9 Backyard Updates That Will Improve Your Outdoor Comfort

1. Add a Patio or Deck

If most of your garden is lawn or planted areas, investing in a patio or deck can be a real boost for the ease of outdoor lounging. Outdoor furnishings like tables and chairs sit more firmly and move more easily on a hard, even surface. Decks that are brought up to the same level as a home can foster better indoor-outdoor flow and make it easier to bring a tray of food to an outdoor dining table. Brookes + Hill Custom Builders made this deck for a seaside home in Boston extra useful for entertaining by raising it up to the home’s level, rather than adding steps down to a deck.
Christiano Homes, Inc.
A deck or patio doesn’t have to be massive to be useful. In this home in Southern California by Christiano Homes, a small deck provides a room for the homeowners to relax on two lounge chairs right off the living area.
O.A.I. Concept Interiors / Exteriors
2. Splurge on Comfortable, Durable Furniture

The more you can bring the comforts of home outside, the more you will be tempted to sit back, relax and enjoy. Choose chairs that support your back and sofas and lounges with deep comfort. Invest in durable materials such as teak, aluminum, synthetic resin and powder-coated steel, which can withstand exposure to the elements, and choose cushions made from water- and UV-resistant fabric.
Outdoor Dreams
3. Consider Shade

If your primary outdoor hangout spot is in full sun, you’ll likely appreciate some form of shade while eating or lounging outside. Go big with an outdoor pergola, which can also be used for hanging string lights or mounting heaters, or keep it simple with some outdoor umbrellas that can be moved around as needed.
4. Add Light Sources

To keep the festivities going (or at least to be able to see what you’re flipping on the grill) after the sun goes down, outdoor lighting is essential.

Tucson-based landscape designer Elizabeth Przygoda-Montgomery of BOXHILL used multiple light sources in this desert oasis garden, including a flickering fire pit, trees wrapped in white lights, wall-mounted lights, path lights and whimsical floating bobbles. The designer recommends investing in commercial-grade outdoor lighting, which can stand up to the elements and often comes with a 10-year-warranty.

When planning your outdoor lighting setup, be sensitive to wildlife and neighbors. Add only what lighting you need and try to use recommended techniques and fixtures for wildlife friendliness.
Mark Langos Interior Design
5. Provide Heat

Equally as important as light after dark, heat sources can encourage lingering on the patio or over dinner outside once temperatures dip. If you already have a pergola, eaves, or other roof structures, installing wall-mounted electric outdoor heaters is likely the easiest, least visually obtrusive option. Otherwise, plan on having a few freestanding propane heaters that can be rolled onto the patio when needed.

Tip: Double-check that the propane tank is full a few days before an event.

6. Invest in an Outdoor Kitchen or Grill

Cooking outdoors always draws people to the action. Outdoor kitchens are often one of the biggest splurges in a backyard design, but they can be worth the investment if you plan on frequently cooking and hosting outside. Depending on your budget, you may also want to consider party-ready features, like warming ovens, ice makers or drink fridges. Alternatively, a fairly basic barbecue will only set you back about $150, and the food will likely be no less delicious than that cooked on a far fancier outdoor kitchen.
B. Jane Gardens
7. Give Kids a Place to Play

What’s one sure way to get parents to relax and enjoy their yard? Keep children entertained, but within eyesight (for youngsters). When landscape designer B. Jane was remodeling a backyard for a family in Austin, Texas, adding a kids’ play area that was close to the outdoor entertaining space was one of her clients’ top priorities. The designer took advantage of a natural slope in the yard to create a slide and custom climbing wall for kids to enjoy.
Steve Shirrel, ASLA, RLA
8. Build In an Activity Area

Whether you have the materials on hand for cornhole, croquet or another lawn game or go all out and install a bocce court, having the option of an outdoor game can help liven up a backyard. Conversely, you can rally around a food-related activity such as making pizzas in an outdoor oven or on the grill or making s’mores for dessert around a fire pit.
Terri Clark Interiors
9. Create Multiple Hangout Areas

When interior designer Terri Clark set about designing her Toronto backyard, she knew she wanted to create a layout that would enable her to host friends and large gatherings. A large patio under an outdoor pergola allows Clark to set a table for 20 people, while smaller patios close to the house provide a more intimate dining area and seating for medium-size groups. Pathways and open areas foster flow between the spaces.
Terri Clark Interiors
Budget-saving idea: Before Clark had the original house torn down, she had the builders pull up and set aside the old unistone paver driveway and original flagstone on the property, which she reused in the new design.

The flagstone found a home in a satellite patio that connects her “she shed” with her husband’s shed. “My shed also does double duty as the bar,” Clark says.


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