30 Hardscape Ideas to Inspire and Stun

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Creating the backyard of your dreams means putting some thought into the hardscape design — but what exactly is it? The term hardscape refers to anything in your landscaping design that isn't alive, like gravel, stone, boulders, pool decks, arbors, and more.

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As you can imagine, there are a myriad of hardscape materials and styles to fit every budget and aesthetic. From modern to rustic, Scandinavian to Mediterranean, and beyond, the options are limitless. But before you take the plunge and head to the home improvement store, check out these 30 gorgeous hardscape design ideas that are guaranteed to inspire and get those creative juices flowing.

30 Hardscape Ideas

1. Don't be afraid to mix and match.

This backyard by Susan Cohan Gardens is a great example of a mixed-material hardscape design. A perfectly balanced combination of wood plank fencing, grass landscape, concrete benches, a concrete planter, and fire feature give this outdoor living room a rustic midcentury appeal.

2. Turn your backyard into an exotic oasis.

Concrete and wood are paired together to form the deck and built-in seating area in this verdant backyard by Jackson Design and Remodeling. A row of tall bamboo trees planted in gravel beds are added to soften this exotic oasis, while simultaneously adding privacy.

3. Opt for elegant traditionalism.

This concrete-heavy design is softened by vines of climbing ivy covering the walls on either side of the fireplace. The hardscape design centers around the stone fireplace by Orco Block & Hardscape, which along with candles and a rustic, glass-lantern pendant overhead offers warm and inviting lighting.

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4. Combine wood decks with vertical gardens.

With vertical gardens and greenery all around, the natural elements surrounding this wood deck, designed by Eco Minded Solutions, create a pleasantly organic atmosphere.

5. Create your own bellisima Italian villa.

Unexpected yet aesthetically pleasing, this hardscape design by Guia Para Decorar features wooden planks placed right on top of the grass. Paired with a rustic sectional sofa and a few candle lanterns, this dreamy outdoor space almost looks like a villa in the Italian countryside.

6. Pair steel and concrete together for a modern backyard.

The sleek, clean lines of this hardscape design provide a focal point in this modern backyard. Edgy outdoor furniture including a large white fire pit by Concrete Wave Design round out this urban concrete jungle.

7. Incorporate desert-chic vibes.

Here's another hardscape design that transports you to a faraway land. The built-in benches seem to almost grow out of the house, while the patio covering makes incredible use of natural materials in this creation by Esin.

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8. Add in playful features.

This ultra-modern playground, designed by Eldridge London, is so much fun. Not only does it incorporate a hidden sandbox, but it also features a slide! Two sets of stairs leading up — one made of stone, while the other combines wooden stair treads with gravel risers — give you easy access to the whimsical slide, with soft green grass below to gently receive you.

9. Incorporate a dash of Southwestern flair.

Here's a mixed-material hardscape design from D-Crain that incorporates a contemporary take on Southwestern landscaping. Rusted metal planters staggered throughout contain loose-gravel rock gardens filled with a variety of low-maintenance desert plants.

10. Create French country vibes.

This French country-inspired backyard by Foras Studio is giving the gardens of Versailles a run for their money. Okay, that might be a stretch, but we think this hardscape design is very ooh la la! By using loose gravel, a few stone tiles, and some geometric gardening, this gorgeous outdoor space imbues an elegant grandeur.

11. Incorporate some coastal charm.

You don't have to live in the Hamptons to appreciate (or emulate) this hardscape design by Swenson Granite. Wood decking leads down to a sleek horizontal concrete paver path, which practically begs you to make your way to the in-ground swimming pool.

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12. Add in some natural stairs.

Instead of incorporating traditional wooden steps, this hardscaping design by John's Landscape Service Inc. opts for large, flat boulders to help you ease your way down the sloped yard.

13. Create a tranquil space.

We don't know about you, but we feel very zen just looking at this hardscaping design from Landscape East & West, which features twin concrete patios with a mulched garden in between. A modern, square fire pit dons the top of the patio — perfect for a summer gathering.

14. Add a black trellis for a modern take on a classic garden feature.

This is absolutely not your granny's trellis. Although still serving as stability for climbing plants, this black trellis brings equal parts utility and modern style to this yard design by Yardzen.

15. Create English cottage vibes with a gravel patio.

A pea gravel patio — like this one from Modern Chemistry at Home — is simple to DIY, eternally customizable, and gives off major English cottage vibes.

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16. Incorporate a show-stopping bench.

It always seems like there's never enough seating when you're hosting a get-together in the garden. This show-stopping bench in a Borsello Landscaping design provides ample places for your guests to sit, and almost serves as a decorative sculpture when not used for seating.

17. Skip along your own (concrete) path.

We love a good concrete paver path — like this one from Swenson Granite — because it can provide function to awkward transition spaces in the backyard (like the small side yard area before you reach the gate).

18. Add an extra long arbor for a backyard "hallway."

This supersized arbor creates a hallway-like structure in a backyard design by Landscape East & West. We can just imagine ourselves gazing up at the gorgeous climbing vines as we go back and forth from our potting shed to the hammock station.

19. Add stylish built-in seating that's perfect for soirees.

The built-in concrete benches in this Redcurve Design garden are 50 percent seating arrangement, 50 percent built-in planter, and 100 percent stunning. The wooden planks on top add an extra level of comfort and texture to warm up the very modern space.

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20. Add a sleek, modern water feature.

When you envision a water feature in the backyard you probably think of over-the-top fountains or, worse, a bird bath that desperately needs to be cleaned. This tiny and chic rectangular fountain in a gorgeous Kathleen Ferguson design flips the idea of a traditional water feature on its head — making us rethink our entire position on backyard fountains.

21. Create a raised conversation circle.

Midcentury homes had their conversation pits, and modern backyards now have their raised conversation circles. This dazzling circular stone patio from Samscaping Incorporated's design is just clamoring for a group of friends to gather here right next to a roaring fire pit.

22. Opt for a moody black deck.

Who says decks have to be a traditional wood finish? This moody black deck — seen in Cupcakes and Cashmere's backyard makeover — adds in an extra dash of bold style to an already stunning yard.

23. Add in a statement fireplace.

This white outdoor fireplace adds a high sense of drama to a minimalist landscape design by Interior Particulier — and we'll bet that it keeps every visitor toasty warm during the chilly fall evenings. Even though the patio and furniture are all neutral colors, this fireplace pops out in a big way between the twin trees.

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24. Don't be afraid to include a bit of whimsy.

What don't we love about this whimsical backyard from Hey Wanderer? The covered pergola (complete with shimmery disco ball) really sets the stage for some seriously fun patio pillows and provides great shade for outdoor gatherings.

25. Mix and match paving for gorgeous, unexpected results.

When trying to decide on a paver material, why stop at just one? This design by architect Ben Herzog seamlessly blends brick herringbone and concrete pavers and adds major contrast to the small Brooklyn Heights patio.

26. Reimagine the garden arbor.

What could be more welcoming to the garden than these ultra-industrial black arbors? Although these aren't your traditional wooden arbors, they still serve their purpose — to guide you through to the garden space, designed by Landscape One.

27. Create good contrast.

This expansive backyard by Lifescape Colorado feels zen and intimate thanks to the smaller, contrasting sections of gravel. Different shades of rocks, distinct borders, and symmetrical plantings all aid in crafting this beautiful minimalist space.

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28. Add a rustic, earthy vibe with a circular arbor.

Playing with shape is one of the most fun things about hardscaping — and the rustic wooden circular arbor in this backyard by Earth Designs is Exhibit A. We can definitely picture this arbor draped in twinkle lights or wrapped in plants from top to bottom.

29. Mix it up by adding modern touches into a classic garden.

This classic English garden by Brendan Moar is traditional in most every way, except for the standout angular arbors that surround the pea gravel patio. Mixing modern and classic hardscaping elements is a surefire way to create a unique and completely unexpected look in your backyard.

30. Go with natural-looking elements to create a peaceful space.

When it comes to hardscaping, sometimes it's best to stick with the classics — like natural stone and garden rocks. This peaceful patio by Heartlands Building Company utilizes a traditional brown stone and pairs it with white rainforest rocks in the garden, which is dotted with pops of green from the plants.

Benefits of Hardscaping

We know now that hardscaping elements like pergolas, arbors, gravel, and pathways can add so much style and interest to your landscaping design, but what other benefits does it have?

  1. Hardscaping reduces the maintenance level of your yard.​ When you add in a concrete patio, a stone pathway, or a garden arbor, those are all areas you no longer need to mow, water, or plant. All you have to do is build and enjoy them year after year.
  2. Adding hardscape elements can help direct traffic in your yard.​ Whether you have an expansive garden or you have multiple "zones" in your backyard that you want to make cohesive, hardscape elements can help naturally guide visitors. A gravel path will lead the way through an herb garden you want to show off — and it can also direct guests to not step into a prized flowerbed.
  3. Hardscaping can expand your living space.​ Whether by yourself or hanging with family and friends, when you spend a lot of time at home, you begin to notice just how valuable it is having outdoor space to gather. Hardscaping is a big part of what makes the backyard livable.
  4. Combined with good softscaping, hardscaping can increase your home's value.​ Nothing quite sells a home like the wow factor of a truly great yard. It's estimated that maintaining an attractive landscape recovers 267 percent of the cost, and adding in hardscaping elements like a wood deck has a 63 percent cost recoup.
  5. It can make sense of sloped areas in the backyard.​ Sloped yards can be difficult to deal with: They can contribute to flooding problems in the home, and they also don't make it easy to walk around when you're gardening or spending time outside. Adding in elements like retaining walls and built-in steps can make sense of these areas, and add more function to them.

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Jamie is the Sr. Utility editor for Hunker — overseeing everything from remodeling projects to real estate to gardening. She has written for Apartment Therapy, Bob Vila, Zillow, House Logic and Elle Decor. Based in the Midwest, she is currently in the midst of renovating her Colonial-style house.