Fred Jaicks  Written and compiled by Fred Jaicks.


Those who want to transform their backyard and patio areas from bare concrete slabs and empty, grass-filled lawns to decorative spaces will find plenty of creative ideas to bring their dreams to life. Whether creating a tropical retreat, a backyard oasis, or an elegant, water-based focal point, designing a backyard haven suitable for all tastes and preferences is attainable and affordable. Many budget-friendly designs range from fun and entertaining to elegant and luxurious. More people are discovering the joys of outdoor living and find that the exterior spaces of their home provide a wonderful place for relaxation and entertainment. Whether creating a space for quiet reading, gazing upon a garden in bloom, or transforming a boring patio into a decorative retreat, everyone can enjoy the benefits of a rejuvenated backyard.

Bar/Tiki Bar

A tiki bar can bring the beauty of the Caribbean straight to your backyard. With a thatched roof and island-themed design, a tiki bar adds a tropical feel to any space. There are multiple plans available that builders can use to create their own bars. When creating tiki bars, consider lumber choices that are suitable for your area and environmental conditions. White cedar and palm branches for the thatched roof are popular choices. Bars and tiki bars are well-liked, do-it-yourself projects and wonderful ways to transform a plain backyard into a tropical oasis.

Add Color

Choosing a color scheme is one of the most important steps to consider when designing outdoor spaces. Color schemes may be nature-inspired, based upon personal preference, or selected to complement a favorite accessory or focal point. Some choose to add plants and flowering shrubs for the color of their blooms and incorporate them into the overall design scheme. Accessories such as candles, glass orbs, outdoor lighting fixtures, furniture pieces, and art pieces all contribute to the color design.


Adding a garden pond is a great way to bring water to the backyard environment. Not only does a water pond attract wildlife, but it is also soothing and relaxing. Those installing ponds find they have virtually unlimited freedom when it comes to selecting the best design, style, and layout for their exterior living spaces. Consider adding water lilies, decorative stones, rocks, and appropriate foliage to add to its beauty. Water ponds with fish are another option for adding a touch of nature shaped by human hands to the backyard environment. Choose your location carefully and pay close attention to planning when adding these beautiful water attractions to backyard spaces.

  • How to Create a Backyard PondThis Old House provides this resource for those wanting to add a backyard pond.

  • Build a Backyard PondThe National Wildlife Federation shares this guide that teaches homeowners how to build a backyard pond and attract beneficial wildlife.

  • Water for WildlifePenn State offers this resource for creating backyard ponds and birdbaths.


A backyard playground is an excellent way for kids to enjoy healthy activities without needing to leave home. There are multiple playground designs available, and customizing a playground that meets a family’s needs is not difficult. Playground equipment should be age-appropriate, and safety should factor into the pieces selected. Slides, swings, jungle gyms, climbing bars and walls, pull-up bars, and areas for sand are popular additions to the backyard playground. Ensure that the location for the playground is one where equipment will not overheat during the day and that the equipment will withstand environmental conditions.


A gazebo is a wonderful structure for any yard, deck, or patio. Enclosed, open-air, or screened-in, a gazebo adds a touch of elegance and charm to any backyard living area. When building gazebos, pay attention to lumber choices, lattice design, stain, and finishes, and choose plans based upon personal preference, space, and location. Check with local zoning laws, as some counties might require a permit for building structures on property.

  • How to Build a GazeboThis document provided by the Handyman Club of America contains photos and instructions for building a gazebo.

  • Design like a Pro: GazeboOrganic Gardening shares these ideas for creative, outdoor seating, including gazebos.

  • Outdoor Project GuideReal Outdoor Living offers this free PDF guide for making gazebos and other structures.


A fountain or waterfall is a splendid addition to backyard. Choose from stand-alone features, or add fountains or waterfalls to garden ponds for a stunning touch. Available in a wide array of styles and designs, waterfalls bring a natural flow of water that adds movement to your garden pond and decor. Select rocks to complement your overall design; many find that through creative rock stacking, water can cascade, splash, and flow, creating a ripple effect. Fountains and waterfalls attract birds and wildlife, and with creative water garden design and LED lighting choices, it can easily become a backyard’s central focal point.


Whether adding or remodeling, pools are wonderful additions to the backyard environment. Spas, faux rocks, waterfalls, and decorative lighting can create a magnificent atmosphere and enhance the look of any pool. Many select tiles for their decorative appeal, and they can range from whimsical to elegant. New designs may incorporate the use of solar energy for ensuring that pools remain heated in an energy-efficient manner. Pools provide countless hours of fun for the family, and designs, enhancements, and additions are available that transform them from traditional to truly extraordinary.

Fire Pit

A fire pit is a great addition to any backyard and isn’t difficult to construct. The first step is choosing a location and designing the shape of the fire pit. By excavating an area and creating a level space, bricks and rocks are used to map out the fire pit as well as the circumference designated for seating areas. Always ensure there is plenty of clearance for your fire pit, and build the walls high enough to keep the fire well-contained when burning.


Outdoor lighting is one of the main decorative features available for the backyard. Suitable for decks, patios, gardens, ponds, and pools, lighting creates the ambiance for all outdoor settings. Numerous lighting choices are available that will appeal to personal tastes, styles, and preferences. Solar, low-voltage, and LED lighting are a great choice for those seeking energy-efficient lighting options. Consider adding decorative lighting to a backyard fountain, waterfall, or favorite garden statue to create a nighttime focal point.

Inexpensive Ideas

Inexpensive ideas for outdoor living spaces abound, and there are plenty of choices available for all design styles and needs. Those decorating on a budget may find budget-friendly landscape ideas, low-cost décor, and creative ideas that cost little yet exude luxury. Choose your decorating scheme and then select low-cost items that best represent your ideals. Browse antique or thrift stores for pieces that fit with your scheme yet are kind on the wallet. Peruse clearance sales and shop wholesale and discount prices in order to maximize savings.