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Choosing Backyard Decor To Add Style & Character To A Small Yard

There are many ways you can change the appearance of your yard, and below we show some backyard decor features you can easily incorporate into your own small backyard makeover to achieve this.

When you add your own creative flair to items and materials that are widely available, you can transform your yard and bring about a style and elegance of your own making.

Arbors & Pergolas

Arbors and Pergolas are landscaping structures, commonly made of wood but sometimes of aluminum, steel or vinyl. They feature a cross-beam roof design with open sides that are sometimes latticed. They can be left ‘as is’ or used to trail climbing plants and vines over.

Arbors and pergolas have different functions in a backyard, but both can add character to outdoor spaces.

Garden arbor covered with climbing plants

Decorative garden arbor with an amazing heavy plant growth covering.

Arbors

Arbors are the smaller and simpler structure.

​There are many different design variants - some with a curved top, others flat. You can make one from wood easily enough or opt for a manufactured arbor in kit form.

They’re mainly used as an archway, separating areas of a garden or yard. As an item of backyard decor they are hard to beat in this regard.

Some are designed with an integral bench or swing seat.

They can be attached to a fence or used as a gateway, and are also used freestanding.

Wooden arbor for backyard makeover

White painted wooden garden arbor with white picket fence. Classic!

Often used to trail climbing plants, vines, and roses up the lattice sides and over the top, they can be made into a spectacular feature in even the smallest yards.

Pergolas

Pergolas are much larger outdoor structures. They have posts in each corner that support an open cross-beam roof layout.

The open nature of the roof provides varying levels of shade without completely obscuring the sun.

Climbing shrubs and other plants can be trailed over the roof and/or any trellises attached to the sides.

Alternatively, they can be fitted with a retractable canopy to be used as a complete sunshade.

They are used both freestanding, and joined to a house to extend outdoor living and provide shade for an area used for entertaining - a garden room.

Pergola creates garden room at rear of house

Pergola with trees and bushes can create a 'garden room'.

Color

One big impact that can be created in a small backyard is with the use of color. Flowers and shrubs, if you intend having any, will obviously brighten the area up, but there are additional ways to introduce color into the yard.

Patio cushions provide a splash of color in small yard

Bring extra color to your backyard with bright patio cushions and throws

Colored wood stain on sheds, bright patio cushions, colored containers and pots can all add a welcome splash of color where none or little existed before.

Kids outdoor toys - the built-in kind - are usually brightly colored as well.

Your choices may be influenced by local building codes and Home Owners Association rules where you live, but these ideas show there are plenty of ways color can be introduced to your yard.

Decking

Decks can be used to great effect in small backyards, and don’t have to be costly, overly elaborate or difficult to assemble. They can improve the functionality of a yard as well as enhance its design.

Decking can be particularly useful where you have sloping ground, as a means of creating a level platform for seating, or for displaying plant containers, or even as a simple form of steps.

With a bit of imagination you can create layouts that make parts of your backyard usable, where before it wasn't possible.

Small decks can create focal points - quiet nooks where you can sit and read - and can create cosmetic rather than just practical features.

Just check your area building codes before starting work.

Deck adjacent to house for outdoor entertaining & relaxation.

Bare Bones deck arrangement - Needs fleshing out with color and accessories. Great for relax time and entertaining!

Decorative Stone, Rock and Gravel

Your choice of hard-scape materials in the landscaping of your yard, can have a big effect on your backyard decor and the overall characteristics  you want to create. Walls, patio and pathways can all be visually appealing and not just functional, by the creative use of different materials.

Complementary hardscape - decking, stone and chippings

Complemetary hardscape - decking, stone and chippings

Care should be taken in selecting hardscape materials. Give full consideration to their intended use in respect of what is practical as well as decorative.

Fences & Trellises

Fences​

Boundary fences can play an important role in influencing the character of your yard. They obviously have a part to play in maintaining yard security, but their design and color can also impact a small yard.

Light colored fencing tends to draw the eye away from the core of the yard, emphasizing the boundary and therefore the small area. Darker colors are better as they can be covered with color using trellises and climbing plants, and this focuses the eye less on the perimeter.

Wood is still the natural fencing material, but there are alternatives using metal, plastics and composite materials.

Replacing boundary fencing can be a big job, and is best remedied before other parts of the yard are remodeled. A fresh coat of paint or colored preservative might be all that is needed, but can make a helluva difference!

Trellises​

Trellisses can be both functional and decorative. Like an arbor, they can be used to separate different parts of a garden, or to achieve a degree of privacy, without obscuring the light.

They are useful for blocking the view to less attractive parts of a yard such as a trash storage area, or for obscuring external views beyond your perimeter fencing - useful if your yard is overlooked.

The slats provide plant support whether the trellis is mounted direct to a wall or between posts, and work equally well for climbing plants growing in pots as well as those planted in the ground.

Traditionally made of wood or metal they are often made in maintenance free vinyl these days.

Outdoor Seating

A few well placed pieces of garden furniture can bring style and character to an otherwise ordinary area.

Wooden benches, adirondack chairs, wrought iron chairs and tables, many of which can be salvaged, re-stained or painted, can be used alongside modern patio furniture, to bring your outdoor setting to life.

Comfortable seating is essential backyard decor if you plan a lot of entertaining.

Park type bench just right for renovation.

This metal framed wooden bench is just right for a DIY makeover. Re-stain or paint the wood slats - some may need to be replaced - and paint the metal frame.

Chairs and tables that can be folded and stored away in bad weather are a good starting point, otherwise use patio furniture covers to keep more substantial items in good condition during your entertaining season.

Outdoor Lighting

​Whilst lighting throughout your backyard is not essential, some outdoor lighting is important for security as well as illuminating access at night. Security lights triggered by motion sensors are particularly useful in this regard and mainly work off solar power.

And if you intend a lot of entertaining, some outdoor hanging lights together with recessed deck and step lights perhaps, are going to be needed to help create a fun atmosphere.

If you really wish to show off your yard makeover to good effect, careful selection and placement of a variety of different types of lights,  can create wonderful effects at dusk and beyond.

There are many different outdoor lights that can be combined for maximum effect, and simple systems can be installed over a weekend. 

Patio

Patios are popular features in many backyards, and essential if any outdoor entertaining is to be made. Patios need to be laid flat and level, with good drainage.

The most natural location would be adjoining the house, but in small yards this may not always be practical. Take account of when and where your yard is in shade during the day before deciding a location.

The range of materials for a patio is considerable. Many people choose the material which gives the appearance they want, whereas it is the functionality that is probably more important.

Textured surfaces for example, prevent slippage, which would be advantageous in kids’ play areas, but not so much where outdoor furniture is used.

A flat smooth surface would be more desirable in an eating area to prevent chairs and tables wobbling, and surfaces near barbecues need to be as stain resistant as possible and easy to clean.

Plants and Shrubs

​Plants and shrubs add color and vibrancy to your backyard, and if you are intending to create a new garden in your yard, then you do need to plan ahead for it.

The actual garden location is important, and this is best determined by monitoring sunshine during the day, and noting areas of shade as the sunlight moves across the yard. 

Easy access is important as well, so you can tend the plants efficiently. This is equally important for cultivating vegetables as well as flowers.

Selecting plant types will be influenced by their compatibility with each other, soil type, your budget and the weather in your region.

Someone with a busy lifestyle might prefer a low-maintenance option which is where container gardening is an advantage.  The more serious gardening enthusiast can be as adventurous as the available space in their new garden allows.

Ponds and Water Features​

Water features can create an attractive focal point that is both tranquil and relaxing. What better on a sultry summer day, than to hear the sound of running water trickling over rocks and plants, right through the day until dusk?

Garden pond blends neatly with ground cover and water plants

Garden pond blends neatly with ground cover and water plants

Ponds and water gardens should be located where they can be easily seen and enjoyed, and where appropriate for the type of water feature. If you want to stock fish some shaded area is fine, but some water plants will need sunlight to flower properly.

Also, a pond used for fish will require a fair volume of water, but one built mainly for plants and for attracting wildlife like frogs and dragonflies can be much smaller. You’ll also need a power supply for a pump and filtration unit when keeping fish.

Ponds, streams and water gardens can be created with rigid preformed liners or with flexible pond skins. Rocks, pebbles and stone slabs can be used to decorate the borders.

There are some great DIY ideas online for creating water falls and fountains that are easy and cheap to set up.

Rock Gardens (Rockeries)​

Rock gardens can be created to great effect on both flat, uneven and sloping ground, and especially in small yards.

Backyard rock garden

Natural stone and pebbles landscaped into an impressive rock garden

You’ll need some good sized rocks to get the best visual effect, and some pebbles, large and small stones and rubble to get the drainage right. They should be located away from trees or overhanging shrubs so that plants get the maximum amount of sunlight.

Rock gardens can be any shape or size and are useful to landscape sloping areas. They can be made to face in different directions so that plants favoring sunlight and those needing cooler locations, can be planted separately to give a year through display.

The best time to lay out a rock garden is during the winter. This enables the rocks to settle and drainage to form, before planting out in the spring.

Walkways​

​It is worth spending extra time on designing the walkways when planning your backyard renovations. They help draw the eye to focal points within your yard, link the separate areas you'll create, and with the different materials available to build them, can be very distinctive features in their own right.

When designing winding paths through your yard design, base them on proper circular arcs and not random curves. They'll look much better that way.

You can easily mark out curved pathways using a line of sand. This is simply done by driving a stake into the ground at a suitable point, attaching a length of twine, pull it taut and as you swing it through the arc representing where the path will lie, deposit a drizzle of sand to mark the line you wish to follow.