The humble backyard is multitalented, functioning as an open plan kitchen/dining room, a place to grow herbs, or somewhere just to relax and read a book.
Perhaps it’s this versatility that has led our backyards and courtyards to capture our hearts and minds.
As carpenter and builder, Dean Ipaviz sums up, “Let’s face it, the backyard is a huge part of our Australian lifestyle and it’s often a real influencing factor when purchasing your property”.
With backyards getting smaller, a great layout is becoming even more important. Check out our list of current landscaping trends, and time-honoured design ideas, to help you get the most from “out the back”.
Building in key elements of your courtyard like seating, storage and your BBQ will make your space feel much larger, while helping to tie the design together visually.
“You can create a beautiful BBQ area that’s built in with some storage and plumbed into the natural gas line,” says Dean, which will function much like a second kitchen.
“Install an L-Shaped seat that’s really going to tie the entertaining area in.”
If you’re upgrading your backyard, look for ways to reuse or recycle existing elements.
“I love incorporating something old into a new design”, says Dean.
In addition to being good for the environment, this can be great for the hip pocket.
“If you can try and make your palette work to something that allows you to do a bit of DIY, and allows you to use items that are second-hand, that’s going to help reduce your costs,” says Dean.
Something as simple as painting an old fence black, and training a vine to grow on it, can turn it into a bold new feature.
If training a vine sounds too time consuming, a vertical garden can be an instant winner, and can make a great entry-level DIY project.
All you need to create your own hanging garden is a spare fence or wall, a frame connected to said fence – 5cm x 5cm wire mesh works great – and pots to hang from it. Why not continue the sustainability theme by making the pots yourself from recycled plastic bottles?
Vertical gardens can also be created using a kit, or by hanging vertical planters that feature a series of pockets stacked one on top of the other, which act as pots.
Features like vertical gardens have a wow factor, but to get the most enjoyment from your upgraded backyard day-to-day, pay attention to what’s underfoot. As a general rule, keep everything on one level, but break up textures with decking, paving and grassed areas.
And don’t forget drainage, “Run an agricultural pipe to get that drainage sorted so you don’t have flooding in the backyard.”
Keep what’s underfoot on one consistent level, but break up the design by raising other features – garden beds, seating, even a water feature.
The golden rule of water features is to keep them simple. Think a pond; not a fountain.
A small pond, with a pebbled bottom, a few plants and even some goldfish, can be surprisingly cheap and easy to maintain, requiring only the occasional filter clean.
Design your pond so you can sit on the edge and observe the self-sustaining ecosystem within– watching some fish glide around lazily, with a soundtrack of gently running water, can be the perfect meditation at the end of a busy day.
Finally, the essential touch to set off your garden: understated lighting.
Lighting can come from various sources, including solar garden lights, outdoor torches, fairy lights and even rope lights.
For the ultimate in ambience, and to get more use out of your courtyard in winter, consider a fire pit.
When done well, your back garden can add another highly functional living zone to your home, which you’ll be able to enjoy all year round.