10 Ways to Spruce Up the Side Yard

Side Yard1

To be successful amid the outdoor living boom, it's critical for retailers and builders to stay abreast of rapidly changing consumer tastes in backyard products. To help keep your product lines up to date, AQUA has partnered with design megasite Houzz to bring you more content about outdoor living, from pools and spas to outdoor kitchens and patio furniture. Here, a Houzz expert demonstrates the different ways to revamp the oft-forgotten side yard.

Ah, the side yard. It’s often a neglected and sad alley where you stick air-conditioning units. But even if calling what’s along the side of your house “yard” is a stretch, there are plenty of things you can do to not only improve it, but make it a space you enjoy walking through or even spending time in. Consider these 10 elements when embarking on your weekend landscaping projects.

Side Yard1

Photo by Exterior Worlds Landscaping & Design

1. Continuity. In this Texas backyard belonging to art collectors, the entire landscape is a sculpture garden. Siting some of the sculptures on the side creates a journey of discovery and delight.

RELATED: Express Your Artsy Side With These One-of-a-Kind Garden Statues

2. A gate. Of course, a gate adds security and privacy. But it can also add a sense of an alluring mystery as to what’s behind it. If you’re going to put in the time to make the side yard a destination or a pleasing path to the backyard, create a sense of drama with a gate.

Side Yard2

Photo by Dennis Mayer - Photographer

Side Yard33. A stretch to courtyard size. This path widens out to patio size by extending all the way out to the fence boundary on one side and the house boundary on the other. Beautiful roses, a fountain and seating make it an enticing destination.

Photo on right by Folia Horticultural + Design

4. Interesting path materials. Most side yards don’t have much room to play with. But you can draw the eye down the length of the space with an interesting path — whether of crunchy gravel, stately brick or a hopscotch-like arrangement of pavers. Here the mix of concrete squares and smooth stones creates an interesting juxtaposition of textures.

5. Architecture overhead. Another way to draw the eye away from the sides is to draw it up. Arbors, pergolas, vines, lighting — all these features will have people looking up. Architecture overhead can enhance a narrow space by defining it. The journey through it is more compressed, so the drama of the backyard opening up at the end of the procession is all the greater.

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Photo by Pool Environments Inc

6. Water. The sound of a fountain is so pleasing, and tucking it around the side will have people wondering where the relaxing splashing noises are coming from. The other advantage to a trough like this is that the sound can be enjoyed inside the house. 

Side Yard5

Photo by Jeffrey Gordon Smith Landscape Architecture

7. Contrasting sides. Soft bamboo and corrugated metal are material opposites, making the journey interesting along this side yard path. The change in grade keeps the trees from taking over the space.

Note: Though bamboo is beautiful, be sure to talk to your nursery or your landscaper about non-invasive species and planting it responsibly. I have seen it jump over deep steel planters installed in the ground and take over backyards.

8. Low lighting. Side yards often are places you want to get through as quickly as possible at night — they can be downright spooky. Illuminate the hard work you’ve done with landscape lighting to make it a safe and inviting journey after dark.

9. Overhead lighting. Or string lights overhead.

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Photo by Landsystems Landscapes

RELATED: Get Your Outdoor Bar Started Today

10. A side bar. This side yard makes the most of where the backyard deck meets the side yard, with a bar placed along the side and room for stools along it. Container gardens along the wall create a nice view from the deck toward the side yard.

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