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Not everyone is lucky enough to have a backyard. Those who have one may not realize the infinite number of ways available to transform it into a nature-inspired retreat. Maybe you seek a peaceful, quiet sanctuary from the constant hustle of everyday life. Or, you may prefer a hangout for get-togethers with family and friends. Whatever your backyard goal is, creating a special, personalized outdoor space is worth the effort and the time you put into it.

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Planning a backyard revamp

Before you start buying cool stuff to decorate your backyard space, it’s important to first develop a plan. Deciding how much or how little work it will take depends on how much you want to invest in your project. Then, determine whether this is a long-term or seasonal renovation. People who own their homes may choose permanent changes, such as adding paths, laying concrete patios, or planting trees. Renters may seek objects that are simple to disassemble and transport. Patio furniture, string lights, or vertical wall gardens are easy to pack up and take with you.

plans renovation planting trees Billy Hustace / Getty Images
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Gather around a fire

One of the most popular additions to an outdoor setting is a natural gas or wood-burning fire table, fire pit, or a fire sculpture. A roaring fire is not only a great focal point for your patio, but it also establishes a soothing ambience in an outdoor setting. If you’re planning to install a natural gas version, hire a professional. Look for portable fire pits and wood-burning options, including copper, steel or cast iron fire bowls. Chimineas are free-standing, terracotta fireplaces with a chimney-style vent that continue to burn even when it rains.

wood burning gas fire pit 1Photodiva / Getty Images
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Dining outdoors

Plastic, wrought iron, and wicker are popular materials for outdoor dining sets. But if you’re seeking an option that fits your personal style, build your own. Stain heavy wood boards and lay them across wine barrels for a rustic-style dining table. Recycle old sawhorses to use as a table base. You can also find DIY instructions online for making concrete tabletops that are stylish and durable. Purchase an unfinished picnic table set or a bistro table and chair set to paint yourself that works with your decor.

wrought iron dining table TimAbramowitz / Getty Images
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Light up the night

Creating the perfect backyard atmosphere requires the right lighting. Light sources should not only be beautiful, but functional. Candles add a softer, romantic feel to any decor. Look for inexpensive citronella candles, which also deter pesky mosquitoes. Stores sell LED lights in a rainbow of colors. You’ll also find solar-powered LEDs with motion sensors that are handy for perimeters. Use outdoor lighting along walkways, walls, and patios to add visual appeal and to light up safe paths from one area to another. Uplights or LED net-style lights illuminate trees or hedges in a dramatic and artistic way.

led candles solar lights yard benedek / Getty Images
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Add a chat-and-chill space

Whether you need a sitting area for guests or a private space to relax in a comfy chair, reading a book, a sitting area is essential to any backyard. Consider the amount of space you have available. Whether you purchase new outdoor furniture, refurbish used pieces, or make your own seating options, make sure they are sturdy. Stacked wooden pallets, covered with colorful outdoor cushions are an inexpensive option. If you don’t have a deck or patio and have some DIY skills, look for pavers, large concrete squares, or decking boards at your local home store. You’ll find tons of step-by-step online tutorials that tell you how to build a great patio using these materials.

chat chill comfy outdoor furniture Eirasophie / Getty Images
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Landscaping

In landscape design, there are two primary elements: hardscapes and softscapes. Hardscapes are stone paths, retainer walls, trellises, and decks. Softscapes are shrubs, trees, or flowers. A successful backyard landscape incorporates both. Add hedges to design a maze or border-off specific areas of the yard. If you dream of a lush garden, professionals suggest choosing a theme. Pick plants and flowers from a color palette that you find relaxing and serene. Add hardscape elements, such as fountains, trellises, and garden sculptures to add to its visual appeal. If you love color, but don’t have room for a full garden, consider adding flower window boxes.

garden landscape flower window box nojustice / Getty Images
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Add creative water elements

One of the most popular backyard features today is a waterscape. These eco-friendly water features look like they are a part of a natural landscape. From peaceful streams to full-size swimming pools with a waterfall, there are a ton of options to choose from if you don’t mind a larger investment. However, there are beautiful options for smaller yards and smaller wallets as well. Consider adding an outdoor water wall or self-contained fountain. Assemble a pond using materials from your favorite hardware or DIY store. You’ll also find kits with everything you need to put together a small koi pond, rock waterfall, or spherical water fountain in your yard. If you don’t have the time to make a waterscape, opt for a unique, budget-friendly birdbath.

pond feature natural waterscape fotolinchen / Getty Images
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Gazebos, pergolas, and arbors

If you lack outdoor shade options, consider adding a gazebo, a pergola, or an arbor, depending on the amount of available space.

  • Arbors are smaller structures with lattice sides and an arched top. The lattice framework allows you to add climbing plants and vines to create a focal point for a yard, a walkway, or garden area.
  • Pergolas are much larger than arbors. Posts support a lattice roof that can support a canopy for added protection from the sun.
  • Gazebos are oval-shaped, octagonal, or rectangular and the largest of the three structures. Although its sides are open, the roof is solid. Some people choose to screen in the sides. Floors are either built-in or concrete.
pergola gazebo arbor Darrell Gulin / Getty Images
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Yard art

The world of outdoor art has evolved far beyond garden gnomes and pink flamingos. Instead, choose bird sculptures to accent a flower garden. Wind chimes are soothing decorative options available in a vast array of styles and materials. Add colorful stepping stones or wind spinners in bright shades to add pops of color. If you’re seeking an artsy feel for your patio area, consider a waterproof canvas painting. These durable pieces of art hold up to high moisture and humidity, as well as heat and sunlight. Hang bells, colored jars, or other everyday objects from tree limbs for a fantasy-like feel.

art outdoor wind chimes ePhotocorp / Getty Images
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Take a trip to the salvage yard

For a truly inspired and unique backyard space, implement interesting decor using items others have thrown away. Salvage yards, flea markets, and garage sales are excellent places to find items to refurbish, refine, and repurpose for decorating your yard. Paint tires to fabricate wall and ground planters, chairs, and tables. Assemble sculptures, fountains, wind spinners, and mobiles from metal car parts. A car grille makes an interesting trellis for supporting hanging vines in garden spaces. People who support sustainability say salvage art is an environmentally friendly and affordable way to decorate the home.

sustainability salvage yard flea market SzB / Getty Images

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