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The First Things Guests Notice About Your Backyard, According to Experts

If you want your backyard to feel like an outdoor oasis, follow this advice.

We put so much effort into making our home's interior spaces look just right, but if we're lucky enough to have a backyard, we may forget to see it with the same critical eye. The outdoor space definitely gets plenty of use, from a kids' play zone to al fresco dining, sunbathing, and entertaining. But when was the last time you gave it a good look from an aesthetic point of view? Keep reading to hear from home experts about the first things guests notice when they see your backyard.

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Seating Areas

outdoor furniture set

According to interior designer Chris Alexakis, founder of CabinetSelect, when entertaining in your backyard, you want the outdoor space to "feel like an extension of the home."

"From hammocks to lounge chairs, ensuring outdoor space has ample seating to choose from will ensure guests are cozy and comfortable," says Yasmine El Sanyoura, home designer at the real estate website Opendoor. "Be sure to invest in outdoor throw pillows to add a pop of color and texture to outdoor seats."

Alexakis adds that outdoor dining areas and entertainment options like fire pits or outdoor TVs can also bring the indoor feeling outside.


party in a backyard

A big part of the look and feel of your backyard is the landscaping, meaning plants, flowers, grass, and other greenery.

"An unmaintained lawn is not only a curb appeal deterrent but also sends a red flag to guests that the home isn't taken care of," cautions El Sanyoura.

Of course, you'll want to maintain your lawn regularly to keep it healthy and green. El Sanyoura also suggests having your trees pruned and weeds pulled. And she likes having "colorful seasonal flowers" on display. Alexakis recommends adding various plants of different colors and textures "to create visual interest and depth."

Ben Hilton, founder and editor of The Gardening Fix, shares another idea, which is to create a focal point that will instantly attract guests' attention. "A bright colorful flowering magnolia or cherry blossom [tree] can be used to great effect in the center of an open lawn or courtyard." In the fall, he says Maple, Ginkgo, or Sweetgum trees add a beautiful burst of color.

To Hilton's point, if space and budget allow, El Sanyoura loves using a water feature as a focal point. "From waterfalls and fountains to ponds and pools, water elements can add visual impact to a backyard."

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Friends Hugging in the Yard

If you'll be entertaining guests once the sun goes down, lighting is key.

"A well-designed lighting scheme can highlight key features of the space, create mood and ambiance, and add an extra layer of visual interest," says Matt Hagens, founder of Obsessed Lawn.

Joel Worthington, president of Mr. Electric, says some great ways to elevate your backyard in this way are to add post lighting, install underwater lights in a pool, use flood or bullet lights to highlight trees or architectural features, and string hanging lights along covered porches or pergolas.

The Smells

young friends grilling outdoors

One of the unique things about hosting guests in your backyard is the ability to prepare food over an open flame—and if you've got something good cooking, the smell will be one of the first things they notice.

"Nothing says 'welcome' like the mouth-watering aroma of grilled delights wafting through the air," says lawn and garden expert Nicolas Wayne, founder of Nicolas Lawn. "Set up a BBQ station complete with all the bells and whistles, and you'll have friends lining up for a taste of your famous burgers."

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A backyard sand pit filled with toys
Chalermkhwan Sookprajop / Shutterstock

Even though it's outside, your backyard can still feel cluttered and messy to guests.

"Unfortunately, too many gardens show signs of everyday life in center stage. The kid's sand pit, washing lines, above-ground pools, and trash cans," says Hilton. "The goal should be to make the space open and flat, with the focal points taking center stage."

If you have a lot of kids' playthings in the yard, Wayne suggests designating a certain area for them, so things will look neat while still allowing little guests to have fun.

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