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With temperatures rising, we’ll soon be spending a lot more time outside. That’s why you'll want to put in some time and effort into making your backyard look and feel like a retreat. And there are quite a few factors to consider when you are planning your garden makeover—from landscaping to styling the furniture, it’s not as easy as putting out a table and a couple of chairs. That’s we reached out to several interior designers and asked them to give us their best tips on pulling off the ultimate vacation-inspired backyard transformation.
Create a Lush Garden
“Try to identify what is most special about your site, your location, and then do something in your garden or yard to enhance that,” says Will Massie, co-founder of McKinnon and Harris, a company that specializes in creating unique furniture for everything from your garden to your yacht. “It could be a view or a beautiful tree. You have to find the focal point, the hero in the garden, and then work to draw attention to that.”
Massie’s favorite garden plants are Boxwood shrubs because they give a garden “a sense of permanence and architecture.” He also says that a garden bench will totally change the look of your outdoor space.
“A bench takes a yard and makes it a garden. It becomes a destination when viewed from a distance like a piece of sculpture,” he adds.
If just the thought of maintaining an expansive garden is causing you a headache though, Massie’s sister, who founded McKinnon and Harris with him, is here to save the day with a great tip: focus on the edges and the borders of the garden. She and her husband live in the countryside in an old Federal-style farmhouse surrounded by fields and woodland which makes it impossible for them to have everything in the garden perfectly manicured.
“My secret is if you keep the edges tidy and defined, then you can let the rest go a bit wilder,” she says.
Also, consider planting a few pots with aromatic herbs such as rosemary, basil, and mint—they not only smell great but you can use them in your food and drinks.
Create a Stylish Cooking and Dining Area
One of the reasons why we love summer so much is because we get plenty of opportunities to dine outside.
But as New York-based designer Timothy Brown of Timothy Brown Studio, puts it, unless catering is in your future, don’t go overboard with your outdoor kitchen.
“My preference would be to have a great grill and preparation area separate from the main entertainment area and then have a bar with an ice maker and a fridge where all the action will be,” he says.
And this seems to be a shared view among pros. Designer Liz Caan also advises against investing in a massive outdoor kitchen “with a bar that wraps around the entire patio.”
“It creates a separation of roles between the host and the guests in a way that doesn’t feel intimate, which is what outdoor gatherings are all about,” she says.
As for the footprint, she suggests keeping the hardscape to a minimum so that it only covers the appliances and your dining area so there’s more space for grass and curated areas for lounging and conversation.
Choose the Right Furniture
Winston Churchill once said: “Never stand up when you can sit down. And never sit down when you can lie down.” Of course, he wasn’t talking about outdoor furniture but it’s a good aphorism to keep in mind when you’re shopping for the right patio furniture.
“When designing an outdoor lounge area, consider using club chairs with great cushions, sofas and ottomans as opposed to sectionals—they’re blocky and lock you in,” Caan recommends. It’s also easier to move them around if you ever need to rearrange it. She also recommends keeping it stylish by sticking to a uniform color palette. Her go-to shades are green and white with some black, zinc, or stone accents.
“Nature already possesses so much texture and exciting moments everywhere so I like the furniture to play second fiddle,” she explains.
If you’d like to add a vacation vibe to your backyard, consider installing a hammock.
“They are perfect for reading, napping, cuddling, and staying cool on a hot day. We recommend a rope hammock, large enough for two. They are comfortable and look beautiful on their own,” says Kevin Dumais, designer at Dumais. He’s a fan of fire pits, too, for the communal feeling they create.
“It becomes a centerpiece, a gathering place. The light and smoky scent make everyone feel cozy, and the best part—s’mores,” he adds.
Now, check out some of the chicest pieces of outdoor furniture that will turn your garden into a five-star resort.
Restoration Hardware Navarro Chaise
“For a truly luxurious experience while sunbathing, opt for designs that are structural in shape, like chic sun chaises. No matter where you live, a couple of modern chaises easily evoke a vacation-like state of mind,” says Caan.
And this minimalist teak chaise definitely fits the bill. It reclines to five positions so you can comfortably read a book or take a nap on it.
To buy: $2,125, restorationhardware.com
Round Copper Fire Pit
This beautiful fire pit was handmade in Turkey and comes with a matching protective cover with handles. The rounded silhouette looks very modern while the copper construction oozes a bit of rustic, countryside charm.
To buy: $2,800, shopterrain.com
Fiber Concrete Barrel Pot
For a pop of color, place a few potted flowers in different areas in your garden. These rustic concrete barrel pots are inspired by vintage dolly tubs and are suitable for both outdoor and indoor use.
To buy: from $24, shopterrain.com
Wide Top Brass Lantern
These beautiful lanterns will turn your patio into a whimsical place at night. They are made from durable brass and glass and are perfect for candles. They are available in six sizes so we recommend styling together a few of them in different sizes.
To buy: from $28, shopterrain.com
Kuhlmann Wooden Garden Bench
This garden bench will not only make your patio look cozier but it will also provide a few additional seats when you’re entertaining. It is crafted from solid acacia wood that is naturally weather resistant.
We love the beautiful openwork on the back so we wouldn’t cover it with a back cushion.
To buy: $297, birchlane.com
Summer Classics Regent Club Chair
Club chairs are perfect for outdoor use because they are so comfortable—you could spend an entire afternoon in this one reading a book or chatting with a friend.
It’s made from resin wicker in a neutral oyster-gray shade and comes with two soft foam-and-fiber seat cushions.
To buy: $1,830, onekingslane.com
Lawson Patio Sofa with Cushions
Turn your backyard into the most relaxing spot for lounging this summer with this classic sofa. It has a metal construction wrapped in rattan and the cushions are weather and moisture-resistant. Add a couple of bold pillows for a pop of color.
To buy: $840, birchlane.allmodern.com
Lynx Professional 30-Inch Propane Gas Grill With One Infrared Trident Burner and Rotisserie
You could be the most talented chef but if you don’t have the proper tools, then you’re doomed. And this grill is the best in its class. Whether you’re barbecuing steak or are in the mood for some rotisserie chicken, this grill will help you cook up some delicious meals.
It has durable rust-proof ceramic burners and a three-speed rotisserie with infrared burner among other things.
To buy: $4,769, bbqguys.com
West Elm Playa Outdoor Bar Cart
Get the party started with this outdoor bar cart. Whether you are using it to mix up cocktails or simply to transport dinnerware, it will definitely come in handy at your next gathering. It is crafted from a blend of eucalyptus and mahogany wood and has two rubber-padded wheels for easy rolling around the yard.
To buy: $399, westelm.com
Herb Seed Collection
It’s always better to cook with fresh ingredients and this applies to herbs, too. Thanks to this seed kit you can start an herb garden with the most popular herbs. It includes two types of basil, cilantro, dill, mint, parsley, chives, oregano, rosemary and thyme.
To buy: $15, geturbanleaf.com
Serena & Lily Anacapa Rectangular Coffee Table
This coffee table is made from reconstituted stone that will develop a beautiful patina over time. The gorgeous latticework and the bright hue will only make it stand out even more in your backyard.
To buy: $1,198, serenaandlily.com
Restoration Hardware Perennials Performance Heathered Stripe Outdoor Rug
Rugs create a homey feeling in a room and the same applies to outdoor spaces. They also visually define an area so it’s a good idea to place a rug underneath your dining furniture.
This handwoven one comes in a chic neutral striped pattern but the best thing about it is that it’s made from stain-resistant fabric.
To buy: from $1,575, restorationhardware.com
Coral Coast Executive XXL Rope Double Hammock
A hammock will definitely add a coastal vibe to your patio and it’s a great spot for an afternoon nap. This classic one features convenient spreader bars and has plenty of room for at least two people.
To buy: $140, hayneedle.com