80+ Best Outdoor Design Ideas From House & Home
When winter’s over there’s no place we’d rather be than in a sunny, bloom-filled backyard. If your green spaces aren’t looking their best and need an update, here are lots of ways to elevate a garden for the warmer months ahead, from small tweaks to big-impact changes. Take your yard from drab to dreamy with over 80+ outdoor design ideas plucked from the most stunning outdoor spaces in the House & Home archives.
Create a BBQ Zone
Owner Tanya Linton turned a cottage pergola into a dedicated southern-style BBQ restaurant for her family, complete with a custom neon sign. The hut houses a smoker from North Carolina.
…And Don’t Forget the Bar!
At one end of Tanya Linton’s BBQ hut, a simple counterotp give the family a place to set up a poolside bar or eat a quick lunch fresh off the grill. Strung with lights and accented by lanterns, the bar creates a true “vacay at a beach hotel” vibe.
This city garden is screened from its neighbors by a row of trees that have been ‘espaliered,’ which means training and pruning the branches to grow horizontally in an orderly fashion.
Even in a leafy urban garden, it can get hot on a summer day. This Toronto backyard is accented by graphite grey cushions and a matching umbrella for a soothing look that visually turns down the thermostat.
Add a Fire Bowl
Dancing flames liven up any backyard gathering and create a focal point. Since there are no sharp edges in this democratic design, it’s easy to negotiate walking a circular fire bowl, and everyone gets a great view.
Define Outdoor Rooms
Memories of Italy inspired this Montreal homeowner to rethink his terrace. To recreate the effect of dining among the cypresses and citrus trees of Tuscany, a pergola sheds dappled sunlight on the dining area, set on finely crushed stones, while the lounge area is as impeccably outfitted as any indoor space.
Rethink Artificial Turf
Commercial lawn replacements allow for a ton of creativity — without the maintenance. In this 2019 Princess Margaret Showhome by Brian Gluckstein, he creates an eye-catching artificial turf inlay in the walkway leading to the garden’s pergola-covered lounge area, no mowing or watering required.
Think Outside the Lines
Instead of planting neat rows of flowers, drifts of black mondo grass accenting the crimson tones of a ‘Bloodgood’ Japanese maple in this contemporary West Coast garden make it resemble a modern painting.
Choose Sculptural Seating
Mimic the style of the garden with outdoor furnishings. In this case, contemporary landscaping can be enjoyed from a pair of arty benches.
Use Lighting For Drama
Simple landscape lighting illuminates the concrete walkway leading to the front entrance of the home. Majestic Douglas firs are uplit for drama.
The owners of this zen pool located in Ontario’s ski country would prefer to be splashing inside it with their kids instead of pruning. The easy-care solution from Landscaper Joel Loblaw is a fringe of dwarf fountain grass (left) and low-mounding dwarf Russian sage to border the pool.
With its emerald roof and weathered grey shakes, this P.E.I. home is picture perfect but gets an added splash of color from four planters of lush petunias, placed to accent the columns of the porch for an orderly visual rhythm. Planting purple flowers in the centre of the container and ringing the outside with pink petunias gives a chic, ombré effect.
Create a Serious Cutting Garden
Imagine having fresh bouquets in every room of the house? The enviable crop of zinnias and dahlias in this P.E.I. garden not only attract songbirds, they provide enough blooms in a huge array of colors for a steady supply of cheery arrangements, all summer long.
Go “Au Naturel’
These bright yellow rudbeckia (or Black-eyed Susans) are perfectly at home in a cottage garden. Easy-care native perennials add a splash of color but won’t become invasive, or require pesticides, meaning more time on the dock with a drink instead of a trowel.
In this historic Palm Beach home, the loggia is trained with vines blooming with fuchsia flowers to add incredible color.
Invest in a Hotel-worthy Loungers
The trio of luxe loungers around this Palm Beach pool invite total relaxation, and there are plenty of low woven tables nearby to set drinks, sunscreen, or the latest hot summer read.
For instant European sophisticated, shape slow-growing boxwood into globe shapes for visual rhythm. Holt Renfrew president Mario Grauso’s Bridgehampton, New York country home combines the formal elegance of an English garden with wilder expanses.
Make an Entrance
Planters filled with petunias are pretty, but upping the height of the containers and the scale of the plants (in this case, luscious ferns) creates major drama.
Use Symmetrical Furniture Placement
It gives an outdoor arrangement a formal living room feel. This Palm Beach home has the added benefit of a covered pavilion, so the addition of an Oushak rug makes this spot feel extra luxe.
In designer Sharon Mimran’s backyard, she adds European polish with an ethanol-burning fireplace topped by a weatherproof faux-limestone resin mantel. Two pyramidal evergreens create symmetry, while a collection of urns on the table can be easily repositioned or repotted.
Consider the Lighting
Oversized coach lanterns are era-appropriate for Sharon’s Victorian house, but an even more charming tone is established by the wrought iron chandelier (hung by a wire over the dining area), outfitted with simple tapers.
Add a Petite Pool
A small reflecting pool looks natural in this English garden-inspired backyard. Because the pool is so small it doubles as a hot tub!
Layer up Lush Pillows and Lighting
In the L.A. garden of actress Shay Mitchell, jewel-like metal lanterns dangle from the trees, while the bench is lushly dressed in oversized pillows. Shay was born in Mississauga, Ontario, but judging by her backyard, she’s completely at home with California outdoor living. “I loved all the new seating areas and little details like the pillows on my bench around the table and lanterns,” says Shay.
Double Up on Seating
In the lounge area, wicker-style lounger chairs and a chic black umbrella conjure up a pool in an exotic locale, while the hanging chair is a coveted accent piece.
Add life with a Statement Tree
An artful planter in a fresh white shade lends even more impact to the fiddle leaf fig tree. The planter’s composite stone and fiberglass construction makes it lightweight to move around, and drainage holes keep roots from getting waterlogged.
Make Comfort a Priority
Shay wanted a long table with an organic yet modern feel, and to be able to create an exotic, Moroccan vibe with accents. Synthetic bamboo-frame chairs with brown mesh weave are comfortable for long dinner parties and can stand up to the elements.
Add Glamor with Metallics
“I love getting pieces for my house from all of my trips,” says Shay. A glimmering metallic ceramic garden stool that looks like a souk find is a luxe focal point for less.
Stage Lanterns Strategically
A set of cylindrical filigree lanterns are pretty by day and look even more magical lit up at night. A nautical hurricane candle holder is given a glam update with braided gold-tone rope. A chic hamam-style towel can double as a throw.
Make a Fire Feature the Focal Point
A fire feature is a natural gathering spot. “I love the teardrop chairs around the fire pit. It’s such a great little nook now for reading or hanging out around the fire,” notes Shay.
Create a Green Screen
In this B.C. garden, expert gardener Thomas Hobbs uses preexisting cedars as a backdrop for all-white ‘Blushing Bride’ hydrangeas around the pool. Instead of olive trees, which won’t thrive in the Canadian climate, Thomas potted weeping silver-leafed pear in planters to give the silvery leaves more grandeur.
Pick a Pretty Parterre
Pebble-based parterre gardens are a classic European look, but get creative when it comes to choosing the color to enhance your outdoor spaces. “We used peach shale gravel everywhere, truckloads of it, and had it shipped in from Alberta because the gravel around here is a boring, dreary grey,” says Thomas. “The peach is a warm Provençal color.”
Create a Lush Tabletop Display
roup together a range of urns and pots — large and small, antique and new — on a garden table to create a layered look.
It’s important to have a shady area in a garden. In this cabana, landscape designer Meredyth Hilton likes to add mirrors to the interior walls of cabana’s to create a sense of movement. The turf around the structure is artificial, so no grass clippings will blow into the pool.
Lay Graphic Tile
Cool blue and white cement tiles bring geometric interest to stylist Emily Henderson’s patio. An antique French table is the perfect finishing touch.
Go for a Pool and a Pond
When it comes to outdoor spaces, there’s no such thing as too much tranquility. We love the combination of a moody lily pond with a pristine, stone-trimmed pool.
Add a Modern Outdoor Kitchen
The outdoor kitchen has come a long way; these days, you’ll find clean-lined open storage and eye-catching gooseneck faucets.
Dig Sunken Garden Beds
Try embedded plots, as opposed to opting for the usual raised planters, to prevent dirt and water from running off onto your patio pavers.
Set up a Riviera-style Cabana
A classic striped changing tent makes a chic poolside addition. Bonus: It packs neatly away once the weather cools off.
Repurpose a Garage
Garages are a resale asset, so we don’t suggest doing away with one entirely, but if you’re one of the urbanites weaned off your wheels by Zipcar, Uber, ride-sharing apps or a bike, why not convert a garage into a lounge you will use every day? In this Toronto backyard, the driveway and garage, which can be closed off thanks to a 20-foot sliding glass accordion door, become usable, picturesque spaces for entertaining and relaxing.
Skip a bunch of low flowers for a larger bush with prominent blooms, and draw the eye up with a raised planter for extra impact. In this garden the pretty hydrangea bordered by a boxwood hedge are perennials, so they don’t require replanting in spring.
Use Sunbrella ‘Sails’ Strategically
Steal a page from stylist Jenn Cranston’s porch on her Lake Simcoe cottage and hang Sunbrella fabric to provide shade and create a breezy atmosphere.
Try a Tiki
A classic tiki umbrella can instantly transport a backyard. Keep the tropical vacay vibe going with woven pillows and Moroccan stools.
Design a Tiered Garden
Channel this stunning, multi-level garden by designers Maxime Vandal and Richard Ouellette, who took their inspiration from Monet’s gardens in Giverny, France.
Build a Personal Greenhouse
Take a page out of designer Kelly Anderson’s book and put up your own piece of sheltered paradise. (Kelly’s brother, Luke, built this one out of salvaged lumber and reclaimed windows.)
Embrace Natural Weaves
An easy way to infuse beachy style into your outdoor space is with rattan, wicker and other natural woven pieces. Here, petite rattan tables pair nicely with a planter full of wispy grasses.
Add an Outdoor Shower
A refreshing addition to a tropical home or lakeside cottage, an outdoor shower is also practical, keeping sand out of living spaces. Add wooden seating and potted plants for a super luxe effect.
Make Room for Play
Whether your game is bocce, pétanque or horseshoes, you won’t regret designing a designated games area — especially if you’re a frequent entertainer.
Reconsider the Humble Picnic Table
A long dining table and generous bench seating is ideal for hosting a crowd, and looks boho-cool draped with a few textured throws.
Beautify Out Buildings
Pretty boat houses and cozy bunkies are magnets for guests at the cottage. Why not kit it them out with a few lush window boxes?
Border Flowers with Hedges
We love the tailored effect of surrounding abundant hydrangea with a border of crisply trimmed boxwood.
Go Big with Exotics
You’d never know this cottage was in Ontario and not the tropics, and much of that has to do with the addition of two stately palms, which are more than happy to weather the Canadian summers. Wood decking frames the pool like a boardwalk, and fiberglass sofas add a glam note.
Roll Out an All-weather Rug
Add graphic pattern and texture to your patio in a flash with durable — and often affordable — polypropylene rugs.
Decorate with Warm Terracotta
Oversize, earthy vessels are a seamless fit in this Palm Desert, California, outdoor space (but we think they’d look just as warm and sculptural in any yard).
Add Layers of Lighting
Don’t forget to think about how your outdoor space will appear at night. We love how this garden is peppered with light: a lantern on the table, an illuminated pool, and a small fire pit come together to create an inviting ambience.
Create Cozy Outdoor “Rooms”
Slatted dividing walls create an intimate patio for two in this large city backyard, while letting summer breezes — and garden views — come through.
Showcase Architectural Salvage
For a romantic, English garden effect in your own backyard, look no further than your local vintage shop for beautifully aged architectural remnants. (We’re especially fond of weathered stone.)
Consider Sight Lines
Don’t underestimate the power of a strong first impression. Adding an elegant gate and vine-covered trellis will set a refined tone before guests even enter your backyard and draws the eye to the end of the garden.
Cultivate a Wall of Ivy
Ivy never fails to lend a rich look to outdoor spaces, as demonstrated by the lush wall in René and Priscilla Wikkerink’s garden. Our advice to keep this robust plant under control? Opt for self-clinging ivy (such as Virginia Creeper or the Boston Ivy shown here), encourage it to grow up a fence or trellis (as opposed to a brick wall), and prune it regularly.
Layer Your Planters
Surround the base of potted trees with cascading wildflowers for a romantic effect. We love how designers Richard Ouellette and Maxime Vandal opted for tiny white blooms to complement this classic panelled planter.
Light Stairways and Paths the Natural Way
Lanterns and pillar candles never fail to set the mood at an outdoor dinner party, but they’re also a practical addition where light is lacking. Place a matching pair at the top of a set of stairs for a balanced look.
Put Up a Pretty Pergola
Pergolas add shade and architectural interest to a garden without interrupting sight lines. We’re particularly smitten with this arch-shaped design in Colette van den Thillart’s yard.
Build Rustic Stone Walls
Border your flowerbeds with simple rock walls, letting moss, grass and wildflowers — like the pretty malva, calendula and Johnny jump-ups shown here — spill over for maximum charm.
Try An Allée
Prefer a more orderly look? Plant a row of trees or allée, a walkway lined with trees or tall shrubs, around your backyard using slim-trunked trees like these lindens in this city backyard.
Set up a Fun Cut-out for Kids
Delight little ones with a whimsical pirate ship, cottage or castle cut-out. (Just ensure it’s well anchored to stand up to inclement weather.)
Build Raised Flowerbeds
To get the look of this stunning yard in Vancouver, create a symmetrical arrangement of raised beds, fill them with go-to herbs and vegetables, and lay out paths of fine gravel.
Install a Water Feature
A miniature waterfall brings a spa-like feel to landscape designers Brad and Meredyth Hilton’s urban garden, while small ‘Green Velvet’ boxwood hedges soften all the hardscaping.
Make room for Al Fresco Dining
H&H alum Michael Penney set the stage for casual summer meals in his Oshawa, Ontario, yard with a turned-leg table and wicker chairs. Pick a shady spot, like this one, to guarantee your own setup gets the most use.
Fill a Bed with One Type of Flower
Want to make a statement — without all the pruning and fuss? Plant several specimens of one kind of flowering shrub, like fluffy hydrangea, and let the blooms grow wild.
Channel Traditional Japanese Gardens
Homeowners Troy and Michelle Miller created a calming refuge in their Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, backyard, with Japanese juniper, mini dogwood bonsai and carefully-raked gravel paths.
For a rustic, laid-back look, leave your wooden bistro chairs, stone walls and terracotta pots open to the elements so they weather over time. We love how everything in this English-style garden looks as if it’s been there forever.
Stagger your Garden Path
Add a meandering walkway to your garden, laying stone or pavers in an off-kilter pattern, for a welcome dose of romance.
Use Grasses as Breezy Dividers
Plant fine reeds or grasses in movable planter boxes to create separation or define zones in your yard, like designer Allison Willson did at her dreamy cottage.
Build a Planter-meets-banquette
This Toronto backyard can easily host a crowd thanks to a long dining table and handy banquette that features a clever, built-in planter box.
Shape some Sculptural Topiaries
If you have a knack for pruning, why not create some eye-catching topiaries? The spherical shrubs in this French-inspired garden make a handsome statement.
Install a Showpiece Fountain
There’s no doubt that a backyard fountain like this one is an extravagant addition, but if you’ve got the room in your garden and your budget, we say go for it!
For a unique look, trim climbing plants — like these elegant ‘New Dawn’ rose bushes — so that they seem to “fit” inside arches or other designs in your home’s brickwork.
Upgrade your Pool Gate
Fencing off your pool area is always recommended, especially if you have little ones around, but this doesn’t mean you have to put up an unsightly metal barricade. Here, a design featuring latticework and pilasters turns a safety feature into a focal point.
Mix Up Your Planter Styles
To lend your patio a decorated look, take your cue from designers Richard Ouellette and Maxime Vandal, who mixed aged planters with classic blue and white ginger jars (keep an eye out for the latter at vintage shops and flea markets).
…and your Planter Sizes!
Combine oversized planter boxes with petite earthenware pots to create a layered, garden-like effect on a patio.
Break up Stone with Flowerbeds
Thin stone paths and curvy flowerbeds lend retailer Viola Jull’s Prince Edward County, Ontario, backyard patio plenty of visual interest.
Think about Movement
If your outdoor space is on a body of water or bluff (lucky you!) plant tough species of grasses and trees that look better a little windswept. Take inspiration from this stunning landscaping design by the team at Joel Loblaw Inc.
No backyard? Create an Urban Green Space
H&H’s Joel Bray added a trellis, pretty patio furniture, a pair of cedar trees and plenty of potted plants to his city deck to establish a private, garden-like feel.