Outdoor Ideas: Advice & Inspiration

Bonfires. Stargazing sessions. Cocktail hours. Cookouts. Pool parties.

All of these activities are enough to make anyone start daydreaming about a perfect backyard, one that's ready for outdoor soireés at a moment's notice or warm afternoons spent lounging with family poolside. But perhaps as you look around your backyard, you just can't envision any of the outdoor ideas that you've been dreaming about. From outdoor spaces that could simply use a tweak or two or ones that require an entire overhaul, every backyard can benefit from a refresh.

If you're considering leveling up your backyard, you've absolutely come to the right place. We're ready to share all of our tips and tricks to help you get started, so you can turn all of those dreamy outdoor ideas into reality.

Outdoor Ideas: Design and Layout

Maybe your entire vision draws from the many patio ideas that you've pinned over the years. Perhaps all you can think about is an outdoor kitchen. Or maybe the only thing you want is an outdoor living room.

Regardless of what you're picturing, it's necessary to begin brainstorming outdoor design ideas that will function well in your backyard. For the patio layout, there are some factors to consider. Sketch out the furniture you desire for your space based upon the size of your space, how many people are in your family, and whether or not you plan on hosting a lot of guests.

After determining your patio or deck layout, you can move onto decor ideas. Nowadays, there are plenty of ways to make your backyard look cool and modern, wrapping in things like lighting, throw pillows, water features, flooring, a fire pit, and anything else you'd like to include. You can boost the look of your space with geometric landscaping, a stylish hardscape, or even by incorporating a rock garden.

Outdoor Ideas: Lighting

Next, think about how you want to light those deck or patio ideas — we're guessing you want to enjoy your backyard in the evening when it's at its most magical, after all.

There are many different types of outdoor lighting available today, and they include wall sconces, table lamps, pendant lighting, string lighting, and path lighting, among others. Simply look over the various areas of your yard that could use some extra illumination (or will be conducive to nighttime reading and gatherings) and light them up as much as you desire. We personally love it when outdoor lighting looks aesthetically pleasing and creates a warm and inviting ambiance. Think lanterns hanging in trees and loads of string lights wrapped all over a pergola.

Another way to think of outdoor lighting is this: It isn't all that different from indoor lighting. For instance, inside, you'd light a table with a chandelier. Outside, you can do the same. Love wall sconces? Place one (or two, or three) along the wall of your patio.

Outdoor Ideas: Furniture and Decor

Outdoor furniture and decor ideas are definitely fun to think about, and in most cases, they serve a purpose, too. We advise starting with furniture to create your layout, as we stated before. Choose pieces that reflect the size of your space and don't overwhelm it — for example, a large outdoor sofa might not be the best option for a tiny patio.

You'll also need to track down outdoor furniture that's durable, something you'll really need to think about if you live an area that gets a lot of rain and snow. Select pieces that are upholstered in tough fabrics like acrylic, olefin, and polyester. As for woods, go with materials that will withstand even the worst weather, like acacia or teak. There are several great places where you can shop for furniture and outdoor decor, but we personally lean toward Article, Terrain, Serena & Lily, and CB2 for pieces that are both functional and stylish.

We love it when homeowners weave the design style from the inside of their homes into their backyards. So, if you gravitate toward bohemian spaces, you'd integrate boho-chic visuals into your outdoor styling, for example. Outdoor decor ideas can be pretty and function well for whatever you might need them for, like a beverage dispenser in a punchy color, a teak serving tray, or a patterned rug that ties everything together.

Outdoor Ideas: Entertaining

Maybe you want your backyard to be the party destination of the neighborhood. In this case, allow us to share a few of our go-to entertaining tips.

First of all, what types of outdoor shindigs would you like to throw? If they're filled with music and dancing, don't forget speakers. Do you want to socialize long into the night? Be sure to hang up tons of string lights. You can always turn to a checklist before throwing your party that accounts for everything you'll need to think about.

For instance, what will be on your menu? Where will you find dishware and flatware that's attractive and functional? What will you serve for refreshments? How will you lay out your outdoor furniture? What will be the feel of the party? Do you have enough seats and lighting? How do you want to decorate it? And have you planned fun activities? Once you answer these questions, you'll have all of your bases covered.

As for outdoor party supplies, we like to shop Amazon, Ban.do, Etsy, and IKEA for party essentials.

Outdoor Ideas: Swimming Pool

If you're lucky enough to be blessed with a swimming pool that comes with your house (score!) or if you have plenty of room to put one in, we're here with some outdoor ideas for your pool.

First of all, you'll need to think through the basics. Will you have enough time for maintenance? Will zoning laws in your area permit a pool? Then, take a look at all of the different types of watering holes out there, and choose one for your own backyard. In-ground pools are classic but can be expensive. Above-ground pools are more affordable and may not require a permit. A lap pool is ideal for watery workouts. And a stock tank pool is a rustic choice that happens to be on-trend.

You can also complement the design of your home's exterior with a pool, whether you're aiming for a midcentury look or creating a tropical paradise. As for pool decor and accessories, you'll find us shopping Urban Outfitters, Amazon, and Frontgate for our H2O essentials.

And let's not forget about pool parties, where you'll need fun pool floats, umbrellas, refreshments, finger foods, and games to throw the best bash ever.


Shelby Deering

Shelby Deering

Shelby Deering is a lifestyle writer who contributes to national magazines and websites, including Country Living, Good Housekeeping, Well+Good, and more. When she's not writing, you'll find her shopping flea markets, hiking, and going for walks with her corgi.