Fun and Function
When you're thinking about additions to your backyard, focus on items that will enhance the things you and your family enjoy most. If you relish cooking and eating alfresco, maybe updating your grill or installing an outdoor pizza oven will jazz up your dining experience. If physical recreation is the goal, consider stocking up on outdoor games or putting a basketball hoop on the patio.
Erect a Pergola
Extend and define your outdoor living space by setting a pergola next to your patio or pool, or even along the back of your yard, so you can sit and relax beneath the cooling, mottled shade of the pergola’s overhead beams. An out-of-the-box structure, such as the Sahara Cedar Pergola (available at The Home Depot), comes ready to assemble so you can set it up in a single afternoon.
Put in a Fire Pit
Create campfire ambience right in your own backyard with a fire pit, and watch your house become the most popular destination on the block. Choose a spot with enough room for a ring of chairs around the fire pit so everyone can enjoy the warmth of the flickering flames while sharing stories and making new memories.
Suspend a Swing Sofa
Turn a covered patio into a luxurious retreat with the addition of a hanging sofa, such as the Essence Porch Swing (available at Wayfair). The big brother to a porch swing, a swinging sofa lets one or more adults or children enjoy a soothing sway while snuggling on cozy, overstuffed cushions. Outdoor relaxation doesn’t get any better than this.
Install a Custom Outdoor Kitchen
Food just tastes better when it’s cooked outdoors, and if you’re an enthusiastic griller, a prebuilt outdoor kitchen like the Cal Flame Stucco Grill Island (available at The Home Depot) will give you a chance to hone your skills. Home improvement centers carry a wide range of outdoor kitchen islands and cabinets that you can assemble into your ideal custom cooking center.
Plug in a Fountain
The peaceful sound of babbling water provides a calming, spa-like backdrop for unwinding at the end of a long work day. While some outdoor fountains are solar-powered, most, including the Teamson Waterfall Fountain (available at Lowe's), need to be plugged into an outlet. For added convenience and to hide the unsightly power cord, consider hiring an electrician to wire your fountain to a nearby switch just inside the house. Tuck the fountain in among a variety of vining plants and blossoms to create the feeling of a secret garden.
Add an Outdoor Shower
Keep your house free from tracked-in sand and dirt by adding an outdoor shower to your backyard. This feature is a boon for active families and a must for lakeside and oceanside homes where surfing and swimming are daily activities. With an outdoor shower like this Double Freestanding model by Serenity Enclosures (available at Wayfair), sandy beachgoers can shower off outdoors in privacy before heading back into the house.
Hang a Hammock
Nothing says summertime quite like lazing away an afternoon in a hammock. When the lawn has been mowed and the weeds pulled, just climb into your hammock, lie back, and let the soft sway lull you into relaxation. Hang a standard rope-and-fabric version, such as the Da Vinci Cotton Hammock (available on Amazon), and the whole family will soon be clamoring to use it. In fact, you might want to hang more than one.
Cultivate a Vertical Garden
Don’t give up on growing flowers and vegetables just because you have a small backyard. When space is at a premium, think vertical—a vertical garden, that is. By hanging a prebuilt set of planters, such as the Tejeda 5 Tier Vertical Garden (available at Wayfair) on a fence or patio wall, you can grow a wealth of flowers or produce all summer long without the need for a traditional garden bed.
Set Up an Outdoor Mudroom
If your home doesn’t have an interior foyer or mudroom where family members can take off their galoshes and slickers, consider creating one on a backyard porch or patio. You don't need much for a functional mud area—just a bench for sitting down to put on and take off shoes, a few wall hooks for hanging coats and hats, and shoe cubbies to keep footwear organized. Dress up the space with a decorative element, such as an old churn filled with a dried floral arrangement.
Light Up the Night
When the sun goes down, exterior string lights twinkle to life, adding a soft, welcoming glow to a patio or other outdoor sitting area. Perfect for families who like to spend evenings outdoors, solar-powered options like the Brightech Ambience Pro Solar-Powered Outdoor String Lights (available on Amazon) don’t require a power outlet, so you can hang them on a covered porch, a fence, or even a sturdy patio umbrella.
Construct a She Shed
Let your imagination be your guide in designing this trendy, coveted outdoor retreat. Start with an existing storage shed or purchase a new one, such as the Brandon Storage Shed by Best Barns (available at The Home Depot), and then furnish the space with comfy seating, a bookcase or cubby, a rug, colorful curtains, and a bench or bistro table to create a shed where you'll want to spend all your spare time.
Related: The 10 Best Sheds for Your Backyard
Keep It Kid-Friendly
Get kids out from underfoot and into the fresh air by crafting a kid-friendly backyard. Small children will love a basic swing set and sandbox, while older kids will revel in climbing up and sliding down a more challenging structure, such as the ready-to-assemble Sky View Wooden Playset (available at Lowe's).
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