You may have seen the title of this article and rolled your eyes – is working in the backyard really an “art?” Well, sometimes it can certainly seem more like a chore than anything else!
The thing is, houses are getting smaller across the board and our living space is shrinking everywhere we turn. We need to make the best of all the space that we have available to us, and to let such a useful and highly livable area as our backyards go to waste is a real shame.
Even if your current home feels spacious, I don’t know anyone who isn’t looking for a little more room – even if it’s just a quiet corner to hide away and relax in for half an hour or so.
Subtly increasing your home’s size or finding your own green oasis – that is the true art of turning a backyard into a living space.
Get a Shed
Sheds have a bit of an unfair reputation as being terminally un-cool. Ok, sometimes they – or rather their owners – can be deserving of that tag. At the same time, a well-placed, well-designed shed can really be a useful backyard addition.
From personal experience, I don’t know how I survived before I built my shed because of the extra storage room it has brought. Seriously, if your home feels small, if you’re struggling for storage space, then consider building a shed and treating it – as I do – like a giant outdoor cupboard!
There are also now a range of tools and materials to make a shed look great. There is waterproof paint in a wide variety of colors that both protects and makes it look great, and a simple string of outdoor lights can make the shed an attractive feature that lights up a summer evening.
If you are looking for your own slice of tranquility in your backyard, a pond or water feature could be the way to go. Again, like sheds, ponds can have a bit of a reputation for not being the coolest backyard features. But any recollections you have of your Granddad carefully attending to his Koi Carp and boring you to tears talking about water acidity levels are way off the mark.
Of course, if you really want an extremely ornamental, Japanese style pond – and if you have the patience to maintain it – they really can look incredible. But you don’t have to go to those lengths. A simple rock pool is easy to build, very low maintenance and can still provide a very attractive feature. Add in a small solar powered pump and fountain arrangement and you even get the soothing trickle of gently cascading water.
A big part of the process of turning your backyard into a premium outdoor living space is to take a minute to look around. Many people, when they plan their backyard upgrade, think only of the backyard itself.
That’s all well and good – and in fact it’s what we’re here to talk about – but you also need to take a look around and see what you’ll be looking at whilst you are in your yard. Laying out beautiful flowerbeds, a lovely ornamental pond and a manicured lawn is great. Then you light up the BBQ, sit back with a cold beer or a chilled wine… and see your house. The peeling paint, the cracked stone cladding – no amount of backyard upgrades can offset that.
Timber cladding is my secret recommendation here. For a relatively low investment, you can not only right the wrongs of a lack of maintenance, you can add a whole new design dynamic to your house.
Pair that with a more rustic themed garden design – perhaps a white painted fence, reclaimed wood borders, a more natural, wild rock pool – and you have a backyard design and house exterior with matching aesthetics that work together for a truly inviting backyard.
I live in a small house with a smaller backyard – seriously, we’re talking about 10 feet square. I also have a wild meadow, and I love it!
Seems strange right? I felt the same, because when you think of a meadow, you think of a wide-open space, tall grasses and pretty wild flowers blowing gently in a summer’s breeze. Well it’s exactly like that, in a miniature form. You can set aside just a small patch of your yard – even a patch of 1 square foot if that’s all you have – and you can still grow this incredibly attractive feature.
It’s really useful too, as it’s exceptionally low maintenance. After you weed the space and sprinkle the seeds, the next stage is… well, nothing. Water if it you like, but you don’t have too. A good meadow seed mix will be mainly wild seed so they don’t need the care and attention of domestic varieties. Once it grows, it happily fills odd bits of space with pretty wild flowers, and the strong wild grasses keep weeds at bay.
There you have it – there really are a lot of very simple – and most importantly low maintenance – ways to turn a normal backyard into an outdoor living space that you’ll love spending time in.