Painting fence a sage color

Who says fences have to be dull and boring? When it comes to backyard design, we often neglect our fences, assuming they have to be plain (and brown!). However, painting or staining your fences in a bold color of your choice, can really transform your outdoor space.

In fact, if you have a compact, outdoor space, experts recommend painting your fences a green shade. Not only will it make your backyard appear bigger, but this blends effectively with your outdoor greenery.

Other fence color options include light blue, cream or natural wood shades that will brighten up the space. Pair with the best outdoor rug for a pop of color. And if you enjoy upcycling, you can even paint your garden furniture in a lighter tone too, just be sure to check out these 7 clever painting hacks before you do.

5. Inadequate lighting sources

Solar Lights
Solar Lights

Another common backyard mistake is installing inadequate or the wrong type of lighting. A soft glow as opposed to a brilliant white, will also add a cozy, relaxing ambiance to your outdoor space — especially once the sun goes down.

“Many people tend to overlook outdoor lighting and only focus on the daytime appearance of their gardens,” states Woodward-Moor. “However, they may not realise that using different lighting features can add to the ambience as well as the safety of your outdoor space — allowing you to spend more time outside once the sun sets to make the most of your garden.”

Whether it’s perimeter lighting, wall, or string lights entwined in trees, layer the best solar lights around your backyard to provide the right amount of illumination. “There are many simple ways to add ambient lighting in your garden. You could also consider outdoor candle lanterns to add a romantic atmosphere to your space, these typically work well for dinner setups.

Additionally, consider using strip lighting or spotlights along pathways and steps to improve nighttime visibility ensuring safe movement throughout the garden, while also enhancing the atmosphere. Solar lights are best as they typically come with sensors and automatically turn on when energy from the sun is no longer available.”

Installing the correct outdoor lighting will not only create a more inviting and relaxing space, but is another trick for making a small  backyard look bigger.

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