How do I make my backyard look nice? 7 ways to increase the aesthetic appeal

Beautiful, well-planned additions, both practical and decorative will guarantee a smart backyard that you can benefit from all-year long

How do I make my backyard look nice?
(Image credit: Future)

If you're planning an outdoor makeover you'll be looking for ways to make a backyard look nice. Whether you are looking at a complete redesign, or simply want to improve and enhance your backyard with some new features, the key to a successful design is a considered mix of planting, landscaping and lifestyle elements. 

When deciding which backyard ideas to incorporate, start with the architecture of your property and the local area and take your lead from there. Get the backyard landscaping ideas and planting right by following tried-and-tested garden design rules for making a backyard look pretty, then add your own unique spin to give your space the standout factor that you desire. 

How do I make my backyard look nice?

This round-up of garden ideas that add the most curb appeal will help inspire you to create a wonderful retreat in your backyard. In good weather, our backyards are our go-to spaces. They have the power to create the peace, purpose and pleasure we all need in our lives. Plus, they can provide us with cut flowers, vegetables and herbs. 

So, if you're looking for beautiful, easy-to-copy ways to make a backyard look nice, look no further than our pick of the best backyard ideas for any size or shape of space. You can even use many of these tips to make a front yard look nice, too. 

Jennifer Ebert
Jennifer Ebert

Jennifer has written dozens of articles for Homes & Gardens on gardening ideas, and spends her days talking to leading industry experts about the latest backyard trends, designs and landscaping advice – the results of which are seen in this article.

1. Beautify with a sensory space

Sensory garden ideas with fragrant flowers

(Image credit: Future / Mark Bolton Photography)

A sensory garden is a thoughtful way to make a backyard look nice. These backyards are sometimes stimulating, sometimes calming, and offer tangible, visceral experiences that can evoke emotions and aid relaxation.

A sensory-filled space doesn't need to be high maintenance either. Many sensory backyards are just walks or pathways, with low scented plants such as herbs in between stepping stones. A winding route works well as it invites you to slow down and look around. Choose landscaping materials with a tactile element, such as smooth pebbles. A water feature will stimulate both touch and sound. 

You could also create a listening corner by placing a seat next to a soothing water feature. Or plant a raised garden bed with herbs, allowing easy access to rub or sniff their aromatic leaves and flowers. To activate the sense of touch, think about textures underfoot, from cool grass to crunchy gravel. 

While sensory garden plants are for everyone, they are particularly beneficial to children, and those who are disabled or suffering with mental health problems.

2. Invest in an inground pool 

Pool ideas with traditional exterior garden

(Image credit: Future / Alistair Nicholls)

The most beautiful pool ideas will do wonders for your backyard oasis. While it’s a major investment, the benefits of adding a pool to a property are undeniable. 

Installing a heated pool in a sunny, sheltered spot close to the house or a garden building, such as a pool house with a dedicated changing area, creates the experience of a luxury holiday home, and if you're wondering 'how do I add luxury to my backyard?' then this has to be top of the list. A swimming pool will not only beautify the space, it will also serve as a place to exercise, have fun with the family, entertain, and simply relax by the water.

Safety around a pool is paramount so making sure that the surrounding surface is non-slip is essential, says landscape designer Marcus Barnett.

3. Warm up with a backyard fireplace

Outdoor fireplace ideas with table fire

(Image credit: Future / Polly Eltes)

Setting up an enclosed seating area around an outdoor fireplace is a tried-and-tested way of making a backyard look nice. As well as warmth, outdoor fireplace ideas will add extra light and can be used for seasonal treats, such as toasting marshmallows or warming mulled cider. 

‘With the trend for making outdoor spaces an extension of the home showing no sign of slowing down, we expect to see even more demand for creative heating and lighting solutions this summer,’ says Kettler MD Paul Bevington. 

It might seem ambitious, but with the heat of outdoor fireplace, and possibly a covered pergola, you can enjoy your backyard all year round, even in the most northern states.   

4. Entertain with an outdoor kitchen or bar

Outdoor kitchen ideas

(Image credit: South Hams Fencing & Landscaping Ltd)

This summer’s heatwave combined with the pleasure of sipping a gin and tonic in the backyard has kick-started a demand for outdoor kitchen and garden bars. These sleek, multifunctional spaces are different from the tiki-inspired cocktail huts of the Seventies, taking the lead from interior trends. 

Convenience is key when planning an outdoor kitchen. ‘Most people only focus on the grill, but we’ve installed fridges, pizza ovens, cocktail bars and teppanyaki griddles,’ says Tom Evans, marketing manager, Gaze Burvill.

Finding the right location is vital, too. Choosing the location for your outdoor kitchen solely based on views is a common mistake that can impact enjoyment for both the chef and guests. ‘It’s best to position your outdoor area near the kitchen – for ease of access – and in a sheltered spot, to prevent smoke blowing on guests or back into the house,’ says barbecue expert and chef Paul Yates.

5. Introduce sound with a water feature

garden fountain in a wildlife pond in a country garden

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Including a water feature in your backyard will allow you to boost to the sensory experience of your backyard, altering the mood and feeling, or bringing life and movement to even the smallest outdoor space. 

‘Water features are in high demand,’ says Landscape architect Oliver Bond MSGD, ‘mainly as a focal point, but also because the sound of water or the calmness of a still mirror pool will transform a garden into a tranquil space. Water features can be functional and versatile; they can provide habitats for wildlife or be used in innovative ways – I recently designed and installed a small contemporary water feature that doubles as an ice bucket for social gatherings.’

6. Incorporate pretty planting and flower beds

Flower bed ideas with raised bed sensory garden

(Image credit: Future / Mark Bolton)

When composing a planting scheme for a pretty backyard, work with the characteristics of the plants to optimize the space. 

Landscape architect Oliver Bond MSGD uses tall plants to frame the area and screen at the rear of beds, and short or creeping varieties that overhang the hard edges of paving to soften the division between the two. 

‘I incorporate a planting palette that provides form, structure, color, aromas and sounds, along with tactile and edible elements,’ he explains. ‘It’s important to provide stimuli for all the senses throughout the year, to allow the space to inspire and entice.’

While your flower bed or raised bed might not look like much when it's first planted, in a few months it will be much fuller, taller, and more colorful – if that is what you want. The key is anticipating the heights, colors, textures, and mass of all the various plants, and factoring this in to your ideas.

7. Transform your backyard at night-time with lighting

sunken garden with entertainment area and lighting

(Image credit: John Cullen Lighting)

Effective outdoor lighting and backyard lighting allows you to use the backyard for longer. in the same way you plan indoor lighting, aim for a variety of sources, from solar-powered lamps to motion-sensitive wall lights. 

‘Up-light trees and shrubs, and use warm led strip lights below steps and benches for atmospheric light,’ says tony woods. ‘Install outdoor sockets so you can add temporary lighting, such as festoon bulb strings.’ and think about the color of your bulbs: ‘A warm white makes the night-time garden look inviting,’ advises garden designer Kate Gould

Garden lighting will create a beautiful vista which you can enjoy whatever the weather and patio lighting ideas, in particular, can transform this space at night-time, year round. 

Jennifer Ebert

Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.