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15 Backyard and Outdoor Décor Ideas to Spruce Up Your Yard for Summer

June 13, 2023
Goodwin patio and outdoor space at Kissing Tree by Brookfield Residential in San Marcos TX

With warm weather right around the corner, it’s time to move the fun outside. If inviting friends and family for al fresco dinners, cozy nights by the fire pit, and playing lawn games top your list for summer fun, you’re probably also wondering how to refresh your backyard. Sprucing up your backyard space doesn’t have to break the bank. All you need is a few creative backyard decorating ideas to give your outdoor space a whole new vibe.

We’ve put together 15 budget-friendly outdoor décor ideas to completely transform the look and feel of your backyard:

1. Create a cozy conversation area

Terra Plan 6 outdoor room detail at The Landing by Brookfield Residential in Tustin CA

Plan 6, Terra Collection at The Landing Community, Tustin, California

When done correctly, a cozy conversation area feels like your indoor living room. Start by selecting a focal point, such as a large tree, a garden feature, or a piece of furniture. You’ll want this spot to be on as level ground as possible to make it more relaxing.

Comfort is key to ensuring your guests want to stay and chat for a while. Find comfortable chairs and up the coziness by adding cushions and pillows. If your spot lacks natural shade, use a large patio umbrella, shade sail, or even a canopy made from fabric to provide some shelter from the sun.

Lastly, add some finishing touches to pull the space together. You’ll want functional accessories like a small table for snacks and drinks, a basket to store blankets, and extra pillows. Finish with personalized décor, like outdoor sculptures or ornaments, and you’ll have a conversation area where everyone wants to stay.

2. Install outdoor lighting

Outdoor living area with lanterns and string lights

Just because the sun has set doesn’t mean the party is over. Adding lights gives your backyard an instant glow and makes your outdoor space a spot you and your guests will want to hang out in well into the night.

Depending how exposed your outdoor space is, you can get really creative with your lighting. If you have a covered outdoor room, add a dramatic statement fixture over your dining table. String lights are a great way to add a “ceiling” to an open area to help define the space and make it feel more like an indoor room.

Candles are a classic way to add ambiance to any party. You can use them in votive holders, lanterns, or as tall candlesticks to create a romantic and cozy atmosphere. Double down and plan for uninvited guests like mosquitoes by using citronella candles to keep them away. Just be sure they’re properly secured and out of reach from pets or kids so there aren’t any accidents.

3. Add a fire pit

Fire pit and string lights in the back yard of Haciendas Residence 1 by Brookfield Residential in Chula Vista CA

People have been naturally drawn to fire for years, and a fire pit makes a great focal point for any backyard. You can roast marshmallows for s’mores or savor a glass of wine while enjoying the warmth and light of the fire. If you don’t enjoy the smoke smell, go with a smoke-free fire pit so you and your guests have a more comfortable atmosphere for relaxing.

Use stones or bricks to construct a simple fire pit where you can gather with family and friends. There are several affordable DIY options that can be completed in an afternoon for less than $100, leaving you with time and money left to host a bonfire that same night.

4. Set up a hammock

Patio detail with a hammock at Alma by Brookfield Residential in Edmonton

Duplex Collection at Chappelle Gardens, Edmonton, Alberta

Summer is the ideal time for lounging, and a hammock is the perfect way to do it. What better way to spend a summer day than reading a good book and sipping a cold beverage? Hammocks are a great accent piece for any backyard, and they’re functional – a win-win!

Creating a basic hammock is relatively simple: you need two anchor points where you can fasten two ends of a long piece of fabric, creating a flat surface for you to lay on. If you don’t have the perfect tree setup for hanging your hammock, don’t worry! Many DIY hammock ideas include chairs perfect for smaller spaces and free-standing supports that allow you to lounge anywhere.

5. Upgrade your fence

Outdoor seating space at Mulholland Residence 2 at BLVD by Brookfield Residential in Dublin CA

Boulevard Community, Dublin, California

Your fence provides privacy and security, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be stylish and interesting. It’s arguably one of the largest features in your backyard, given the distance it spans, so spruce it up with some eye-catching pieces.

The vertical layout provides a great opportunity to add hanging plants and bring life to otherwise dead space. You can also install a vertical garden or climbing vines to create a living wall effect.

Incorporate art by hanging outdoor wall art, such as metal sculptures, decorative panels, or vintage signs. If you prefer a more neutral appearance, you can attach screens made from wood, metal, or bamboo to add dimension without being gaudy.

6. Install a compact bar

If you’re short on space but love entertaining, an outdoor compact bar setup is the perfect solution. A simple fold-out wall shelf is all you need to get the job done if it has enough room for essentials like cutting boards and utensils.

With a simple wood board and shelf brackets, you can install a window ledge at a backyard-facing window to serve as an at-home bar. If your window is located in your kitchen, you can pop out the screen to create a pass-through window for added convenience.

7. Start a container garden

Small gardens in the backyard of Mulholland Plan 3 at BLVD by Brookfield Residential NorCal

Boulevard Community, Dublin, California

Having a backyard garden can be an enriching experience. You have fresh and healthy produce right outside your door, gardening has been proven to reduce stress and improve your mood, and a backyard garden adds beauty and visual interest to your outdoor space.

Using containers in various sizes is a “must” when growing plants in small spaces. When looking for plants that will thrive in containers, look for terms like “compact,” “tidy plant habit,” or “short stature” on plant or seed pack descriptions. Smaller pots are perfect for peppers, greens, kale, and herbs.

8. Get creative with your planters

Brookfield Residential Home featuring an indoor outdoor dining patio in Southern California

An outdoor space isn’t complete without plants. If you’ve neglected to include plants in your backyard setup because your thumb isn’t very green, choose a low-maintenance plant that can survive almost any conditions.

Potted plants, especially narrow, tall sizes with a small footprint, bring in a dramatic style, while grouping different sizes and heights creates a layered effect that feels inviting and relaxed. Utilize vertical space by repurposing old pallets or hanging shoe organizers to create a vertical garden for herbs or succulents. Boost your outdoor space’s visual appeal by hanging your plants at different heights.

If you already have potted plants, refresh them by rearranging them into new locations or changing their containers. For a more affordable option, you can repaint the existing pots or find a creative solution to hold your plants.

9. Add birdhouses and feeders

Taking a quiet moment to watch the birds in the backyard makes us feel connected with nature. There’s peace in just sitting back and appreciating the beauty and diversity of wildlife. Watching them feed, bathe, and build nests while listening to their melodic songs is entertaining.

Add birdhouses and feeders throughout your backyard to give yourself a front-row seat. Birdhouses bring charm, color, and whimsy with intricate details and vibrant hues. There’s a sense of harmony and playfulness that breathes life into any backyard. Figure out what birds are native to your area, which you see most often in your yard, and get the food they love the most. Safe hummingbird food is easy to make yourself, and the little birds put on quite a show at dusk.

10. Refresh your cushions

Dakota outdoor room at Highland Sage by Brookfield Residential in Avondale AZ

Dakota Plan, Highland Sage Collection, Alamar Community, Avondale, Arizona

The easiest way to make your outdoor furniture look new again is to make the cushions new (or at least look new). If you’ve had your outdoor cushions for a few years, chances are they’re looking a little worn.

Not to worry! You don’t have to blow your budget by starting over. Depending on their state, you may be able to simply power wash and spot clean your cushions to give them new life. If they’re more than a little tired, try outdoor cushion covers. They slip over your existing cushions, allowing you to save money on a full replacement, and play with bold colors and fun patterns to capture the effortless vibes of summer.

For a quick fix, add in a few new pillows instead of replacing them all. After all, you can never have too many throw pillows, and your space will feel instantly fresh – without breaking the bank.

11. Change your outdoor rug

Terra Plan 3 outdoor room at The Landing by Brookfield Residential in Tustin CA

Plan 3, Terra Collection, The Landing Community, Tustin, California

Just as they do indoors, rugs can significantly impact your outdoor living area. Even if that’s the only thing you change, your space will feel distinctly different from previous summers. Outdoor rugs are an easy way to update the overall tone of your area and bring in your favorite colors.

Indoor rugs can be notoriously expensive. Fortunately, that’s not the case with outdoor rugs – the materials they’re made from allow them to be much cheaper. This means you'll also have room in the budget to change your doormat.

12. Construct a pathway

You’ve studied your backyard, created the ideal flow, and established zones to distinguish how each space should be used. Take the next step by creating a pathway to connect each area for a seamless transition from zone to zone.

Garden paths are both practical and aesthetically pleasing. They provide a safe and easy walkway from the house to different areas in your yard, allowing you to visually connect everything for a cohesive look.

From pavers to stepping-stones to plain mulch, there’s something for every budget. If you’re going to DIY a walkway in your backyard, there are a few steps you must follow:

  • Plan your layout and design: Is this a functional pathway or purely decorative? Determine the desired shape and size. Once you feel ready, measure the area and make the path using stakes and string.
  • Clear and level the area: Remove any existing vegetation, rocks, or debris. Properly level the area so the materials lay correctly, and your guests and family can walk it safely.
  • Prevent weeds: Put a weed barrier under the base of your path to minimize maintenance in the future.

13. Rearrange your furniture

Rear elevation of Dakota at Highland Sage by Brookfield Residential in Avondale AZ

Dakota Plan, Highland Sage Collection, Alamar Community, Avondale, Arizona

A well-thought-out backyard should have designated zones that serve a purpose. The goal is to create areas that are distinct but cohesive: somewhere to eat, somewhere to relax, and somewhere to play.

A new summer season is the perfect time to take a step back and rethink your overall layout. Create an outdoor floor plan to map out the ideal way your backyard would look, feel, and flow. Focus on what that zone needs to function. Your relaxation spot should be in a quiet corner. Your conversation area should draw your guests in and encourage them to stay awhile. The play area should have plenty of room for your games.

A few simple moves can change your backyard space's entire flow and function.

14. Add soft sounds

Outdoor lounge and water feature at Haciendas Residence 3 by Brookfield Residential in Chula Vista CA

When a backyard has been planned correctly, it’ll play off the senses. It’ll look beautiful; flowers will bring subtle fragrance; soft fabrics make everything feel comfortable. Don’t leave out an important sense: hearing.

Auditory features, like a babbling fountain or wind chimes, contribute to a relaxing backyard vibe by adding soothing sounds and creating a harmonious atmosphere. The gentle, rhythmic flow of water in a fountain can calm the mind and body. It mimics the sounds of a babbling brook, a gentle waterfall, or a natural spring, creating an immersive experience that enhances the overall relaxation of your outdoor space.

The gentle tinkling produced by wind chimes can be a gentle reminder to be more present and mindful. As the wind moves through them, the melodic tones can capture your attention and help you focus on the present moment.

15. Add in fun & games

Group of friends playing bocce ball

Your backyard space should be multi-functional: relaxing and tranquil but also fun. With the growing trend of outdoor kitchens and living rooms, backyard parties have been given a new life, and there’s no better time to brush off your hosting skills than summer.

No matter the age of your guests, everyone always seems ready for outdoor games. Lawn games like cornhole, giant connect four, ladder ball, bocce, and giant Jenga are great ways to spark friendly competition and camaraderie.

If kids are part of your guest list, make them feel included. Designate a “kids' table” that is covered with white butcher paper and crayons so they can draw until their hearts are content; set up a chalk drawing station; plug in a bubble machine. The fun doesn’t have to end when the sun goes down; stock up on flashlights for a game of nighttime tag while the parents sip some wine and savor the evening.

Marigold Residence 3 outdoor room at New Haven by Brookfield Residential in Ontario Ranch CA

New Haven Community, Ontario, California 

Refreshing your backyard space can be a rewarding project without breaking the bank. Get creative and have fun transforming your outdoor oasis! Check out our other blog post for even more outdoor entertaining tips to ensure your home becomes the designated hangout this summer. You can also explore where we build and connect with our sales team when you’re ready to learn more. We’ll be expecting you!