Group of friends having backyard dinner party together.

Creating Your Summer Haven: 12 Ideas to Transform Your Backyard

Enjoy a lovely and relaxing summer from the comfort of your own backyard this year!

We all have summer things we like to do and places we love going. Maybe you’re a beach bum or addicted to weekend camping. Perhaps you head to the local pool daily or spend time at the nearby bar to enjoy their summer cocktails.

However you like to spend your summers, you can curate your backyard to suit your summer spirit. Bring all your favorite things about summer to your home with these creative and unique backyard transformation ideas.

Create a Campsite

Backview of a man sitting by a backyard fire.
Image Credit: Kristen Prahl and Shutterstock

One of the worst parts of camping is leaving your home and all its creature comforts behind. But if you create a rustic and woodsy campsite in your own backyard, you can have the best of both worlds.

Embrace the camping vibe this summer by adding a fire pit, tent, camping games, tiny outdoor kitchen, and other camping items to your space. A little grill or hot plate can be your outdoor kitchen.

You can set up a hammock if you have trees and relax in the shade, roast hot dogs or marshmallows with friends, and sleep under the stars in a comfy tent. Since the camping site lives in your backyard, you can slowly upgrade it throughout the season!

Set up a Small Pool

Family playing together in wading pool.
Image Credit: KOTOIMAGES and Shutterstock

If you want a poolside summer, you need a pool. However, you don’t need to spend $30,000 on an in-ground pool. They’re not as refined and lavish, but above-ground pools, kiddie pools, and inflatable pools are still fun ways to cool off. And the small pool doesn’t have to be the only water-related addition.

You can also add sprinklers, slip-n-slides, and other water features to make your backyard a refreshing place to hang out. Include floaties, towels, squirt guns, and other poolside essentials.

Make a Nighttime Nook

Summer evening on the patio of beautiful house with lights in the garden.
Image Credit: Ground Picture

While the summer sun can be delightful, those warm summer nights are something special. For people who love summer evenings, create a nighttime nook where you can retreat at the end of each day.

Make sure there is a comfortable place to sit and ambient, warm lighting. You can use fairy lights, candles, lanterns, tiki torches, or any other inviting light. The space should feel intimate and warm, so avoid harsh, bright lighting.

Add a cute bookshelf for reading, a built-in speaker for jamming, or an ongoing project like knitting waiting for you outside.

Nurture a Secret Garden

woman gardening flowers n her backyard.
Image Credit: Dejan Dundjerski and Shutterstock

Many of us dream of having a thriving and colorful garden. This is the summer to do it. This backyard transformation takes a fair amount of work, but it’s worth it.

Plant a variety of vibrant flowers and luscious plants that will fill your backyard with life. If you don’t want to do it, you can always hire professional landscapers to do the hard part.

Add a few pieces of charming furniture, like a wooden bench or cast iron table. Hang lanterns, install trellises or arches, and set up a trickling fountain. To achieve the secret garden vibe, ensure your backyard has decent privacy, creating that serene solitude.

Create an Outdoor Arts and Crafts Studio

smiling happy kid painting in backyard.
Image Credit: Volodymyr TVERDOKHLIB

You can make this an colorful and crafty summer by turning your backyard into a creative art studio. We especially love this idea if you have kids who you need to keep entertained all summer, but you definitely don’t need kids to enjoy an artsy summer.

The backyard is the best place for messy art, like finger painting or balloon dart art. You can also use natural materials in your backyard to make crafts, like painted rocks or pinecone decor.

Build and paint birdhouses for the backyard, or spend the summer tie-dying towels on your porch. Let your creativity loose this season!

Set up a Cinema

Happy couple having movie night with friends in the backyard.
Image Credit: Drazen Zigic and Shutterstock

Why watch the biggest summer blockbuster on your boring TV when you could set up a fabulous movie theater outside? All you need is a projector, speaker, blank sheet or canvas, and probably some extension cords.

Make this the summer of cinema and host Friday movie nights, or work your way through a list of the all-time best classic movies. You can even step it up with a popcorn machine or soft-serve ice cream. With some bean bag chairs, pillows, and blankets, it’ll be more comfortable than your local movie theater.

Design a Dining Space

Friends having dinner party outside.
Image Credit: Gorodenkoff and shutterstock

If you’re an accomplished home cook or love to be the host with the most, transform your backyard into the ultimate outdoor dining and entertaining space. If you don’t already have a nice outdoor dining table, this is your moment to get one that will become the focal point of your backyard.

You can go big and add an outdoor kitchen and backyard bar, but they’re not necessary. Just curate a table and dining atmosphere that people will never want to leave. A thoughtful tablescape, comfy dining chairs, and some shatterproof glasses are essentials for the season of outdoor dinner parties.

Curate a Personal Resort

woman meditating doing yoga in backyard.
Image Credit: HD92 and Shutterstock

Who doesn’t want to stay at a luxury resort and spa? But who can afford it? Not us, so this summer, we’re going to turn our backyard into a personal resort and spa.

To capture the resort vibe, consider adding an affordable hot tub or bringing in tropical plants. Picture your dream resort in your mind, and then add items and features to replicate that vibe in your backyard.

For this idea, we encourage you to personalize the space to fit your definition of lavish serenity. That might mean a designated yoga and meditation area, lounge chairs in the sun, tiny umbrellas in blended drinks, soft towels, or a foot bath.

Garden of Games

Family playing cornhole game by the sea on sunny summer day. Parents and children playing bean bag toss
Image Credit: Space_Cat and Shutterstock

Turning your backyard into a hub of lawn and garden games is a wonderful way to gather loved ones at your home this summer. You can set up games like cornhole, badminton, can jam, ultimate frisbee, giant Jenga, limbo, and much more.

This convivial atmosphere is perfect for adults and kids, making it easy for everyone to relax and have fun.

You don’t need to worry about entertaining guests because the games will do that. And you don’t even need to invite guests over to enjoy the games; you and your family can have a blast every day together.

Build a Beach

Wooden walkout deck in the backyard garden of blue siding house. Furnished with patio table set with umbrella
Image Credit: Artazum and Shutterstock

A DIY beach might sound impossible or at least expensive, but it might be easier than you think. A bag of soft play sand is shockingly cheap, less than $10, and you only need a few to create a mini beach.

Pair that with a kiddie pool, and you have a laidback, handmade beach. You also don’t need the pool if you’re happy just squishing your toes in the sand. Some big umbrellas, sand castle molds, towels, lawn chairs, and maybe a beach ball, and you’re in business — the business of sunning yourself.

Construct a Bar

Group of friends having backyard dinner party together.
Image Credit: DavideAngelini and Shutterstock

Few things are as pleasant as a cold cocktail on a hot summer day. If that’s your definition of a perfect summer, build a bar in your backyard. It can be as fancy or casual as you want, whether just a table with a few liquor bottles or a full bar with all the bells and whistles.

Make sure you have all the tools you need, like bottle openers, mixers, muddlers, shakers, strainers, coolers, and similar items. Stock up on liquor and liqueurs that you like, plus some fresh garnishes.

It’s also fun to invest in summer-themed glassware to give each drink that seasonal, sunny flair. Spend the season inventing new drinks that will wow your taste buds and friends.

Lay out a Lounge

Cozy wicker sofa set and hanging chair in the garden.
Image Credit: Ground Picture and Shutterstock

Too many people have uncomfortable patio furniture or cheap outdoor furniture. We get it; we love a bargain too. But if you want to create a comfy lounging area, we suggest investing in high-quality furniture.

Get some couches with extra cushioning (ideally weather-resistant cushions), spacious chairs, lounge chairs, side tables, and hanging chairs.

This should be a place that invites you to flop down and stretch out on the soft fabric. If you decide to make a luxurious lounge, total comfort should be your main goal, so only add premium materials and high-quality pieces.

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Veronica is a lifestyle and culture writer from Boston, MA, with a passion for entertainment, fashion, and food. She graduated from Boston University in 2019 with a bachelor's in English literature. If she's not in the kitchen trying new recipes, she's binging the latest HBO series, catching up on the hottest trends in Vogue, or falling down a research rabbit hole. Her writing experience ranges from global news articles to celebrity gossip pieces to movie reviews and more.
Her byline appears in publications like The Weather Channel, The Daily Meal, The Borgen Project, MSN, Wealth of Geeks, and Not Deer Magazine. She writes about what inspires her — a stylish Wes Anderson film, a clever cleaning hack, a surprising fashion trend. When she’s not writing about life's little joys, she’s keeping her dog away from rabbits and spending too much money on kitchenware.