5 Interior Design Principles You Can Use In Your Backyard


The lines between indoor and outdoor living spaces continue to blur. Where backyards once consisted of a poured patio, a furniture set and a lawn space, modern backyards are like extensions of the home. Landscape design companies are flourishing these days, and while there are some differences in how we work (they may know more about soil composition, while I specialize in artistic motifs and color wheels) – the basic tenets are remarkably similar.

The following are 5 tried-and-true interior design principles that you can implement in your backyard:

  1. Be True To Your Design Style. Often, there is a notable disconnect between my clients’ interior and exterior spaces. While they implement their favorite colors, furniture and accents inside the home, they simply maintain whatever was present in the backyard when they moved in. While you don’t necessarily have to replace all of the hardscape features and landscaping, do work to incorporate your own design style. Add seasonal blooming plants in your favorite colors, choose patio furniture that matches your modern or more traditional taste, rip out any plants you don’t like and add more of the ones you do. Incorporate art or sculpture (See #4) that catches your eye. Slowly, but surely, your backyard design will begin to reflect your personal tastes and lifestyle.
  2. Use a Thoughtful Lighting Design. Think about the time and effort that (hopefully) went in to your home’s interior lighting design. You and your designer discussed who does what when, where and how often. From this information, she helped you create lighting design that balanced task lighting, safety lighting, and ambient lighting – and then you chose your light fixtures accordingly. Unfortunately, most backyard lighting designs are completely bereft of any forethought or planning. There are a couple of porch lights and perhaps a string of leftover twinkly lights from the holiday light collection – and that’s that.Instead, think about where you cook, dine and converse. Where do people enter and exit your backyard spaces? Are there pathways and stairs that need to be illuminated at night? If you’re completely redoing your backyard, you’ll have the luxury of hardwiring any necessary lighting additions. Otherwise, take advantage of high-quality solar options that come in a wide variety of aesthetic options. Don’t forget about the magic of a fire feature, which adds both lighting and ambience to the mix.
  3. Add Art and Sculpture. Use art and sculpture to guide the eye and add interest outdoors the same way you do indoors. Have a large expanse of exterior wall that’s visible from the patio or an outdoor seating area? Consider installing a large piece of art. It can be fun to hang art outdoors, and then surround it with plants and blooms that echo the shapes and colors found on the canvases. People aren’t used to seeing art displayed outdoors, which makes it that much more of a treat for your guests.
  4. Think About Profiles, Shapes, Colors and Textures. Instead of thinking about your favorite plants, which are certainly important, start thinking about plant colors, shape and textures. Just as a flower arranger carefully balances the heights of plant/flower stalks in a vase, the colors that sit in the forefront or foreground and the various textures of petals, stems and foliage – you can design a garden space that is just as thoughtful in its plant placement. If that isn’t your forte, sketch a proportional diagram of your backyard or plant beds, including the heights and dimensions of adjacent buildings and hardscapes. Bring it with you to for a consultation with a landscape designer and you’ll glean a wealth of information and suggestions about what would look best where. This will add considerable dimension, interest and appeal to the exterior landscape.
  5. Break the Backyard or Patio Into Zones. Large family rooms and/or most open floor plans need a little help when it comes to structure. We do this by creating obvious zones, that are divided up via furniture and area rugs. You can do the same thing in your backyard patio or garden using tall container plants, furniture and/or area rugs. Create distinct spaces for socializing, playing, dining and relaxing.

Turn a designer-esque eye towards your backyard this summer and wait for inspiration. Using a few basic design tenets will make your outdoor space more visually appealing, while simultaneously enhancing its functionality.

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Kristina Wolf Design creates memorable interiors in harmony with your personal vision, with minimal stress. Whether it’s a new home interior or the perfect color palette for a paint project, we'll deepen the connection between you and your home while honoring your objectives, schedule and budget.

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260 Alvarado Rd
Berkeley,CA 94705
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Kristina Wolf Design, Inc., Interior Decorators & Designers, Berkeley, CA