29 Best Items to Turn Your Backyard into a Mini Oasis

Think your summer vacation plans have been ruined? Not necessarily. You may not be able to travel to your favorite vacation destination – since you’re trying to stay safe and healthy during the quarantine –  but you can still enjoy a staycation in your own backyard. And not only will you be safer at home – you’ll also be able to enjoy your backyard for much longer than the few days you would have spent elsewhere.

These are the 29 best items you need to create a backyard oasis, along with advice and suggestions from designers and other experts on how to create the perfect outdoor space. Also, check out this article on the best ways to turn your home’s interior into a beach house.

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Trends in outdoor spaces

According to Mitch Slater, president of Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens, outdoor living spaces continue to grow in popularity – especially since COVID-19 has made vacations less likely. “And creating a backyard oasis isn’t limited to warm weather residents, as interest in outdoor living areas is comparable across both warm and four-season climates,” he says.

A report by Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens reveals that homeowners want design details that connect indoor and outdoor living spaces. “By creating cozy, year-round gathering spaces through fire pits or fireplaces - the most popular upgrade for outdoor living spaces in all regions - a growing number of homeowners are extending the sophistication and comfort of the indoors to the backyard,” Slater explains.

Traditional and transitional styles are the most popular aesthetic for outdoor living spaces, but he says contemporary design is gaining popularity in 2020.  “In particular, modular European styles have been trending, which can give outdoor spaces a sleek, modern look.”

And, Slater says the use of color in outdoor spaces also continues to gain traction. “Thanks to industry and material advancements, manufacturers are now able to create outdoor living spaces that look like what homeowners have inside, including realistic wood grain-inspired finishes and the saturated colors that more and more homeowners are experimenting with.” The company’s report reveals that neutral colors are the most popular hues.

Tips for choosing outdoor items

People spend a lot of time considering how to design bathrooms, or update kitchens. But if you plan on spending a lot of time outdoors, it's important to put thought into that area as well. When deciding on which items to choose for your backyard oasis, these are some of the factors to consider:

Durability

“We recommend that clients use outdoor furniture that can withstand high winds,” says David Charette, licensed interior designer and founder of Britto Charette in Miami, FL. “Choose weather-resistant fabric for outdoor furniture - this will save you money in the long run because wind and salt are really tough on fabrics that aren’t made for outdoor use.”

Practicality

Time outside is fun, but the kids (and adults) can track dirt, dust, grass, and everything else back into the house, according to Justin Riordan, interior designer, architect and founder of the Portland, Seattle and LA home staging company Spade and Archer Design Agency. "Having an outdoor shower can help to mitigate that risk," he says. "Not only is is practical, but it can also be quite a treat to shower under the open sky."

Creating a focal point

“Whether it’s a water element, a sculpture, or a fire feature, draw the eye to the important or most beautiful area/object of your outdoor space,” Charette advises. “Water features are a perfect way to create a soothing atmosphere in your outdoor space, while fire features can help to create a backyard oasis.”

Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to create a stylish firepit. “Assemble your fire pit on your driveway, pavers, or non-combustible area before lighting your wood ,”advises Jennifer Lewicki, designer at Judi Schwarz Interiors. “Place your beach chairs surround it and it’s like a beach bonfire - bring on the smores.”

Privacy

If you have neighbors, Charette recommends using decorative fencing. “Decorative panels can be used to enhance privacy, and to create intimate seating areas,” he says. “Think texture: you can easily layer your outdoor oasis with lots of texture,” Charette explains. “By using a variety of hardscape materials (wrought iron, stone, wood), fabrics, and greenery, you will achieve not only a private space, but also a visually interesting and soothing space that is tactile and welcoming.”

Multifunctional items

To keep from cluttering your backyard, consider multifunctional items. “I love beverage stands,” says Christopher Grubb, an interior designer and founder of Beverly Hills-based Arch-Interiors Design Group. “And when they’re not in use, the stands can be used in a more decorative way simply by putting potted plants of various sizes on them.”

Outdoor rugs

Consider using outdoor rugs in your quest to create a backyard oasis. “Outdoor area rugs are a great way to introduce color and pattern to outdoor areas,” Grubb says. “Be sure to hose down the rug often to keep it clean, and during the wet season, be sure to roll it up and store it,” he advises.

Adding character

“Add instant character to an outdoor space by repurposing a cherished object to become an all-weather accessory,” Grubb says. “Use marine-grade varnish on any piece you want to use outdoors and protect from the elements, such as a hutch, pottery or old, distressed tables,” he says. Similarly, large-scale found objects—such as iron or wood architectural elements—look great when hung on an exterior stucco wall.”

Grubb also likes outdoor furniture comprised of multiple materials, such as metal, reclaimed wood, and bamboo. “But the woven synthetic materials are amazing, too,” he says. Even though more colors are available in metal and aluminum furniture, Grubb says most of his clients still play it safe with neutrals.

Greenery

Using lots of greenery can also help create an oasis. “Install potted plants and trellises that can give a sense of privacy and pops of color,” Charette says. “We love the soothing aspect of metal screens that are paired with wood seating areas and accented with soft grasses and plants.”

Adding a studio shed

A studio shed is a great addition to a backyard. However, Susan Ruh, customer experience pro at Studio Shed, says it’s important to determine the purpose of the shed. “For example, is the goal to have extra space, privacy, and quiet during this unsettling time?  Will this be a she-shed, a home office, guest room, a backyard getaway, wellness, yoga or art studio?”  The next step is deciding where to place the shed. “Some people have an exact place in mind – the underutilized corner of the yard or, perhaps, where the rose bushes or the old tree are no longer thriving,” Ruh says. “For some, it is the space where the old storage shed or playset resided.”

There are a few things you should keep in mind when determining where to place the shed. “Consider placement of the entry door, windows to let in natural light, positioning to get a cross breeze inside, a clear pathway that flows from the house, privacy from neighbors, etc.,” she recommends. 

Maximizing family time

Schwarz has an idea for families that like organized activities. "If you have a backyard, try setting up a badminton net and challenging your family to a game or tournament, or maybe try volleyball, Bache, or corn hole," she advises. "Think about having nightly prizes or maybe a fun trophy."

Another tip is to remove technology from your backyard. "Designate a time frame when the family leaves all their devices and gaming systems off, since family vacation is about being together and not being interrupted," Schwarz says.

Keeping pests at bay

Unfortunately, many insects want to use your backyard oasis as a free buffet. According to Fred Rozo, board certified entomologist and senior technical service manager at Ehrlich Pest Control, mosquitoes and ticks are two of the most common backyard pests.

“Mosquitoes feed during dusk and dawn areas, but during the day, they rest in places like vegetation located in cool, damp or shady areas,” he says. “They could be hiding under decks or in bushes or trees with shade.” Since they like to lay their eggs in still water, Rozo warns against standing water in your backyard. (A water feature has flowing water, but it’s best to empty the feature when the water isn’t moving.)

“If you have an area or object that can hold water for more than a few days, drain it, fill it with soil or cement, or treat it with a mosquito control agent,” he advises. “Even small containers such as soda cans, glass jars, flower pot saucers, or tree holes can provide a habitat for mosquito development.” You should also clean all gutters and downspouts. “Also, make sure to cut back on vegetation that encroaches on your property as this is a breeding ground for mosquitoes,” he says.

If you have a swimming pool, Stewart Vernon, founder and COO of America’s Swimming Pool Company, recommends adding mosquito-repelling plants like Citronella grass and catnip near swimming areas. “Clean and disinfect your pool by running the filter and chlorinating on a regular basis,” he says. “Chlorine alone will not kill mosquito larvae, but will help hinder the growth.”

“Ticks like wooded areas, in long grass and thick vegetation,” Rozo says.  “An adult tick will crawl to the top of a long blade of grass and wave its front legs around in a manner known as ‘questing.’” When a tick senses that a suitable host is coming that way, he says it will use its hooked feet to latch onto your legs or your pet’s fur.  “The best solution to prevent ticks is to make sure vegetation is cut back on your property, including long grass.”

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