Luxurious accents, inviting lounge areas and twinkling lights help make a backyard feel like a vacation spot.
Imagine stepping into an outdoor space and seeing a swaying hammock, glowing garden lights and bold tropical foliage, and hearing the sound of water trickling from a fountain. Can you already feel yourself sinking into vacation-relaxation mode?
While a trip to a far-off resort is a luxurious splurge, with a handful of design moves, your backyard can become a daily oasis designed just for you. Take cues from high-end resorts for furniture choices and arrangement, but select the combination of design elements that speaks to how you like to relax and unwind. Here are 10 ideas to get you started.
1. If relaxing in the evening is one of your favorite ways to enjoy an outdoor space, adding soft outdoor lighting can transform your backyard into a dreamy, resort-style retreat. The designer of this backyard used hanging lanterns, spotlights on trees, downcast wall lights and the flicker of a gas fire pit to create a magical evening ambience.
2. Anchor around a theme. Resorts often rely on an underlying design theme to pull multiple outdoor spaces together for a cohesive look. You can do the same at home by creating a theme for the backyard — be it inspired by the tropics, Morocco, the Mediterranean, Bali, the mountains or anything else you please.
Here, a Moroccan-style courtyard in Los Angeles has all of the accents you’d dream a riad in Marrakesh would: intricate tilework, tucked-in seating areas, colorful pillows, hanging lanterns and lush tropical foliage.
3. Rethink typical seating.
Standard dining chairs are great for pulling up around an outdoor table, but there’s something about a
lounge, poof or hanging swing that encourages extreme relaxation.
Look for pieces that are comfortable while also attractive enough to act as focal points across the yard. Try pool lounges that are designed to be half submerged in the water or allow for dipping your toes.
Here, globe-shape accent chairs set a beach club vibe and encourage you to sink in and put your feet up.
4. Hang a hammock.
Even just looking across the garden at a hammock gently swinging in the shade can be enough to make you relax. Choose a spot to hang one up
between two sturdy trees or invest in a model that comes with a stand. Make sure the area under the hammock has a soft landing of grass, bark mulch, a walkable ground-cover plant or (a bit less soft) gravel.
5. Play up a pool with resort-style accents.
Decorative umbrellas, colorful throw pillows and stylish furniture turn a standard poolside into an at-home resort. If you’ve chosen a theme or color palette for your backyard, the pool area is a great place for it to play out. Choosing furnishings, linens and umbrellas in a fresh color palette — as was done in this Palm Springs, California, backyard — is a great place to start.
Even just rolling up fresh towels and stashing them in a poolside basket can help a pool space feel more resort-like.
6. Create a mobile drinks cart. Tropical drinks, spritzers or iced teas will be at the ready in your resort-style backyard if you do a little bit of prep beforehand. Stock a bar cart with essentials for your favorite beverages and perhaps a few vacation-style toppers if you’re feeling fancy. Swap glass for plastic glasses if you have a pool.
7. Get a tropical look with plants.
If “resort” makes you think of the tropics, you may like to incorporate some tropical-looking plants into your landscape design. Go big and bold with color and scale.
In this garden in Surrey, England, the designers used a mix of small palms, ornamental grasses, strappy New Zealand flax (Phormium sp., USDA zones 8 to 11; find your zone) and bright-colored flowers to create a tropical feel around the back deck — achieving the look in the far-from-tropical English climate.
Other plants that will give your mild-climate garden a tropical look include Kniphofia
(pictured here with New Zealand flax in the English garden), bamboo, bird of paradise (Strelitzia
, shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet
zones 9 to 11)
and Kahila garland-lily (Hedychium gardnerianum,
zones 8 to 10).
8. Invest in an outdoor shower. Mix up your bathing routine with a relaxing, invigorating outdoor shower. While you may use the shower only seasonally if you live anywhere that doesn’t have a year-round mild climate, investing in an outdoor shower can be well worth it for the relaxing ritual of bathing out of doors. In this dreamy outdoor shower in Hawaii, the dark basalt stone backsplash looks cool and inviting.
9. Add a water feature. The sound of running water can help transform any outdoor space — no matter how big or small — into a relaxing retreat. In urban and suburban environments, it can also help mask traffic noise and the hum of A/C units. If noise abatement is a priority, choose a fountain that has a fall or splash as part of its design, rather than a quieter pour-over style.
10. Sprinkle in some luxe accents. Maybe you don’t have the budget or desire to upgrade your patio furniture, but want to give it a bit more life for the season. Invest in high-quality outdoor cushions (check that they’re moisture- and fade-resistant) in bright colors or patterns, and bring out a few cozy throws from the house for cool evenings. Place accents like lanterns or pretty pots on side tables and an outdoor rug on the ground, and the space will feel more luxurious overall.