7 Envy-Inducing Backyard Ideas That Are Way Better than a Patch of Grass

published Jul 3, 2023
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Credit: Jason Rampe

Backyard envy is real. No matter how satisfied you may be with what you have, seeing how inviting or creative a neighbor’s al fresco living area is could have you dreaming of more. The good news is that if you’ve already been blessed with any type of green space — no matter how unruly the weeds or dated the vibe — this is half the battle. The next step is to start visualizing its potential. 

If you need help deciding what to do, let these past Apartment Therapy tours be your guide. From a glamping tent and outdoor dining room, to a greenhouse and hot tub, these ideas can turn your backyard into an oasis with as little effort or as much elbow grease as you please. Read on to see these envy-inducing backyards, and with them as a guide, yours could soon be the design hit of the block. 

A Stylish Outdoor Soaking Tub That’s Perfect for Family Fun

Perched on the patio of this Raleigh, North Carolina, ranch home is a cedar hot tub — ideal for unwinding or entertaining — and a seating area to match, featuring fun cocktail tables and lots of potted plants. For this young family, making their backyard their own included splurging on the cedar-walled tub, their most expensive one-time purchase. To put it briefly, it was worth it. 

A Glamping Tent for Backyard Adventures 

This glamping tent in the yard of this 1955 cinder-block ranch house in California means an intimate camping trip is never out of reach. The 16-foot Psyclone bell tent can also be used as a playroom or reading nook, or an eating area during a cookout. Placing a rug inside the tent and surrounding it with a wood platform makes it feel like an extension of the indoors, and extra cozy by the fire. 

A DIY Greenhouse Spiffed Up This Backyard’s Vibe 

To further expand on the livable space of their 1,200-square-foot home, this family looked no further than the backyard. They DIYed a glass-walled greenhouse with a modern black exterior, and made it spacious enough to hold a dining set beneath lots of natural light. The greenhouse also complements a nearby potting shed, where the couple spends time tinkering. 

A Kids’ Playhouse Becomes a Sanctuary in All Types of Weather

To help contend with days when the weather is not that conducive to outdoor play, this California family built a playhouse just for the kids in their backyard. This mini-sized home — crafted by the wife’s mother and brother — is outfitted with carpet, pillows, toy bins, and a chalkboard. And as a bonus, an overhang protects them from harsh sun or unexpected rain.

A Bike Shed in London Becomes a Spot for Calm Seclusion 

This North London home is less than 700 square feet, so the fact that there’s a sweet garden shed behind its historic walls is all the better. The owner was used to teeny spaces — she’d rented studios throughout the world before purchasing this Victorian address — and so she saw the potential in what was once a neglected bike shed. By cleaning it out, painting it, and providing seating, it’s now a place where she can unwind. 

Credit: Jason Rampe

A New Fence Turns This Backyard into a Cool Hangout Spot

The fence that enclosed the private outdoor space of this NYC studio had seen better days, and all it took was a fateful trip to Lowe’s for things to change. The renter originally was looking for something to cover the view, but she was convinced to rebuild the enclosure with a Taskrabbit’s help instead. Now she has a brand new enclosure, and a cool place to hang out in the middle of the city. 

Credit: Brooke Fitts

Five Raised Beds Make a Seattle Home More Self-Sufficient

For those who love gardening, or even the idea of gardening, one detail may be that your outdoor space lacks raised beds to make the process a little easier. Look to this family’s Seattle home as inspiration, as they DIYed their bright and cozy space with five raised beds to grow their own produce and flowers. There’s plenty of seating nearby, too, in case they’d like to bite into something fresh right then and there.