This was a fun backyard project that we did in Richmond in collaboration with North Shore landscape designer, Theron Horton Design. Now that this project is complete, we’ve both had some time to reflect and compile our list of 10 landscape design and outdoor furniture tips to transform any backyard into an outdoor oasis.

1. Take a thorough inventory of the space you have. Which areas are getting sunlight, which areas are getting rain? This will affect what you can plant and where, and where you’ll want to put your seating, dining or kitchen areas.

2. Prioritize your wish list. Make a list of every amenity you dream of having in your outdoor space and assign each item a rank, in terms of how important they are to you.  Then work on a process of elimination for those items that just won’t fit. This works with the budget, too! Remember: Often, less is more. Don’t cram everything in, try and be mindful of the space you have, and maintain an uncrowded, open feel.

3. When the BIG DREAM ITEM is slightly out of reach. Don’t give up on the big dream items too soon. Maybe there’s a way to scale back your kitchen or pool feature to something smaller to fit your space and budget.

4. Put on your Practical Hat. Before you go ahead and rip up the lawn, ask yourself: is it easy to supply electricity, gas, water, drains where they will be needed for what you’re planning?

Landscape: Theron Horton Design
Photography: Carsten Arnold Photography

“This may look like a simple post-and-beam pergola to shelter the dining area, but it required a ton of planning: where to place the posts for foot and the rain chain, building strategically placed beams to host copper eaves troughs on the outside and heaters on the inside – plus support rafters to offer shade and preserve light. And it all had to look good too!” – Theron Horton of Theron Horton Design. 

5. How will you use your outdoor space? Who is using your backyard? Is it just you, or are you entertaining big groups? What will people do in your backyard? Quiet time, activities, dining? Answering the who and the what will help you decide on everything from privacy shrubs to moveable poufs to how to light your pathways.

6. Plan for all seasons. There’s no need to limit backyards and patios to summer only. Building flexibility and versatility into your outdoor living space will enhance your enjoyment for years to come.

7. Match your indoor furniture. Selecting furniture and accessories that not only compliment the landscape, but loosely match your interior furnishings will blur the line between the indoors and outdoors, and expand your living space, year-round. In this project, the teak Gloster collections compliment the wood beam structures.

Landscape: Theron Horton Design
Photography: Carsten Arnold Photography

“The Gloster Bay lounge collection perfectly compliments the zen landscape design that Theron created for this backyard space, with it’s teak-forward and minimalist design” – Nerissa of Ginger Jar Furniture.

8. Invest in quality outdoor pieces. You need fabrics and materials that stand up to rain, direct sunlight, West Coast wind and repeated use from garden parties and barbecues (while still offering you the look and comfort you love). While so called “fast fashion for the home” might have a smaller price tag up front, they cost more in the long run.

9. Don’t get forced indoors—add some shade. Full sun is great if you’re swimming, but not if you’re trying to read outside without your face melting off. If your landscaping doesn’t offer any tree cover, there are myriad umbrella options. Some umbrellas tilt or have rotating arms, while wheel-based umbrellas can move shade to where you need it. Mounted parasols are also a great option and don’t take up much space. 

10. Gentle, indirect lighting is best. This is a place to relax and socialize; so avoid installing glaring spotlights or harsh lighting options. Lanterns (solar powered, rechargeable LED or plug-in) are a great decorative addition to create ambiance—plus they are portable. Pro Tip: If you need security lights, have them switched separately so they can be off while you are relaxing outside.

Excerpts taken from the Western Living Magazine article written by Daphne Dilworth. To see the original article, visit: