Backyard Ideas: 6+ easy ways to spruce up your own backyard

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Backyard ideas: We finished all of our indoor house projects this winter and the weather started to get a little bit nicer. So, we decided to tackle some of those outdoor projects we had been putting off for the last 6+ years of owning this home.

a patio with a table and chairs

You know you move in with all of these great ideas, but then life happens, or really babies happen? My Dad always says, “you know what causes that right”

Ugh, yes thanks Dad.

But now that our kids are a little older and a little more self-sufficient we thought they might enjoy playing in the yard more this summer.

I think it is helpful to write out any project plans beforehand and then stop when you are done. It is so easy to start with something and get sidetracked with 10 other mini projects that come along with it and before you know it you are feeling SO OVERWHELMED! So here were our 5 projects: We came up with 5 easy updates to upgrade your backyard.

#1 Outdoor Upgrade – Create a comfortable outdoor space for seating

One of the most practical backyard ideas to create a wonderful outdoor space is to create a seating area and order new outdoor furniture – I hate the term outdoor living space, but yes, an outdoor living space.

Outdoor Seating/Living Space Area: The Before

a patio with a grill and chairs

We only had these two little chairs on the back deck and to be honest, we never used them, so I wasn’t really worried about getting more furniture. 

We never used them because we had tiny little babies who needed to be supervised in the yard at all times. 

This year is a game-changer! I can be on the deck with them in the yard and they are now self-sufficient enough to play by themselves. 

What? I can read a book, enjoy my morning coffee (or, as my son calls it, “coffee for tired mammas”) and they can entertain themselves for longer than 3 seconds? Mamas of babies- it does get easier!!! Haha!

So now that I have all of this newfound freedom, I wanted some super nice patio furniture to be able to lounge on!

And, of course, I wanted to to match our overall aesthetic appeal, conform to the clean lines that are throughout our home and just overall upgrade our yard. Not too much to ask, right?

Outdoor Seating Area: Our Solution

a patio with a table and chairs
a table and chairs on a deck

I had been eyeing Outer’s patio sets for the past year and just knew that was the brand I wanted to go with for our deck. 

For more about Outer Furniture, read our Outer Furniture Review.

  1. Outdoor Loveseat | Outer

    Expensive, but incredibly well made. Includes the amazing OuterShell® cover which allows you to have outdoor furniture that is actually clean day after day.

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  2. Outdoor Armchair | Outer

    A great compliment to the Outer Love Seat - this chair is oversize and also includes the amazing OuterShell® cover to keep your cushions clean.

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We did a whole review on our Outer set here, but this is the NICEST furniture I have in (well technically not in) my house. The couch is better than my Pottery Barn Grand Chesterfield Sectional in my living room. We ended up ordering the Outer Black Wicker Outdoor Loveseat and and two of the Outer Black Wicker Outdoor Armchairs

They are so comfortable- it is unreal. They are also so extremely sturdy and well built with very minimal assembly.

The Game-changing part of Outer: The covers!

But I have yet to tell you the BEST PART! 

a cushion on a chair
Covered and ready to handle the next wind storm! Can you adirondack chairs do that? I don’t think so!

They have covers built into the pads!!! What?? What kind of genius designed these?  This is seriously what sold me on this brand. 

I have always hated sitting on outdoor furniture because it is always covered in a layer of dirt and then you feel like you need to go shower right afterward. Not these babies!!!!

After you use them you just tuck the little cover right over them and velcro it on and then voila- next time you go to use them CLEAN!!!!!! I am seriously so obsessed.  Go check out our full review.  This furniture is worth every penny.  

Outdoor Rug, yes, rugs that are washable

We also added a new Ruggable from their outdoor collection, the Outdoor Adde Black Rug to the space to make it feel a little bit warmer and tie all the furniture in together and really make a “space.” This is our 8th Ruggable! I will never purchase a “traditional” rug again. 

a couch and a table on a rug

Especially for an outdoor space, being able to wash it and store it easily at the end of the summer in Colorado is a game-changer.  You can see our full Ruggable review here. It’s great flooring material that you aren’t afraid to walk on or put in your dining areas.

Other Odds and Ends

a black chandelier with light bulbs

Then we picked up a couple odds and ends for the seating area from Amazon.  We went with this chandelier that was only $65 when we purchased it and it looks really decent, especially for that price.

We also grabbed this firepit because we needed a really skinny table for drinks and thought this fire pit could double as a drink table and a firepit during cold Colorado winter days – and didn’t want to commit to a full outdoor fireplace.

The verdict is still out on the firepit, since it arrived with broken glass. In the sellers’ defense, they were super quick to respond and get back to us with a new table top.

It does, however, fit the space and we like that the black wicker tied in with the Outer Outdoor Furniture, but honestly, it just looks like really cheap wicker next to the black wicker on the Outer Furniture Set.

A great deal
Outdoor Firepit Table
$212.89 $197.89
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03/17/2024 03:46 am GMT

We also got these black glass fireplace rocks for the fire pit.

I actually really like these rocks because previously we had a fire pit and gave it away because it had all of these little glass shards in it. They would fall out all over the floor every time the fire pit was jostled and they were hard to see. 

These so not fall out of the fire pit because they are larger and they are smooth so little baby feet won’t get injured by glass on the floor.

Great for firepits!
Fire Put Glass Pebbles
$27.00 $24.98
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03/17/2024 06:25 pm GMT

#2 New Mulch – Yes, Landscaping Your Mulch Makes a difference

Get new mulch. It doesn’t matter if you have an incredible landscape design or a vegetable garden, mulch is a secret ingredient the living in outdoor living.

Most people won’t tell you that. They’ll give you some cheesy idea like string lights, planting flowers or something else. But this made a huge impact. So big, someone asked us if we hired a landscaping designer. The joke is on them!

Mulch Upgrade: The Before

a house with a lawn and a driveway

It had been years since we had gotten new mulch and we have so many mulch beds in our backyard space. I was able to get 6 cubic yards of black mulch delivered to our driveway

How much is 6 cubic yards? This much:

a pile of dirt on a sidewalk

I was terrified that this was going to be more than we knew what to do with, but we were actually able to use every last bit.

It took us a solid afternoon to move it all. 

We actually did it by filling plastic totes in the driveway and then carrying them over to the next spot in the mulch bed on our entire property.  We found this easier and less cumbersome than using a wheelbarrow because our mulch beds are mostly by rock beds. 

We didn’t weed anything or move landscape fabric or landscape dividers or anything like that while we moved the mulch because once again a fairly simple afternoon project would have turned into a week of yard work. 

a slide in a yard
Even the black mulch in the back yard makes it pop a bit more.

Mulch Upgrade: The After

a white house with brick pillars and a black door

As you can see, this was better than any backyard landscaping you could possibly imagine. I know landscape design ideas don’t really suggest this simple outdoor space hack – but it works. The results are in the backyard before and after photos.

The black mulch we used is the same color as our Outer Outdoor Furniture set, so it really ties the whole backyard space together visually.

Slowly we will make all the beds look better by weeding, adding more plants, a raised garden bed, a water feature and maybe even doing some better landscaping, but we focused on just doing the mulch for now. The new mulch really made the house and outdoor space pop!

Pro tip: Get it delivered

How much is 6 cubic yards? Well, this bag at home depot is 2 cubic feet. It would take about 162 of these bags to equal 6 cubic yards. I don’t know how many I can fit in my car, but that’s a lot of trips to Home Depot!

a black bag with red and yellow text
The best backyard landscaping ideas are ones that make your life easier – like getting this delivered. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also save a bunch of agony!

I was really happy with how it turned out! I would also suggest getting it delivered if possible because for a $75 delivery fee we saved using a million bags, dirtying our car and lots and lots of repeat trips. 

I know mulch seems like a silly idea but it really does make your yard look cared for and it only costs a couple hundred bucks for a whole backyard and outdoor living space.

#3 Paint Raw Wood Patio Spindles

a house with a deck and stairs
Looking a little rough after 6+ years exposed to the elements.

The next step was pretty simple: we painted our backyard spindles in our backyard living space.

Our deck (that was again installed 6+ years ago) is Trex decking, but they used raw wood for the spindles on the deck. 

a woman painting a deck
This really makes our “outdoor living room” richer and another one of our backyard ideas we’ve had forever.

I knew this needed to be stained or sealed when we moved in, but I was super pregnant and didn’t want to bend that much or inhale deck stain, so I put it off until the next summer and then the next summer and… so I knew this needed to be done. 

The raw wood was looking pretty rough after 6 summers of wear without any sealant! For this I decided to go with black because I thought it would look good next to the light Trex decking. 

The Stain We Used: Sherwin Williams SuperDeck

Forgiving and rich
SuperDeck® Exterior Deck Stain - Sherwin-Williams

Add 10% color for the perfect look on your outdoor deck spindles.

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I used the Sherwin Williams SuperDeck Solid Color Stain in Tricorn Black and had them add 20% more color than they typically add. 

This gave me a really rich black solid stain that went on super easy over the raw wood. 

a table and chairs on a deck
The spindles look MUCH better after 1 coat – and one of those fairly easy backyard ideas that really make your living space outside just pop!

I only needed to do one coat, thank goodness, because with like 150+ spindles this was a very painful process. I quickly figured out that the Sherwin Williams SuperDeck Solid Color Stain was not really compatible with a roller because it was too thick and just kind of splattered everywhere, so I had to brush on the whole thing.

a wood stairs leading up to a building
Before – Left, After: Right

I taped all the Trex decking off first and I think altogether this took me about 3 weekends to complete. 

The end result looks amazing though!  So far it has worn really well, but we aren’t walking on the spindles so that might make the black more tricky. 

#4 Make the space under the deck usable

The next update has also been years in coming. Anyone with small backyards can attest: all the stupid stepping stones or overuse of rocks in general just make it hard to use.

Space Under Deck: Before

a house with a dog house

When we first moved into our house, below our deck was filled with rocks.  We actually have SO MANY ROCKS, which is probably good for our water bill in the desert that we live in (Colorado).  However, it does not make for conducive play areas for our kids. 

Since below the deck is actually 7 feet tall, it can be utilized as a great play area for the kids. A few years ago we removed the larger rocks and put in big wood railroad ties and filled it with chipped rock. 

a small white and red playhouse

The kids were able to play on the chipped rock much easier than the large rocks because it was completely flat and takes on a concrete-like texture as water and feet sink into it over time. 

BUT, and there is a big BUT! It is so messy! It gets all over clothes and shoes and little kid hands.  Also, it is very sharp, so you have to wear shoes at all times when standing on it and your shoes can’t be sandals or you will get little rock shards in them. 

So yeah, not ideal for kids to play on. 

So I started doing some research into how to transform what we had into a better play area for the kids and I kept coming back to the IKEA Runnen Deck Tiles. Read our full guide on installing IKEA Runnen Decking.

I finally decided to order it and see if it would work.  And let me tell you, I am obsessed with the result! I made an entire post about how to install the IKEA Runnen Decking and some tips to get the best result, but this stuff is amazing. 

Space Under Deck: The After

a swing set on a patio

Check out the finished look! It is so much better for playing on.  It stays really clean, the kids don’t need to wear shoes on it and it keeps the concrete shards underneath!

#5 Upgrade Your Kids’ Backyard Toys

And by this, we mean: Install bigger kid things to play on- like new swings and a trampoline. 

So our yard is VERY small and like I mentioned above, covered in rocks. 

So we wanted to use our space as wisely as possible – that means looking at vertical space, too and making sure the ground cover in grass wasn’t compromised.

Enter the trampoline

Our kids approve 👍🏻
Beast Trampoline 14 ft Trampoline (Blue) with Premium Enclosure | NO Weight Limit | Free Ladder

Seriously, your kids will love this (and so will you... to give them something to do that isn't screen time.)

Buy Now
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03/17/2024 04:21 am GMT

We bought The Amazing Spider Trampoline by Beast Trampoline in the 10’ size. Read our full Beast Trampoline Review for more information.

I wrote an entire review of the trampoline and tips on how to put it together here. I was looking for a few things in particular with this trampoline. 

I wanted it to be low to the ground, have a safety net with rounded foam coated bars and I wanted it to be black and not some crazy obnoxious color. We also couldn’t fit one larger than 10’, but I thought 8’ would be too small.  This is the one I landed on after LOTS of research. 

I think it is good quality, safe, relatively inexpensive in the trampoline space and aesthetically pleasing. Check out my full review if you are in the market for a trampoline or if you are stumped with how to put it together (or level it!) like I was haha!

Upgrading the Swings

Round Saucer Swing
$44.99 $37.99
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03/17/2024 04:05 am GMT

We also changed out our little baby bucket swings for this round saucer swing and this traditional swing. The saucer swing is a huge hit!

Swing Set
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03/17/2024 04:25 am GMT

All of the neighborhood kids fight over that swing over anything else, so I would suggest that one for sure if you are looking for something to keep your kids occupied. Both of those swings also come in black, so again no obnoxious colors! 

Outdoor Space Upgrades: Final Thoughts

Overall, these five smaller projects did not completely revolutionize the outside of our house, but I think they packed a big punch for the amount of time, effort and money that we put into them. 

Seriously, I’m just so done with people that say flower beds or climbing plants are the best things to do (especially coming from a landscape designer – which we are not!). Landscape architecture should be more about how you are going to use the space. Here’s, quickly, how we thought about it:

  1. How can we get more fresh air? We’ve spend enough covid days inside… right?
  2. How can we make sure our kids get activities in a pretty small backyard? An no more stupid swimming pool that is three feet long – who uses those?!
  3. How can we make comfortable seating areas with extra seating for our family when they come over. We don’t do a ton of outdoor entertaining, but like to have the option.
  4. We do, occasionally enjoy, “dining al fresco” – and use our existing seating (although it’s not built-in seating – built-in seating would be too much work).
  5. We just wanted a backyard we could love – and, oddly enough, not wear shoes. I know that’s weird, but what we wanted from our large deck that is our outdoor living room. There’s a lot of foot traffic here and we want to be as low maintenance as possible.

Notice what was not on the backyard upgrade list:

  • Expensive retaining walls or other crazy intensive backyard landscaping ideas.
  • A built-in pizza oven (although, we do love the Ooni Pizza Oven, read our Ooni Review and Ooni YouTube Review – it now lives at my parent’s house down the street) – no outdoor kitchen here.
  • Any backyard pond or water feature. Seriously, doesn’t every water feature just want to make you pee?!
  • A bar cart or backyard bar: ain’t nobody got time to stock that with ice. We’ve got a nice dining area and our formal (and informal) dining area is on the other side of the sliding glass doors to our home.

I am absolutely love being outside this summer with the kids, both sitting on my new Outer Furniture (check out our Outer Review) and jumping on the trampoline with them (hey no weight limit!).

The kids are enjoying their yard too and inviting all the neighbor kids over so I think it was all a win! Let us know if you have any questions on any of these projects and Happy Summer to everyone!

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