Add a one-of-a-kind retreat
Who doesn't daydream of whiling away warm-weather hours reading and relaxing? Perhaps the problem isn't the will, but the way -- solved, in this case, with a charming DIY retreat. Its roof supplies protection while windows ensure a bit of privacy, and open walls keep the connection to the outdoors. Garden sheds can be repurposed for the same function, as can pergolas. Although the first inclination is often to site spaces such as this close to a house, consider placing yours out of the way, at a back corner of the yard, for example.
Add a paved area
Lots of lawn is great for kids and adults at play, but big stretches of grass aren't always conducive to multiple entertainment areas. If you have room and need, consider installing a DIY paver patio down a pathway from your home. The space can be as little or as big as you like; here, the square footage has enough space for seating, dining, and cooking. As a bonus, it backs up to a retaining wall for a built-in boundary filled with flowers and foliage. Even a paver patio just off a back deck can be useful for creating additional zones for gathering and enjoying a landscape.
Create a one-of-a-kind garden entertainment feature
There doesn't have to be a definite boundary between growing spaces and entertainment spaces. In fact, in smaller urban yards, combining the two may be a multipurpose way to capitalize on limited square footage. This inventive urban garden/entertaining center carves out space for veggies and other plants -- note the climbing tomatoes over the trellis -- but uses it as a beautiful backdrop for the seating nook and bar space. Flowers and veggies can also be used as borders for seating areas or in containers to soften hardscape spaces such as decks and patios.
Dress up existing hardscaping
There are plenty of ways that you can make your yard your own, and personality-driven decorating -- ever-present in our indoor spaces -- makes it easy to do so. Here, the homeowners chose two different kinds of accents: a patterned painted fence and decorative planters. Other options include kid-friendly spots (think outdoor chalkboard on a big stretch of a fence).
Upgrade your deck
Surfaces inside your home get regular attention due to wear and tear. New rugs spruce up floors, new tile updates bathrooms, and new paint enlivens living spaces. But rarely do we think about outdoor spaces with the same regularity. That's why upgrading your hardscaping with a simpler-than-it-looks redo is a worthwhile project that will help you love your landscape more. Here, an existing deck surface got a facelift thanks to prefab tile-like wood squares that attached to the old decking. The underfoot pattern gives pretty visual interest to the space. To give your patio area even more of a boost, consider decorative accents: throw pillows, oversize candles, even a new casual table.
Add a gathering spot
Think about your favorite room inside your house: Why do you love it so much? Most likely it's because it has amenities that encourage gathering of friends and family: big comfy sofas, plush chairs, low tables. Outside, there are multiple ways to encourage the same gathering and lingering; a favorite is a fire pit. Portable options are readily available, and built-in, permanent fixtures aren't as difficult as they look. Nooks out of your landscape's traffic patterns are good spots for fire pits, as are spaces adjacent to other livable areas in the backyard -- an outdoor kitchen, for example. To encourage longer hours of use, include seating and other accents, such as an umbrella to guard against late-in-the-day sunlight and glare.