How to Make Your Backyard Look Amazing—Without Spending a Fortune

It’s officially al fresco season, which means that, like many of you, I’m focused on transforming our outdoor space into a cozy retreat that feels like an extension of our home. My own backyard is so central to our family’s everyday life, and we’ve designed it for enjoying the things that capture the essence of summer: laid-back conversations, rosé pours on repeat, and chill vibes on hot nights.

But if you’ve ever designed an outdoor space, you know that costs can add up quickly—from hardscaping to landscaping to adding furniture and décor. Our own backyard has been a 12-year evolution (get caught up here), and our strategy has typically been to tackle one project a year. This “phased out” approach allows us to be more thoughtful with our design, plus it’s more realistic from a budgeting standpoint than trying to do it all at once.

This summer, we set our sights on the big wood deck overlooking our vegetable gardens. Adam and his dad built this deck last summer, and up until this point, it’s been an empty space that’s bursting with possibility. So, to show just how simple and affordable good outdoor design can be, I’m transforming the deck using my favorite finds from today’s partner, Target. There’s no doubt that when it comes to home décor (and most other things in life) Target is where I turn when I want high-quality and chic design—at a great price.

So, let’s dive in. I’ll show you the “before” so you can see the blank slate we were working with. Then, I’m spilling all the details on every beautiful and wallet-friendly find from Target that brought me to the final look. And of course, I’ll share all the affordable backyard design tips I used to get me there. Summer hangs have never felt (or looked) this good.

Make It Cozy and Inviting

Backyard design can be intimidating (and expensive) when you’re looking at the entire space at once. So, let’s break it down. Instead of trying to do it all at once, focus on one section or “room” at a time. Create a cozy nook where you can unwind and make memories on those balmy summer nights. You don’t need perfection around every corner—all it takes is one cozy, well-designed space for memorable summer nights outside.

Know Your Planting Zone

Potted plants are one of the quickest ways to add lushness to a space. But take it from me, if you want your plants to come back summer after summer, it’s important to know your planting zone. After losing our plants in the Texas freeze, we now only plant hearty plants that come back year after year. Time and money saved? Check. Trust me, it’s so worth the extra planning.

Opt for a mix of potted plants and garden beds to add greenery and vibrant colors. Bonus points if you select low-maintenance varieties that require minimal effort to keep them looking their best.

Choose Multi-Tasking Furniture

Outdoor furniture can be a major investment. One way to maximize your space and budget is to select pieces that can play multiple roles. Tables that act as stools and vice versa are a great place to start. And while you’re at it, consider versatile décor items (like pitchers that double as a vase, citronella candles, etc.) for ultimate functionality.

And remember, outdoor furniture doesn’t have to be limited to traditional chairs and tables. Get creative with seating options to add personality and maximize space. Think cozy floor cushions, hammocks, or even repurposed wooden crates topped with cushions. These alternatives can be budget-friendly and create a relaxed and inviting atmosphere.

Know Your Sunny (And Shady) Spots

If you’re planting a vegetable garden, this tip is vital. But it’s also important to consider when you’re setting up a space that’s prime for summer hangs. Shade is ideal for obvious heat protection, but it’ll also prevent sun bleaching and make your furniture last longer. Install an umbrella over your dining area or invest in a retractable awning. You can also create natural shade with strategically placed pergolas, trellises, or even tall plants and trees. Your skin will thank you, and your furniture will last longer, too!

Embrace the Power of Lighting

Lighting sets the mood and adds enchantment (and utility) to your outdoor space. Hang string lights or lanterns above your dining area for a cozy ambiance. Consider solar-powered pathway lights to illuminate your garden and create a magical nighttime experience. Don’t forget candles—they provide a warm and intimate glow for those memorable summer evenings.

Lighting is the finishing touch that makes a major impact. Whether you opt for café lights or candles and lanterns, create a magical glow that lights up the space after sunset.

Give Outdoor Spaces the Indoor Treatment

Don’t stop at large furniture items when decking out your outdoor space. A few easy décor touches go a long way in making the backyard feel as inviting as your living room. All-weather pillows, throws, and rugs add texture and color—and are the quickest way to transform your patio into a cozy sanctuary. Don’t be afraid to mix patterns and textures to create a visually appealing and inviting space.

Remember, designing your backyard should be a fun and creative process. With a little planning and some affordable furniture finds, you can create a stunning outdoor retreat that reflects your style and enhances your summer experience. It’s all about creating a cozy haven where you can unwind and enjoy the season to the fullest. You got this!

You can shop the entire look on my Target storefront, where you’ll find all of my favorite Target buys for every space.

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15 Ideas to Bring Your Dream Backyard to Life (and a Backyard Tour Video!)

Warning: if you’re not prepared to be massively inspired to take up a weekend project, turn away now. Nothing gets me to Home Depot faster than an image of a pretty outdoor space popping up on my Pinterest board. And, better or worse for you, I’m about to bombard your eyes with beautiful backyard landscaping ideas that will put a shovel in your (or your unassuming partner’s) hand in no time.

If you’re starting from scratch, backyard design is a huge undertaking—mentally, physically, and financially. Just take it from Camille, recalling her backyard plans: “Typically, we tackle one big project a year, and after 12 years of living here, our home is so much closer to our ultimate vision. Though I doubt we’ll ever really be finished.”

New Video! Tour Camille’s Backyard below:

However, no matter what type of space you’re working with, there are steps you can take right now (as in, this weekend!) toward designing your dream backyard. This leads me to an obvious step number one: you must first answer the question, “What is my dream backyard?”

How to Determine Your Dream Backyard: A Formula

Here’s how to do it. First, name your top three needs. How should your backyard serve you? For example:

  • Do you want a space that’s ready for hosting at all times?
  • Do you want to grow your own flowers or build a vegetable garden?
  • Do you need a big green lawn for kids and pets to play?
  • Is there a patio that needs tending?
  • Do you want to grill or cook outside?

Next, name your top three wants.

  • How do you want your backyard to make you feel? Relaxed, inspired, motivated, at peace, etc.
  • Are there any design styles you want to lean into? Curated, overgrown, Mediterranean, desert-inspired, etc.

After some soul searching, you might come up with something like this: “I need my backyard to serve my family by offering a safe and inviting place for my kids to play, an inspiring area to relax and enjoy a meal, and a cozy seating area for morning coffees outside. I want my backyard to lean into European vibes with native plants and vintage (yet sturdy) pieces so it feels like an outdoor oasis when I step outside.”

Now that you’ve determined your dream space, it’s time to get started. Ahead, I’m sharing 15 backyard landscaping ideas to make it happen. Filter each one through your parameters and have that shovel at the ready—inspiration abounds.

1. Terrace the Land to Make Full Use of a Sloped Lot

If your property has any sloping, lean into it by building the backyard on different levels. There’s not much you can do on a hillside without building terraced walls and bringing in a ton of dirt to fill them in. It’s a big job—but think of it as the foundation upon which your dream backyard will grow.

2. Create a Master Plan

When dealing with a large outdoor space, it’s important to start by creating a master plan that defines a purpose and use for every different area. You might want to carve out a space for dining, an area for your kids to play sports, or maybe you want to leave a spot to add a pool someday… then you can tackle each area in phases, with a vision for where you’re ultimately headed.

See more from Jessie De Lowe’s Santa Barbara backyard.

3. Frame Your Spaces (or “Rooms”)

If you have a number of different areas in your yard (patios, decks, pools, a garden, private spaces) it’s best to imagine them as separate rooms. Then lay out different materials like stones or shrubs to mark each area of the space. From there, it’s a matter of filling in with plants and furniture—which you’ll likely still continue to do over time.

See more from the Grit and Polish’s family-friendly backyard.

4. Create an Outdoor Living Room

Speaking of spaces and rooms, the outdoor living room is likely where guests will find themselves lounging the most. So think of it as such! Choose comfortable furniture and various stools that can also act as tables for drinks or snacks. Keep an outdoor storage bin for necessities all year round—from cozy throws to bug repellents.

5. Consider Gravel Over Grass

If mowing is the bane of your existence, consider laying gravel (or turf if you still require a green space). Depending on your style and needs, hardscaping some gravel paths might be the key to your dream design.

See more from Alison Carroll’s desert backyard.

6. Create Pathways

As you’re thinking of the “rooms” in your backyard, consider how the spaces work together in terms of connection. Carve out a walkway—either with gravel, large pavers, or both. Pathways prevent that disjointed feeling and truly bring the design all together.

7. Install a Fire Pit

One of our favorite design ideas, the outdoor fireplace cannot be ignored. When it comes to backyard landscaping ideas, there must be a focal point. It might be a water feature or a fountain—but we’re partial to the fire pit. From wood-fired pizzas in spring to s’mores in the fall, it’s just hard to beat the ambiance.

Image left: Camilla Marcus’ California backyard. Image right: Laurel Galluci’s Los Angeles backyard.

8. Carve Out Spaces for Lounging or Dining

If your outdoor living area doesn’t support it, a cozy spot for hanging out is a must. Keep in mind that it could (and maybe should) also pass as an outdoor dining area. This is where you’ll linger over everything from coffee and a good book to BBQ and cocktails. Bring in romantic café chairs or long benches to fit your vibe.

9. Make Privacy Pretty—and a Priority

It won’t be going out on a limb to assume that most people are going to want some privacy in their backyards. Whether it be a fence, wandering vines, tall hedges, or variations of shrubs, your privacy tactics can also support the overall design of the yard.

10. Work With Shaded Areas

If your yard doesn’t come with a topiary of trees (and perhaps even if it does), shade is crucial for optimal enjoyment. Consider a pergola or installing a porch where you’ll need a reprieve from the sun. But keep those sunny areas, too—especially if you’re considering a garden at any point.

11. Decorate With Planters in Containers

If you don’t want to hire a landscape designer, an easy place to begin is decorating with pots. Potted plants like succulents, greenery, or perennials can bring your yard to life. And—bonus!—it’s something you actually can do in only a weekend.

12. Use as Many Native Plants as Possible

First, find out what zone you’re in and then plant accordingly. Sure, you may want to plant all the Mediterranean plants like olives, lemons, and bougainvillea, but it’s risky to make those investments. Try buying the smaller versions of these plants you simply cannot deny so you can cover them if it freezes—and know you might lose a percentage of them each winter.

13. Plant a Backyard Garden

If you dream of building DIY raised garden beds, first choose an area of the yard that gets plenty of sun. Most vegetables and herbs thrive with as much sun as possible, so these are really happy. Then, consider installing drip irrigation. Drip sprinklers are pipes that run right under the top of the soil and are more eco-friendly since it deeply hydrates the roots without so much of the water evaporating into the air. You can even put them on a timer so that your garden gets watered both regularly and at the optimal time of day.

14. Hang String Lights

If you’re looking for a smaller, more affordable project, the answer is lighting. String lights are bang for your buck in terms of immediate ambiance and minimal effort. Even a small backyard can be transformed in just a few minutes with some simple lighting.

Image left: Camille’s backyard game night. Image right: Heather Taylor’s European-inspired backyard.

15. Make Space for Play

If “backyard” and “play” are synonymous for you but you’re trying to get away from a yard full of sun-bleached, forgotten toys—good news. All you really need for fun in the backyard is space and a few balls to kick around. Bring out the cornhole when you’re feeling competitive, install a pretty hammock, or hang a rope swing. Bet you’ll love it just as much as the kids.

To see some of these ideas in action, take a tour through Camille’s own space as she shares her favorite backyard landscaping ideas:

Setting the Mother’s Day Table—18 Inspired Ideas From My Own Backyard

Whether you’re a mom or a daughter, a grandmother, aunt, sister, or friend—Mother’s Day is a beautiful opportunity to celebrate the women in your life. It’s a day when I feel celebrated as a mother–but it’s also a time to show gratitude to my own mom and mother-in-law. And I can’t think of a better way to show my appreciation than by hosting a Mother’s Day brunch to celebrate—all of us!

Let’s be honest: moms are usually the ones that actually care about a beautifully set table, so it’s a perfect opportunity to be a bit more intentional with some simple Mother’s Day table decorations that will make her feel special. Scroll on for the all the inspiration from the table I set in my own backyard this year, along with simple Mother’s Day table ideas that will make your favorite women feel celebrated.

Here’s how to set a table for a simple and special Mother’s Day gathering:

Choose a decor theme

Hear me out: I’m definitely not a fan of cheesy party themes. But it can really help your decor process if you come up with a simple concept to tie the elements together. Here are a few ideas for Mother’s Day table themes that are chic, not corny:

Farmer’s market-inspired

Use fresh spring produce to decorate the table. An overflowing bowl of spring veggies, simple and sculptural artichoke hearts, or even cut citrus fruit can be a beautiful theme that ties it together.

Vintage vibes

Get inspired by her favorite decade and let it guide each element of your table design.

Pick a palette

A “theme” can be as simple as choosing a color combination and letting it guide every element of your table design, from food to flowers to place settings. I typically choose just two colors and use them throughout, for max impact with minimal effort.

Her favorite travel destination

Whether it’s Santa Fe, Paris, or anywhere with sun and sand, let her favorite getaway inspire the menu and decor.

Lay the foundation with linen and beautiful dinnerware

The quickest way to elevate any Mother’s Day table is to lay down a beautiful linen tablecloth and set the table with your prettiest dishes.

Here are my favorite products for setting the Mother’s Day table:

Blanco Stoneware Pitcher

Every table needs a simple white pitcher, and this one is sized perfectly for water, cocktails, lemonade—it’s the versatile pitcher you’ll reach for all the time. I love the handcrafted nature of this pitcher, as the unique variations make it feel really special.

Recycled Glass Tumbler

These handblown recycled glasses elevate anything you drink from them. Made in Oaxaca, these tumblers are dishwasher safe and super durable, and lend a relaxed, organic vibe to the Mother’s Day table. Sized perfectly for water, wine, or cocktails, I also love to fill them with votive candles or small blooms as a simple centerpiece.

Canyon Dinner Plates

These oversized stoneware dinner plates are made in Mexico, and their neutral palette and organic shape make them feel versatile enough for any occasion, but are especially perfect for setting the Mother’s Day table. Made of high-temperature glazed ceramic, this is dinnerware that you’ll keep forever—and I love that it’s dishwasher-safe.

Linen Table Throw

This casual 100% linen tablecloth adds texture and warmth to the Mother’s Day table. These are made in Lithuania, and the square size makes it versatile enough to use on square, round, or rectangular-shaped tables. It’s machine-washable, and I tend to embrace the linen’s natural wrinkles for a look that’s (perfectly) imperfect.

Creative Mother’s Day centerpiece ideas

When it comes to Mother’s Day table decorations, a beautiful centerpiece is usually in the mix—but it doesn’t have to be pricey or elaborate. Here are a few of my favorite simple centerpiece ideas for any spring gathering:

Fill a vase with daisies or chamomile flowers.

These inexpensive blooms can be found at just about any grocery store—I usually grab them in Trader Joe’s floral section. They’re happy, timeless, and instantly make any table feel bright and spring-y.

Decorate with seasonal produce.

I love this alternative to a traditional floral centerpiece. It’s simple, affordable, and takes zero floral arranging skills. Plus, you can eat the produce when it’s done serving its decor purpose, making it a zero-waste solution.

Fill a bowl with lemons

This easy breezy centerpiece is created from ingredients you probably have from the grocery store! Just fill a pretty bowl with lemons, limes, or any other citrus fruit. Tuck in a few herb sprigs for a pretty touch of green.

Add a few votives for sparkle.

Nothing beats the magical glow and flattering light of candles, so even for a daytime gathering, I love to scatter a few votive candles down the center of the table as a final touch.

Unique ideas for Mother’s Day place settings

Now that you’ve got the tablecloth on and the centerpiece set, it’s time to add a special touch to each place setting. Here are some simple and budget-friendly ideas to add a decorative twist to each place.

Tie a knot with your linen napkin

Elaborate napkin folds are a “no” for me, but I love the carefree look of a simple linen napkin, knotted and placed loosely on top of each plate.

Tuck in some fresh herbs or flowers

It doesn’t get simpler than adding a sprig or a small bunch of fresh herbs to each place setting. I like to use the woodier herbs for this, like rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage. Bonus points for making the table smell delicious!

Add a potted succulent

This cute idea for setting the Mother’s Day table provides a place setting and party favor in one. Just pickup some tiny succulent plants from your local nursery, add them to a small terra cotta pot or a teacup, and place on top of each napkin. Guests can take them home at the end of the gathering as a lovely reminder of the day.

Take a walk down memory lane

Print out a few favorite photos of your mom (or any women of honor in attendance) and scatter them around the table, or place on top of each napkin. It feels so personal, and is a great conversation starter to inspire walks down memory lane.

Add place cards

Although by no means required, a simple handwritten place card is a simple way to add a thoughtful touch to each setting. I especially love a place card for larger gatherings, as it removes any confusion about where to sit, and allows me to be intentional with who I sit next to one another.

Leave a sweet memento

Stock up on inexpensive muslin or linen bags from Etsy, then tuck in something special for each guest. I filled these with herb-infused bath salts, to inspire a moment of self-care.


Hope you loved these Mother’s Day table decoration ideas—be sure to tag us on Instagram to show how you set the table for Mother’s Day this year!

18 Mother’s Day Table Decoration Ideas