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28 DIY Backyard Ideas to Elevate Your Space

Having a beautiful backyard is a truly special feeling and knowing you’re the reason behind the beauty makes it all the more special. With so many helpful resources and inspiring Instagram feeds there’s never been a better time to be a DIY-er! Here are twenty eight ideas from Tilly client plans to help you turn your yard into an oasis that’s both functional and beautiful to look at.

#1 // Hang A Shade Sail

Looking for a little extra shade? Consider adding a shade sail! Not only can they elevate the look of your yard—they help make your outdoor living space, well, more livable! (Especially during those long hot summer months.)

A shade sail over a spa area in a backyard

#2 // Attach Planters to Your Fence

When it comes to DIY backyard projects, the fence usually falls to the bottom of the list. The options seem limited to painting or repairing. Don’t let the simplicity of attaching planters fool you, they can add incredible visual variety and turn your yard into a true outdoor oasis.

Not only do planters make for an easy project, they’re one of those items that add a lot of beauty without taking up a lot of space!

planters on the side of a fence next to an outdoor living area with a covered pergola

#3 // Start a Pollinator Garden

A DIY backyard project that is both beautiful and helpful to local wildlife? Yes please! This eco friendly DIY project can help invite pollinating insects to your garden helping strengthen declining populations of insects like bees and butterflies which help food and plants grow.

In order to create a pollinator garden you’ll need a few simple tools such as a shovel or trowel, wheelbarrow, the plants, garden hose, etc. Think about what type of pollinators you want in your garden and then do some research on what plants are native to your area and will attract them. There are native plant finders you can use or Tilly can help. 

 DIY backyard with a shade sail hung between posts

#4 // Create a Certified Wildlife Habitat® to Benefit Wildlife

If you like the idea of planting a pollinator garden to help local wildlife, consider making your yard a Certified Wildlife Habitat® with Tilly and our friends at the National Wildlife Federation™. Tilly can design your space to meet the requirements of this certification and will cover the cost of the certification. The requirements include design items such as having food, shelter, water and places to raise young in your yard – many of these requirements can be met just by adding the right types of native plants! 

a front yard garden with ornamental grasses and plants

#5 // Pressure Wash… Everything!

Sometimes we just want that quick fix to help elevate our backyard. Pressure washing might just be that one weekend, easy project you’re looking for. Spraying down your patio, bricks, concrete, outdoor furniture, and other common backyard items is relatively easy and a quick way to make everything sparkle.

If you’ve never power-washed before, you might be surprised at how therapeutic it can be watching the old become new again. You can usually rent a power washer from your local hardware store, Home Depot or Lowes. 

A backyard with a great patio, pool, and succulents throughout

#6 // A Natural Kids Playscape

kids play area can mean hours of entertainment. We love traditional playsets, but love when clients consider a sustainable, natural playscape using things like log balance beams, a wooden tree swing, stumps to jump on and sand pits where the kiddos can play for hours on end on cool summer evenings. 

This natural playspace can be created with things you find in your yard. Throw on some extra shade to keep the kiddos cool and let them play! 

a natural playspace with large stones, chalkboards, log beams and more

#7 // DIY Spruce Up a Tool Shed

A shed is a practical and fantastic addition to the backyard. But if you let a shed go, it can turn from big convenience to big eye sore fast.

So paint that old door, replace those broken shingles and add some fresh landscaping around it. Simple things like adding a window box or stone pathway can really add character. For a fun DIY weekend project, treat it like a mini house and add some ‘curb appeal.’

diy projects, update your shed with fresh paint, siding and window boxes

#8 // Build Your Own Fire Pit

A DIY fire pit is a great, fun addition to a backyard that the whole family can use. Fire pits will keep you warm in the winter, and have you stargazing and roasting marshmallows all summer long.

Building one can be simple or get fairly complex. For example, laying down gravel for a base can be pretty straight forward, but you’ll need a plumber to set up a gas fire pit line. However, with the right amount of research and a go-getter attitude, creating a backyard fire pit can be a fantastic DIY goal. 

DIY fire pit for a Tilly client

#9 // DIY Gravel Patio for Entertaining

If you don’t already have one, a patio is one of the first things you should consider addingand no, they don’t have to be expensive. Gravel patios are inexpensive compared to big renovations and they can quickly become the central gathering place for family and friends. Select patio furniture that fits your style for an even more functional and attractive space.

a gravel patio with fire pits on it

#10 // Add Vines, Go Vertical

Backyard ideas for small yards? We got you! Consider utilizing vertical space with garden vines. While shrubs and traditional gardens can take a lot of space, vines grow flush with a surface and leave plenty of walking room.

You can even add creeping vines to a pergola or add an herb garden on the side of a fence or wall. If you’re hoping for a splash of color with your vines—consider the hardy clematis or beautiful wisteria vine that produces a stunning purple flower.

a Tilly outdoor space with vertical vines and an outdoor entertaining area

#11 // Build a Playhouse for the Kiddos

This one is not for the faint of heart, but building a playhouse is a sure way to turn your outdoor space into a refuge for the kiddos. Small touches like wreaths, window box planters, a fresh coat of paint (or if you really want to win the kiddos over, some chalkboard paint) can add a lot of charm and sophistication to what is sure to be your kid’s favorite area of the backyard.

a kid playarea with lots of natural play items, a tree swing, slide, chalkboard, house with window box

#12 // Create a Garden Path

Whether you have a worn area in your lawn where people are constantly cutting through or some patchy areas of grass that you just can’t get to grow—you may consider adding a garden path.

Garden paths are a practical addition to a space and can even become a feature of your yard. Select an option that fits your style, perhaps you try modern square pavers or sweet cottage stepping stones. Walkways don’t have to break the bank, a simple idea is to use mulch. You can let it be or tame it in with edging so it stays in place. Try adding a border along the path for added appeal.

explore your creative outlet by making a garden path through your backyard

#13 // Up Your Entertainment Area

With a proper outdoor entertainment area you can leave the basement behind and bring those “can’t miss” Sunday football games outside. Installing an outdoor TV, a fire pit or a fridge outdoors can really up the entertainment value of your backyard and have your family and friends spending more time outdoors.

Plan for guests by having extra patio furniture space available to make it an enjoyable hosting experience!

a Tilly backyard with an outdoor kitchen, fridge with cold drinks, outdoor TV and fire place over a paver patio

#14 // Set up a Stock Tank Pool

Stock tank pools are a great way to dip your toe into pool ownership. Should you ever decide owning a pool is not for you, stock tank pools can more easily be removed while still providing most of the benefits of a built-in pool. 

Now we know what you’re asking yourself…”Don’t stock tank pools stick out like a sore thumb?” And while they certainly can, that doesn’t mean they have to. Work to landscape around the pool to meld it into your surroundings and make it look native to the landscape.

For inspiration, check out some recent Tilly above ground pool projects where our design team helped homeowners make their pool seamlessly become part of the landscape. 

water feature

#15 // Add a Planter Divider to Create Rooms

If you’re the organized type that labels the containers in your pantry—you’ll definitely feel right at home with planter dividers. This DIY project can really help distinguish areas from one another such as a patio from an outdoor kitchen or driveway.

The flower/plants you put in it will help dictate the level of privacy created and a real sense of purpose for each unique space in your backyard.

#16 // Paint an Accent Wall

Not everything in your backyard needs to be green or brown like it came straight from the great outdoors. Try adding a pop of color with an accent wall. Accent walls are easy to do and can really add personality and visual interest. We highly recommend test painting a small area before committing the whole wall as certain paints can look different depending on surface and sunlight. It will also give you a chance to see it in its full context and change your mind before doing too much work if needed.

rustic charm in a southwesteern landscape with cactus along a bright red wall

#17 // Update the Landscaping Around Your Garage

With floor coatings and storage, we often worry about the inside of the garage but completely neglect the outside. Take your backyard to the next level by improving your landscaping around it. 

Things to consider include updating or creating a walkway to it and landscaping to hide the foundation. Smart landscape design can really elevate the look of your backyard space. 

diy backyard landscaping around your garage area

#18 // Start an Herb Garden

Okay, we’ve talked about pollinator gardens which help feed the birds and the bees but what about us? Planting an herb garden gives a whole new meaning to outdoor dining and nothing will make you feel more frontier than needing a touch of cilantro or basil and being able to walk out to your backyard and pluck it.

Kids also love being helpful in the kitchen, and planting an herb garden is an easy educational opportunity that the entire family can enjoy.

dining al fresco areae with an herb garden closeby

#19 // Create a Special Relaxation Spot

Life is busy and your backyard should be a relaxing outdoor space that’s inviting for family gatherings or maybe some alone time after a long day. Having a great outdoor entertaining space is key to most homeowners enjoyment of their yards, but consider having a more private space off the beaten path to enjoy. 

Perhaps it’s a small deck or patio off a bedroom or maybe it’s just a bench tucked in the corner. You don’t have to have a big backyard, there are lots of ways to maximize space with the proper planning. 

a private side wood patio with adirondeck chairs

#20 // Hang String Lights for Atmosphere

Is there anything more Instagram-worthy than a backyard glowing with string lights? String lighting shouldn’t take more than one weekend and the intimate and warm atmosphere they provide is so worth it. In some cases if your fence is the proper distance and set up, you won’t even have to do the work of installing posts.

yard with string lights for use in cold and warm weather

#21 // Replace Lawn

Head to your garden shed and grab some tools because it may be time to remove your lawn and replace it with a flower bed instead. Removing your lawn takes some effort, but replacing it with native plants or other beneficial plants can be extremely rewarding. This might sound drastic but it can have a great impact on your local ecosystem. 

Removing your lawn also makes for a low maintenance yard that you can spend more time relaxing in — than mowing and weeding. 

a Tilly yard with reduced lawn and added rocks, a rain garden and native plants

#22 // Mulch

Adding mulch is one of those super easy DIY backyard ideas that can be done in a weekend and make your yard look fresh. Mulch is a great way to keep your water bill lower and should be done annually in the spring.

When starting this project, make sure to use an organic mulch. 

a yard with mulch and fresh potting soil around a landscaped pool area

#23 // Refresh Your Planters

Nothing says you’re not taking care of your yard like planters full of dead plants. Make sure to take good care of them year round and have fun creating seasonal arrangements. 

Browse Pinterest or Instagram for inspiration. There are so many options out there – one species can create a great modern look or a wide variety of flowers can establish the perfect cottage garden feel. 

a backyard with pavers, a pool, pergola, lounge area with a large outdoor rug

#24 // Butterfly Puddling Station

Butterfly puddling stations are pure fun! Acting as both a water feature and an inviting space for backyard butterflies, puddling stations will make nature’s most colorful insects fall in love with you.

In most regions, puddling activity is most common around noon during the hottest months of the year so consider giving these fluttering beauties some shade too! 

a diy backyard projects including a puddling station like this one surrounded by flowers and logs

#25 // Build Seating

This is maybe on the more difficult end of DIY backyard ideas but if you have the right tools and are willing to learn, built-in seating might be just the backyard addition you’ve been looking for.

Banquette benches for example can be built mostly with supplies found at your local hardware store such as 2X4’s and plywood and can double as hidden storage.

If you’re a little green behind the ears when it comes to woodwork, you can even use tree stumps as extra seating.

a built in seating around a fire pit with wood pallets

#26 // Add a Living Wall

Living walls have become a staple of trendy restaurants these days and for good reason—they add a ton of character and can make any wall photograph worthy. A living wall is also a really fun way to divide an outdoor space. 

a living wall separates a backyard patio from a grill gazebo

#27 // Landscape Lighting

You may have noticed a trend here, but we are definitely huge fans of easy DIY projects that provide form and function. Landscape lighting sits comfortably in the middle of that venn diagram and should never be an afterthought.

Not only do you need light for any late night backyard parties, it’s also a matter of safety and security. Not to mention the warm atmosphere light provides. 

The last thing you want is to spend hard earned time and money on your backyard oasis only to have it be completely obscured by sunset. And if you’re as passionate as us about sustainability, solar lights can be a great option!

a Tilly backyard with landscape lighting that highlights plants and features within the space

#28 // Build an Outdoor Shower

The best part about outdoor showers is how inviting they make it to get your hands dirty. Dirt? Fertilizer? Lawn Clippings? Whatever the case, when you have an outdoor shower it makes working in the yard so much easier to plan for so you’re not having to worry about dirtying the house. After all, who wants to clean the house after they’ve just spent the last few hours working in the yard?

If you live by an ocean or lake, an outdoor shower is also a fantastic addition for cleaning off the day’s sunscreen before heading indoors. 

an outdoor shower next to a fire ring fire pit with screenings by corten steel containers

Whether it’s a simple project like starting a compost pile or a more complex project like building a window box, the key to success is taking your time and doing a little research beforehand. Plan out your project and make sure you have the proper tools before you hammer that first nail or plant the first flower. 

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