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37 Backyard Ideas for Outdoor Living Space Design

With spring in full swing, it’s time to start thinking about our outdoor living areas. Do you have an outdoor oasis that you love? Create one you’ll never want to leave with these beautiful backyard ideas.

(This post was updated May 5, 2022)

Whether it’s a living space, dining space, or a fire pit area, cozying up outdoor living spaces is key to enjoying the outdoors in the warmer months.

We recently moved to a new to us 1850 farmhouse sited on 10 acres with expansive gardens, tree sculptures, statues and outdoor living spaces are totally amazing.

So I spent some time revisiting this post to make the outdoor spaces fell warm and inviting.

So how do you cozy things up?

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How Can I Make My Backyard Nicer?

There are a few ways to make the backyard feel more like your own personal outdoor oasis.

Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • If you don’t already have one, add an outdoor deck, patio or porch area.
  • Add texture and dimension to existing outdoor living spaces with an outdoor area rug like THESE.
  • Start a new garden. And if you want to start a new garden without breaking your back, try THIS easy method. Or just add a few planters like THIS.
  • Decorate outdoor living spaces with accent lighting such as twinkle lights, lanterns and battery operated candles.
  • Create stone paths or stepping stone pathways to add cottage garden charm and have easier accessibility to outdoor living spaces.
  • Shade areas that receive full sun with a pergola or gazebo like THIS so you can enjoy the outdoors more often.
  • Add garden decor such as trellis, obelisks, birdhouses, etc. to add more visual interest.
  • To create a relaxing atmosphere, add a water feature such as a pond or fountain.
Small pond garden with japanese maple and garden sculptures with blooming azalea and daffodils -37 Backyard Living Space Ideas
Zen garden koi pond with Japanese Maple and Garden Sculpture

What Time of Year is the Best to Landscape?

While you can landscape anytime during the year as long as the ground is workable, it’s best to do plantings and move things around in early spring or mid-late fall.

Summer is too hot to garden and do landscaping chores.

Not to mention, plants are not fans of being moved around during extreme summer heat.

Lilac flowers by the Fire Pit Garden at night lit with solar lanters and surrounded by hostas and twinkle lights
7 Mistakes to Avoid When Designing a Backyard Living Space
Gardener stacy ling planting marigolds in her backyard garden -landscaping for curb appeal
Planting marigolds in the garden to help repel mosquitos

37 Backyard Ideas for Outdoor Living Design

When we first moved to our former small 3 bedroom ranch home, the backyard had one deck that had a dark stain.

It was pelted by the sun ALL DAY LONG so we rarely used it during the summer months.

A few years after we first moved in, my husband decided to add on to our existing deck with another level.

So we actually had two decks there – one that we used for dining and the other for sitting.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know how much I LOVED my outdoor dining space on the upper deck in that house.

It was so warm and cozy. And whenever we were out there, it felt like we are hanging out at a country club!

Backyard deck with gazebo, superwave petunias in hanging baskets, wicker chairs and farmhouse table in outdoor living space -Outdoor living space with Summer Dinner Party Ideas
Summer on the backyard deck that is shaded by a gazebo

But it wasn’t always that enjoyable.

Even after we refaced the deck and added another level, it was still pelted with hot sun that we could barely sit out there on a hot summer day.

And we tried those market umbrellas, but they just didn’t cool it down enough.

Until we found a gazebo like THIS!

And that was a total game-changer for the upper deck that housed our outdoor dining space.

But I’ve learned so much through the years where backyard living ideas are concerned. I mostly learned through trial and error. But also got ideas from outside inspiration.

Here are 7 mistakes to avoid when designing a backyard living space.

Outdoor dining space with wicker chairs and cushions, farmhouse table, gazebo and hanging baskets with superwave petunias on the deck -Summer dinner party ideas in the backyard outdoor dining space on the deck
Outdoor dining space on the deck that is shaded by a gazebo
cozy Conversation pit with 4 wicker chairs and gas fire pit on deck with white railings and houseplants at sunset -Backyard ideas - deck in the backyard garden
Cozy conversation pit on the deck that overlooks sunsets

How I Spruced Up the Deck With New Furniture

What I rarely showed on the blog was the lower deck. Not because I didn’t love it, but it needed some attention. Because we had the same outdoor wicker furniture for 20 years.

So it was time for a change.

This is what it looked like before.

White wicker outdoor furniture with free standing fire pit on deck with white railings and houseplants Outdoor Living Space Home Tour
Before we spruced up the deck

And here is what it looked after we bought new furniture!

We kept the area rug, but swapped the 18-year-old furniture out for THIS cozy gas firepit and outdoor living room set.

And we LOVE IT!!!

Watching the sunset from the backyard deck with 4 wicker chairs and gas fire pit-backyard living on the lower deck at sunset

Doesn’t it look so cozy?

We added some houseplants to summer outdoors. And because this space felt cozier, we used it SO MUCH MORE.

So that is the key. Make your outdoor living space feel cozy and welcoming. You’ll enjoy it so much more.

Backyard Deck Gardens overlooking a sunset with houseplants and white railings on deck
Adding houseplants to outdoor living spaces lends a lush tropical feel.

Since moving to our new home, we use this same conversation set on an outdoor patio that overlooks the formal garden.

You can get a full tour of my new gardens HERE.

We haven’t used this set much since moving in, but I’m sure we will spend a lot of time out there watching the sun set over the formal garden as the temperature warms up here in my zone 6a New Jersey garden.

formal garden at sunset with grass fronds and garden statues and gazebo

My Favorite Outdoor Living Space Ideas to Cozy Up the Backyard

Whether you are refreshing an outdoor dining or living space or maybe adding an outdoor fire pit area, this post has you covered.

Now that we moved, we needed to purchase a few more pieces so we can enjoy the outdoors here a bit more.

Outdoor Living Room Ideas

If you are looking for outdoor living room ideas, I did a lot of shopping around before I found the right set for the lower deck.

If it would fit, I would love to do an outdoor sectional here. But the deck is octagonal so would not work.

I loved this gorgeous outdoor living room set too.

What do you think?

Here are a few more outdoor living room sets I’m loving now.

Outdoor Dining Room Ideas

Our deck at the Vermont cabin is a pretty good size, but not as large as our decks at home. I wanted to enjoy both a comfortable living and dining room space but couldn’t fit both.

To get the best of both worlds, I found THIS dining room set that could function as both living and dining.

So far it’s worked out really well.

Outdoor dining wicker set with outdoor area rug on deck with two black labrador retreivers at a cabin in the woods -outdoor living at the cabin in vermont

My outdoor dining space in New Jersey is a little different. I wanted to use a large farmhouse table with wicker chairs.

To save some money, I found a wood farmhouse table through Facebook marketplace for $50 that I refinished with outdoor deck stain and sealer so it could withstand the elements.

Isn’t that a bargain for a table?

Outdoor dining table with wicker chairs, vintage wood crate with flowers, hanging baskets with pink superwave petunias and a farmhouse table with outdoor area rug -Backyard Ideas for the Deck - Summer Dinner Party Ideas

While this set worked well in our former home, I moved the same table to what will become a potager garden, and the wood table is getting warped from the sun hitting it.

Thus, we need to replace the top with something that is better suited to the elements.

So if you decide to do this, make sure you keep it under a protected space like the gazebo we used or a covered porch.

If you want a similar look to what I’ve done, here are some ideas.

Cozy Up a Backyard Living Space with Outdoor Area Rugs

Regardless of whether it is living or dining, it’s important to add a rug to define the space and make it feel more cozy.

Outdoor area rugs have come a long way, haven’t they?

I had THIS rug on both the upper and lower decks at my house. And I loved it!

White porch swing with bird pillow on front porch with black lab sleeping and bistro set at sunsetMy black lab on the front porch of my 1850 farmhouse

Since we moved, I use the smaller rug on the front porch to help define the space under our porch swing.

This is what it looked like in March but I’ll be decking this area out for summer now that the weather is cooperating.

And I’m moving the larger outdoor area rug to use under our dining table in the potager garden (hopefully that will be happening this weekend!)

But I’m thinking about getting THIS one for the Vermont cabin to use under the outdoor dining area.

Here are a few other outdoor area rugs that I’m loving now.

Creating Shade to Define the Space and Enjoy it More

For SO many years, we did not fully enjoy the deck because it gets full sun all day long.

Shade umbrellas did not keep the space cool enough, so we were limited to enjoying it to the evenings in the dead heat of summer.

A few years ago, I found some pre-made gazebos and pergolas and fell in love!

So we bought a pre-made gazebo like this one and it was life-changing.

Outdoor dining space decorated for a picnic date with vintage picnic basket filled with fresh cut hydrangeas on a deck with wicker chairs, outdoor area rug, farmhouse table and hanging baskets of pink superwave petunias hanging from gazebo -Backyard ideas with gazebo and outdoor area rug on deck. table is set for a picnic date with friends.

We are out there all the time now and I swear, it’s like 10 degrees cooler on the deck than the rest of the yard during the summer!

True, we could have built something, but we did not want to build anything else on the deck.

So the pre-made option was the right choice for us. We did not bring it with us here to the new house because we affixed it to the deck so it was stable.

My husband would like to get another one for the potager garden, but I’m not sure I want it there. We’ll see how we use the space over time before doing anything more there.

If you have an outdoor living space that needs some shade too, here are some ideas.

Nothing Says Cozy More than a Night by the Fire Pit

Although we have an outdoor fire pit area at the Vermont cabin, it’s pretty far away from the house up a huge hill.

We still use it, but I wanted to get a small gas one that we could safely enjoy on the deck.

THIS is the one we bought and it works really well! We enjoy the deck so much more now that we have this.

gas firepit on deck with beige adirondack chairs at a cabin in woods with industrial farmhouse deck raililng - outdoor living at the cabin in vermont

This gas fire pit throws off a good amount of heat and added the right amount of ambiance.

We added four Adirondack chairs around it to for seating. So now, it’s the perfect spot to hang after a fun day on the lake.

Here are some more gas fire pit ideas.

Add a Water Feature to Create a Relaxing Outdoor Living Space

You don’t have to live on a beach or the lake to enjoy the soothing sounds of water!

If you have the space you can add a pond garden.

And if you don’t have the space or budget to go all out?

Small pond garden with japanese maple and garden sculptures with blooming azalea and daffodils -37 Backyard Living Space Ideas

There are lots of options that you can purchase to get the same effect for little money.

From freestanding fountains for the garden to fountains that can sit on your deck or be mounted on a wall, there are so many ways to add a water feature.

And trust me, you want a water feature. Now that we have one? We feel like we are at a resort and enjoy it every single night!

Here are some water feature ideas to create a backyard haven that rests the mind and spirit.

Mood Lighting Ideas

In addition to our existing outdoor light fixtures, it’s a good idea to add mood lighting for ambiance.

I love to add twinkle lights that brighten up outdoor living spaces without overpowering them with too much light.

To me, you can never have too much twinkle.

And solar lights have come a long way in the last several years.

Backyard fire pit garden at night with tiki torches and twinkle lights surrounded by hostas with adirondack chairs -Outdoor living space with fire pit fall home tour, with twinkle lights and tiki torches

I’ve found some fun lanterns, string lights and walkway/garden lights that work really well and look so pretty!

If you aren’t sure how to extend lighting to outdoor living spaces that are not close to an electrical source, CLICK HERE.

At our new home, there is no shortage of outdoor lighting. The former homeowners add a lot of it. But we will be adding more twinkle lights for ambiance as well as THESE tiki torches around the ponds and pool.

They are nicer than the bamboo looking ones you find everywhere and are pretty inexpensive for what you get.

Ours just arrived but we have not put them outside yet. Pics to come soon!

Here are some of my favorite outdoor lighting finds.

Create an Outdoor Oasis with Outdoor Planters

Every outdoor living space needs a few planters with some gorgeous greenery and flowers. There are so many pretty options out there to choose from.

I suggest going with larger vs smaller sized planters because they retain more moisture so you have to water less often.

Not to mention they have a greater visual impact on a space.

Lately, I’m loving self-watering planters. I bought these beautiful self-watering urns to flank my garage and love them!

Terra cotta planters with spring flowers of rananuclas, pansies and bugleweed blooms on the ground outside front porch with mustard color door - 37 backyard living space ideas

Since moving to the new house, I need to get another set because we have a second porch area that needs urns.

Right now, I’m using fiberglass terracotta pots I had on hand, but I definitely need to get urns for this space.

Here are some of my favorite outdoor planter ideas.

Outdoor Planter Ideas

Looking for ways to pot up some plants to cozy up your outdoor living spaces.

Click on the photo caption below for more inspiration.

Pin and Save It For Later

If you like this post, please share and pin it on Pinterest. (If you hover over the image, the Pinterest button will be in the upper left corner.) I’ve created the below-custom pins for this post.

close up of backyard fire pit at night with twinkle lights and solar lanterns
close up of backyard small koi pond garden with japanese maple tree
Close up of Gorgeous backyard ideas and outdoor living space ideas
Close up of outdoor dining space with farmhouse table and outdoor wicker chairs -Gorgeous Backyard Ideas
37 Backyard Ideas for Outdoor Living Space Design
37 Backyard Ideas for Outdoor Living Design

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19 Comments

  1. Looks really lovely and functional…always important if you want to use an area. The solar lanterns add their own unique touch. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I couldn’t agree more Linda! I love those lanterns – I have them throughout my yard on shepherd’s hooks.

  2. Love all your ideas, Stacy! Excited for warmer weather to arrive so we can enjoy outdoor living. xo

  3. Your yard and outdoor living spaces are beautiful! Because of the sun, we also had to invest in a pergola. Best investment, ever! Definitely ready for spring/summer and all the sights, sounds and fun they bring! I am also looking forward to planting this year and will continue to follow all your good tips!

  4. I love your inspo and your beautiful spaces. Looking forward to seeing what you do to change things up but I love it the way it is! Even the furniture. Pinned like crazy!

    1. I am so happy to hear that! Thank you! I can’t wait to get outdoors more – we’ve had such a gorgeous week here. Spring is on the way! Yay! xoxo

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  7. I love your home. Can you tell me where you got the fireplace on the lower deck? Possibly the brand and or name of it. Everything in your home and yard is beautiful.

  8. Hi! Stacy, I have a couple of questions about the fireplace you have on your deck. I have wanted to get one to put on our deck. Does the wood on the deck get hot when you have a fire going? Where did you find a smaller fireplace? Thank you for your help!

    1. Hi Mary! That fireplace was open on three sides so we could rarely use it on the deck because there was always a little too much wind. That particular fireplace is better suited for a patio. That’s why we decided to switch to a gas fire pit there instead.