Are you ready to transform your backyard into a comfortable and inviting outdoor living space? With professional guidance, products and services, you can refresh a tired, dreary area and create a place where you, your family and friends will want to spend time relaxing and gathering. Read on for tips and insights from nine local experts—and discover new ideas you’ll love.
Select materials to fit your style and needs
If you need concrete paver flooring, retaining walls or sitting walls, several options are available to complement and expand your home. “Many people are treating outdoor patios like another room that adds value,” says Jeff Price, president of Rochester Concrete Products (rochestercp.com), who considers new materials well-suited for modern homes. “Pavers are much larger, and grays and blacks are popular,” he explains. “Backyard features are more contemporary and linear.”
Quality soil is important for your growing needs. MuckSota Premium Organic Soil offers purities with highly concentrated organic matter and extraordinarily rich nutrients that support healthier growth and maintain moisture content. “When added to your current gardens, lawn or flower beds, it will transform your existing soil properties without the need for chemicals or fertilizers,” says Jamar Boone of MuckSota Topsoil (mucksota.com). “It can change the way you grow.”
Incorporate flowers and greenery
“When designing a backyard retreat, we approach it in a very similar way as we would an indoor space. There are walls, floors, ceilings and windows,” says Ben Vaughn, communications manager at Sargent’s Gardens (sargentsgardens.com). A plant wall or hedge can add privacy, and trees can create a ceiling for shade. “Take into account the sun, wind and soil type, and begin choosing plants and materials that compliment the vision and intended use,” he says. With low-maintenance plants, you can spend more time enjoying your space than maintaining it.
Landscape sales and design expert Lori Reiland of Custom Retaining Walls and Landscaping (crwroch.com) agrees choosing the “right plant” is important. “Determine if you want to have a private backyard retreat or enjoy the view,” she says. Many choices of plants can provide privacy or create a screen for something unsightly, while shorter, more compact varieties will not obstruct your line of sight. “Don’t forget to consider if your plantings need to be deer-resistant.”
Megan Magee, landscape estimator at Family Tree Landscape Nursery (familytreensy.com), has advice for homeowners: “You don’t have to feel like you’re doing it by yourself. Just bring in a photo or ask questions,” she says. The landscape experts understand what will be successful in a particular spot and can help create consistency—and success. For example, taller plantings can cause navigational barriers, and native plants reseed and could be aggressive. If you plant multiples of a well-chosen plant, maintenance will be easier.
Create an outdoor kitchen or fire feature
“Outdoor kitchens come in all shapes, sizes and prices,” says Christy Buchan, interior designer, outdoor kitchen designer and director of operations at Destination Bar-B-Q (destinationbar-b-q.com). Popular features include kitchen islands, grills and griddles, drop-in coolers and fire tables. She suggests developing a realistic budget so professionals can guide you to the products that fit your plan and your needs. “If you want to do the install, we can design it for you,” she says. “If you prefer to sit back, we’ll take care of all the details.”
Rochester Concrete Products notes firepits are the most popular outdoor cooking and heating option, followed by outdoor kitchens and fireplaces. Similarly, Custom Retaining Walls and Landscaping also offers Outdoor Living Kits with fire tables, fire pits and contemporary fireplaces that complement newer options for pavers.
Choose comfortable, stylish furniture
Katelin Ehler, design consultant at Drury’s Furniture (drurysfurniture.com), sees a shift from the simple dining set in the backyard to a fully embraced outdoor lifestyle. “We’re seeing a higher demand for sofas, sectionals and chat chairs, and customers are getting more creative with what they’re putting together,” she says. “They are less interested in matched sets and are gravitating to more mixed materials and textures.” There’s also a greater desire for eco-friendly and sustainably sourced materials.
Deutsch Furniture Gallery (deutschfurniturehaus.com) also carries weatherproof outdoor furniture made of recycled plastic and built to withstand all four seasons and a range of elements including sun, snow, salt and wind. “Our outdoor patio sets are completely weather- and fade-resistant, and unlike natural wood, they won’t crack or rot,” says co-owner Michelle Rand. “They come in a wide array of colors, with nearly 30 options. The furniture will last for generations.”
Kristin Welch, co-owner of Tyrol Ski & Sports (tyrolskishop.com), adds, “Lower maintenance furniture products, including teak, polywood, wicker, aluminum and cast, are ‘hassle-free’ to use in your outdoor space. Ultra-comfortable seating promotes greater use of the space, such as cushionless technology, which has the look and comfort of deep seating. Integrate different materials for a contemporary yet stylish look.” In addition, an umbrella will make your outdoor living space more accessible when it’s hot and sunny.
Add a pergola for shade or a trellis for privacy
Custom Retaining Walls and Landscaping features pergolas designed to last a lifetime. “Each pergola is customizable to fit your outdoor area and can filter out the sunlight, up to 90%,” says Reiland. “Consider designing it large enough to accommodate your seating or dining area. They are easy to install and can be designed for any outdoor space.”
According to Vaughn, pergolas and trellises are a bolder design element, and your space should be balanced and cohesive, blended into the surroundings. Magee concurs, noting a trellis provides a nice backdrop either standing alone or with a flowering vine.
Set the mood with outdoor lighting
Enhance your yard with landscape LED lighting, which is perfect for paver walkways, steps or even your pillars. “Possibilities include up lighting, down lighting, spot lighting, path lighting, lighting for the outdoor kitchen and more,” says Reiland. “Lighting can create a soft, inviting atmosphere and more security for your home. Bluetooth transformers make it easier to install professional low-voltage lighting in your backyard retreat.”