This One Simple Dietary Change Healed My Gut Health Issues (Video!)

Over the last few months, I’ve made a major shift in my diet—and (as I was surprised to discover) it actually changed my life. I wanted to share the story with you because it’s taken me on a health journey where I’m learning so much and feeling inspired to create and share so many new recipes with you. The big change? I’ve stopped eating grains. Yes, the girl who’s always been a pizza / sourdough / taco fanatic is no longer eating wheat, corn, quinoa, or any other type of grain at all. Let me explain.

Turns out, eating a grain-free diet healed the gut health issues that have affected me for the last decade. For years, I’ve been plagued with digestive issues that have sent me to countless doctors and practitioners, and surprisingly, simply removing grains from my diet eliminated all my symptoms within days. So today, I’m going to share the biggest changes I’ve seen in my health since going grain-free. My hope is that my story could help some of you on your own health journeys because I believe we all deserve to be living our most high-energy and vibrant lives.

First, watch the video below where I walk you through my journey—I also get into some of the “bonus” healthy habits I’ve been incorporating every day to feel the best I’ve felt in YEARS. Then, scroll on for some of my top grain-free diet and gut health learnings:


Grain-free diet and gut health

If you know me, you know that much of my life revolves around food. I’m a passionate cook, I love to eat, and I create recipe and food content for a living. I’ve always preached the philosophy that there’s room for everything in your diet—and I still believe that—unless those foods are preventing you from living your most vibrant and energized life.

The ONE thing I’ve learned in my years of research about nutrition is that there is no one-size fits all diet. I want to be very clear from the beginning: Grains are not “bad.” Pizza is not “bad.” Sourdough bread is not “bad.” This is all about how specific foods make you feel, and I for one want to be eating in a way that supports my overall health. For my particular digestive system — and I’m learning, a lot of other people’s too — grains can be very hard on the GI tract, and there are a lot of hidden intolerances. This is a little more all-encompassing than a gluten-free diet, and it’s different than having celiac disease or a gluten-intolerance. Eating “grain-free” means eliminating gluten and wheat, and also corn, oats, quinoa, rice, buckwheat, rye, amaranth, and barley.


Dr. William Davis says in his book Super Gut (which I highly recommend for anyone dealing with unresolved digestive issues):

“Wheat and grain elimination removes an extravagant source of intestinal inflammation and begins the process of healing your GI tract. ”

He goes on to explain:

Gliadin (a protein found in wheat) is directly toxic to the intestinal wall. Removing gliadin thereby removes a potent bowel toxin. Gliadin also breaks down normal intestinal barriers, allowing foreign substances, including gliadin itself, entry into the bloodstream…

Just as opioid drugs such as oxycodone and morphine cause constipation, so do gliadin-derived opioids slow intestinal peristalsis and cause constipation. Slowed peristalsis is a major issue in many cases of SIBO, and it can be reversed in the majority with wheat and grain elimination… Just by eliminating all wheat and grains, many people report complete relief or marked improvement of bowel urgency, acid reflux, heartburn, and constipation.”


My gut health history

One thing I haven’t shared a lot about on the internet (until now) is my long-standing gut health issues. Yes, talking about sluggish digestion and extreme bloating is personal, but statistics show that nearly half of women struggle with digestive issues, so I think it’s time we normalize these conversations.

I actually don’t know the cause of my digestive issues. After seeing functional doctors, GI doctors, and undergoing lots of testing—no one has ever been able to give me an actual diagnosis (which is the case for most people suffering from digestive issues.) So like so many of you, I’m left to act as my own guinea pig and keep searching for something to help me feel better. And let me tell you, I have tried some things, including: 

  • Basically every supplement and probiotic on the market
  • Intermittent fasting 
  • Food combining
  • At-home SIBO tests
  • Making my own probiotic yogurt
  • Colonics
  • Hypnotherapy – yes, there is actually a school of hypnotherapy that claims to be able to heal the gut-brain axis and when you read about it, it makes a lot of sense, but it didn’t help me.
  • Tons of different elimination diets to see if it was a food allergy (no gluten, dairy, lectins, meat, night shades—but never cutting out all grains altogether). 

Even after all that, I still struggled with the same issues. I would sometimes think that I found a solution and then I would end up right back where I started, dealing with the same old issues for weeks on end.


What happened when I stopped eating grains

The solution came during one of my worst bouts of continuous bloating and sluggish digestion. I was re-reading Super Gut and came to the line where Dr. Davis said, “Removing wheat and grains yields substantial improvements in GI health that aid in your efforts to reverse dysbiosis, SIBO, and SIFO and regain overall health.”

Since I’d tried just about everything else, I figured, what did I have to lose? So, starting that very day, I didn’t eat any grains at all. It may sound restrictive, but thankfully I love so many things that aren’t in this category: fruits, vegetables, cheese, olive oil, avocados, meat, fish, pasta made with chickpeas.

I was still eating deliciously and abundantly, and here’s the part that is SO crazy I would not have believed it if I hadn’t experienced it personally: within 48 hours, my gut health issues that had plagued me for over a decade were completely resolved. And stayed that way. Over the next 3 months, I followed my grain-free diet and felt better than I had in years. My energy was sky high, I slept great, I had a normal appetite instead of feeling uncomfortably full all the time, and my stomach was flatter than I could ever remember (even though I hadn’t actually lost weight.) I felt amazing. 


Will I ever eat grains again?

The truthful answer is: I don’t know. Being the food lover that I am, I have tried reincorporating some of my favorites. The first thing I tried was corn, because, living in Austin—tacos are life. Our family went out for Mexican, I ate some delicious corn tortillas, and… the next morning, my digestion was off. So I got back on the grain-free wagon and within about a day, I was back on track.

The next thing I tried—a few bites of pizza, which I’m gonna admit, is my favorite food. But again, I woke up the next morning feeling the old bloat and I realized that no matter how good a few bites of pizza tasted in the moment, it wasn’t worth it for me to feel sluggish and gross all day. I loved the new way that I was feeling SO MUCH, that giving up some foods, even foods that I loved, was 100% worth it to feel this good.

And that brings us to the present! I think that I’ll try reintroducing grains in the future to see what happens, but right now I feel so good, I’m gonna stay off grains for the foreseeable future. It’s important for me to transparently share my journey with you because, although going grain-free may not work for everyone, I hope it can help someone. If you have unresolved gut issues, why not try eliminating grains for a week and just see how you feel?



Our gut health has a massive impact on our mood and energy levels, so taking time to figure out what works for your body is WORTH IT. And if you’re one of the many people also struggling with gut health issues, I promise that you really can feel great again. Keep looking for answers and experimenting until you find what works for you.

Leave me a comment if this resonates—I’d love to hear about your struggles in this area, what’s worked for you, and if you’d like to hear more about my grain-free journey! I have so many recipes and meal planning tips for this way of eating that I would love to share.

Everything I Packed for Japan—In a Single Carry-On (Video!)

I can’t believe that when you’re reading this, I’ll be in Japan! It’s my first trip to Asia, and if you watched my 30s bucket list video you’ll know that this is a place I’ve wanted to visit for a very long time. The purpose of the trip is twofold—we’ll be meeting with artisans and sourcing products for Casa Zuma, while also capturing all the beautiful, delicious, inspiring people and places that we’ll be sharing with you guys here on the site when we return.

This trip has been one of the more challenging ones I’ve ever planned. There is SO much to do and see in Kyoto and Tokyo that all of the recommendations I gathered in my research got kind of overwhelming. I narrowed them down as best as I could, then reminded myself that although this is my first trip, it won’t be my last. So I don’t have to do it all!

In general, I’m a pretty minimalist packer and challenge myself to get it all in a carry-on no matter where I’m going. I actually can’t remember the last time I checked a bag! I get a lot of questions from you guys about how I get it all in a carry-on (especially on international trips), so I figured—since I was already packing for this big trip, it seems like the perfect time to show you.

Watch the video below to see my packing process start-to-finish, then read on for a breakdown of my strategies.

Plan Your Outfits

If you only do one thing, make it this. Before a trip, I try on everything I’m going to wear while I’m traveling, both daytime and nighttime looks. This way, I can plan out my accessories and undergarments. (There’s nothing worse than getting to your destination and realizing you forgot to pack the right bra.) Most importantly, it keeps me from overpacking. I snap mirror selfies in every single outfit so I can refer back to the plan—then I pack only what’s included in those outfits (plus a set of pajamas and a couple swimsuits).

Check the Weather

Seems obvious, but there’s no reason to pack a jacket if the temps never dip below 70. I actually thought that Japan in September would require sweaters, but the forecast looks downright balmy. You also don’t want to be stranded without a sweatshirt when you need one. If I do bring a sweater or jacket, I usually take it on the plane with me as an extra layer and to save room in my carry-on.

The 3-Bag Rule

For every trip, I pack three bags: a carry-on suitcase, a large tote as my “personal item,” and a small bag that goes inside it. While I’m traveling, I use the small bag to carry my wallet, passport, and phone. Once I’m at my destination, the large tote becomes my day bag if I need to carry a lot of stuff with me, and the small bag becomes my nighttime bag. For our Japan trip, I brought my Away Carry-On (I love this one with the front pocket ), my Beis Small Weekend Bag (it fits under the plane seat), and my small Roméo bag that I’ll take all around the city with me.

The 2-Shoe Rule

You heard me—shoes take up the most room in your suitcase, so it really pays to conserve here. I wear my Common Projects sneakers on my flight, which then double as my casual sneaker with any outfit during the day. Then, I add my New Balance sneakers for hiking/working out, and a pair of cool flat sandals or ankle boots that can go from day to night. Trust me, you really don’t need anything else.

Streamline Your Toiletry Bag

This is my Achilles heel when it comes to packing, ’cause you guys know I love my toiletries. I use two bags: my Beis cosmetic case for skincare, and this smaller waterproof bag for my makeup. I keep my skincare bag always packed in my bathroom cabinet at home. It’s full of travel-sized versions of my skincare and hair stuff so it’s ready to go. When any of my mini bottles run out, I either replace or refill them from my larger containers at home. The morning of my trip, I do my makeup and then throw everything I used into my makeup bag, which then goes into my large tote.

The key is to only take the skincare and makeup that I use every day. For skin, a good cleanser, serum, moisturizer, eye cream, and sunscreen do the trick. For my makeup, I stick to my tried-and-trues: Dr. Jart BB Cream With SPF, my Laura Mercier Blush, bronzer/contour stick from Westman Atelier, Smashbox Halo powder, a black mascara, a couple lip conditioning sticks from Beautycounter, and my Anastasia Brow Wiz. Done and done.


I’m still obsessed with my iPad, and ever since I bought my Magic Keyboard, I haven’t needed to bring my laptop with me when I travel. The iPad + keyboard combo gets any job done. I toss it along with my iPhone and AirPods into my larger tote, and I have an extra charger for each that I always keep in the pocket of my carry-on so I never forget to bring it. One less thing to stress about the morning of a trip.

My Travel Uniform

Two words: layered and sporty. On the plane, I wear soft jeans or joggers, an oxford or linen button-down, an oversized sweater tied around my waist, and always my white Common Projects sneakers. Then I can curl up with the sweater if it’s chilly, and usually this sweater ends up being my go-to cool weather layer when I’m at my destination, too. Often, I travel home in the exact same outfit I wore on the way there.


And that’s pretty much it! It’s a flexible system that serves me well and takes the stress out of packing. Plus, I despise unpacking after a trip, so the less I have to unpack and wash the better.

What I Eat in a Day—Healthy, Easy Meals at Home (Video!)

Food is a major part of my life. Not only does recipe development, food styling, and writing about food make up a large percentage of my job (though granted, one that doesn’t feel like work)—making, learning about, and eating delicious food is one of my greatest passions in life. So, it’s probably no surprise that I love watching other people’s What I Eat In A Day episodes on social media. Especially when they’re created by other women who lead very full lives while still prioritizing healthful, bursting-with-flavor meals. I want all the details on how they do it.

A Note on ‘What I Eat in a Day’ Videos

On the flip side, most of us can relate to the tendency to compare our own eating habits to those of others, and one thing I’ve learned for sure through my years of research on diet and nutrition? There’s no one-size-fits-all “perfect diet” for anyone. The idea of bio-individuality is that each person has unique health needs and that our bodies react differently to various foods—which means that we can’t assume that just because one way of eating makes one person feel their best, it’s the best for us, too. Each of us has to discover our optimal diet by listening to our bodies, observing how we feel when we eat certain foods, and getting in tune with our own hunger and fullness signals.

With that as our foundation, we can approach What I Eat In a Day videos with a sense of curiosity and fun, as a source of inspiration for how we can fill our lives with a little more ease and deliciousness. I hope that my WIEIAD below sparks creative ideas in the kitchen, provides you with a few new recipes to try, and inspires you to keep it easy when life gets busy.

Watch the video, then scroll on for the sources and links that I mentioned. And if you have any questions, be sure to drop a comment on the Youtube episode. (And subscribe to our channel if you’re enjoying it!)

Wake-Up Call

First thing: I make a pot of coffee. I prep it the night before so that all I have to do is hit the “power” button for it to start brewing. Lately, I’ve been adding some steamed pistachio milk which adds a little sweetness without any actual sugar.

I drink my coffee during my journaling/morning routine time, then mix up my daily dose of AG1 to sip on while I help the kids get ready for school. I love that AG1 gives me a potent burst of vitamins, minerals, and probiotics first thing and lays the foundation for good eating choices ahead.


I’m learning a lot lately about the importance of getting sufficient protein in the morning, so I’ve been focusing a lot more on including high-protein food with my breakfast. Today it’s Greek yogurt—I like plain, full-fat varieties from Fage, Chobani, or Siggis. Then I add berries, banana, a drizzle of manuka honey, and a handful of my grain-free coconut granola that I meal prep every Sunday for the week ahead.

All-Day Water

Every morning, I fill up my big water bottle with filtered water, then I add a packet of Sunfiber (a prebiotic/probiotic blend that nourishes good gut bacteria—it’s invisible and completely tasteless) and a packet of LMNT electrolytes which helps me stay high energy and makes my water taste really good which keeps me sipping all day. I’m a fan of all the flavors, but watermelon is probably my top choice.


When it comes to work-from-home lunch, I’m a creature of habit. Some days I’ll eat leftovers from last night’s dinner, or I’ll throw together a salad with whatever veggies and proteins I have in the fridge. More often than not, I’ll make an open-faced sandwich/toast situation with an egg, avocado, and some fresh veggies. It’s a combination I never get tired of, and I always feel good at lunch when I consume a good balance of protein, healthy fats, and fiber.


We try to eat dinner as a family several nights a week, which anyone with kids old enough to have after-school sports and activities knows: it can be a challenge. I get a lot of questions about how to feed different members of the family when you’ve got picky eaters (YEP), and often my approach focuses on making components of dinner that can be eaten in different ways or disassembled to suit different tastes.

Case-in-point: this Hot Honey Glazed Salmon is one of my favorite weeknight meals for its ease and off-the-charts deliciousness. It’s easy for Henry to eat the salmon on its own with a side of rice and some cut-up cucumber spears. If someone in the family doesn’t like heat, just leave the glaze off one of the salmon fillets and season it simply with salt and pepper. Make it low-carb by swapping the rice for cauliflower rice. Let people add their own coconut crunch at the end to suit their liking. This one is infinitely customizable and also feels like a really nourishing end to the day that comes together in less than 30 minutes.

Bedtime Snack

I try to avoid mindless snacking at bedtime, but I also cannot stand to go to bed hungry, so I just try to listen to my body and eat something if I feel like I need it. I always have a cup of tea (decaf chai or bedtime tea) with a little steamed pistachio milk or whole milk, which usually does the trick. If I need something more, I might have a handful of my coconut granola—or a scoop of ice cream, which is my absolute favorite thing in the world.


Step Inside Our New Home Office (Video Tour!)

Today, I’m excited to reveal a space in our house that I’ve never actually shown you guys before. Up until now, it’s been my least favorite room in our home. Welcome to our home office! Aka that one room in the house where we threw all the stuff we didn’t know what to do with. But no longer! After being in our house for over a decade, Adam and I decided it was finally time to show this room some love and transform it from a cramped, awkward room into one where we could be creative, have meetings, and collaborate on Casa Zuma together.

As many of you know, we built our house 13 years ago. It’s a never-ending project (which is how we like it), and we’re hitting that time when we naturally want to give some areas of the house a freshen up. We’ve evolved and our taste has evolved along with it—but the challenge is to update our home in ways that make sense as an investment and don’t totally blow our budget.

Layout challenges

This home office space has always been one of our most challenging areas. First, the layout makes it tricky—each of the walls has either a door (to the bathroom or a closet) or a window that faces the front of the house, and it feels a bit awkward to have the desk sitting in front of any of these areas.

We also installed a lot of built-ins in the room in an effort to create a lot of storage. While we did accomplish that goal, the permanency of built-in shelves and cabinetry limited how much we could rearrange the room.

How we use this space

Adam and I use this space to meet with each other and people we’re working with, brainstorm projects we’re working on together, and this is also the space that Adam uses for his zoom calls every day. (You guys may remember that I do my solo work and zoom calls my calls in the little front alcove office off our kitchen.)

First, we rearranged the room

The biggest change we made to this room was reorienting where the desk was. We’ve always had it at one end of the narrow room, which didn’t foster any type of collaboration. Only one person could use the desk at a time, and the sunlight was so harsh coming in through the window that we always had to keep the shade down to minimize glare (which made the room feel like a cave.)

So, we decided to move the desk to the center of the room and it changed everything. In this new configuration, the desk feels more like a worktable. It’s way more collaborative, and the room itself just feels more open and expansive. I love when the biggest change to a space is the one that cost zero dollars.

Built-in shelving: pros and cons

Let’s start by talking about the built-ins. Although they did present some challenges to rearranging this space, they do have their pro’s. So rather than ripping them out and starting from scratch, we decided to lean into what was already in the space and see if we could make them over with simplified styling. Here are the details on these shelves and cabinets:

  • Material: unstained white oak with a clear laquer
  • Size: 3″ thick—if I were installing these today, I would go with a 2″ thick floating shelf. The steel bracket is installed behind the sheetrock so these can hold a lot of weight.
  • Pro: They provide a ton of storage, and look more streamlined than having lots of furniture in the room.
  • Con: They’re pretty permanent, and restrict how much we can rearrange the space without demo’ing the built-ins (which would be pricey.)

Shelf styling 101

As mentioned, we kept the built-in shelves and gave them new life simply by changing up the styling and what we put on them. In general, I think the biggest hurdle with open shelving is overcoming the temptation to clutter them up with lots of stuff. So the first thing I always do is remove everything. Then I can take a fresh look and decide what I really want to add to the shelves.

For this space, I focused mainly on design books that would creatively inspire us, plus samples and prototypes that we’re working on for Casa Zuma products. I did my best to keep the shelves minimal and streamlined, since I want this space to feel really airy and calm.

A unique home office desk—and the perfect chair

This “desk” is actually a teak dining table from Crate and Barrel that we’ve had forever, proving—it pays to think beyond traditional “office furniture” when designing a home office space. Peruse dining tables and dining chairs from your favorite retailers for outside-the-box options that may fit better with your aesthetic.

I’m obsessed with this desk chair from Lulu and Georgia. It is so chic, and perfectly marries functionality and ergonomics with beautiful design. It’s super comfy.

Window shades and curtains

I get tons of questions from you guys about our window treatments, and I’m not surprised—curtains and shades are one of those design decisions that can get really confusing. All of the window treatments in our home are from Graber, and I shared all about them in this Window Treatment Do’s and Don’t’s article awhile back.

Here was the challenge in our home office space: we love having lots of natural light, and also wanted a clear view to the front yard to see when people drive up. But when we’re doing a lot of computer work or on a Zoom call, we need some light filtering to minimize glare on his screen. So, we went with a two-part solution:

First we installed sheer curtains that let in tons of light. One design trick is to install the curtain rod a few inches higher and wider than the window frame itself—it makes the window look bigger, and you can pull the drapery fully back to let as much light in as possible. 

Next, shades. If you work on a computer a lot like we do, it’s important to minimize glare on the screen, especially in the afternoon when the sunlight shines directly through the window. So we needed a way to block the light without making this room feel like a cave. These solar shades are made to allow light to filter into the room, but they block out the harsh light that creates a glare.

Shop our office with an exclusive discount

Since many of the new items in our office space are from Lulu and Georgia, the brand shared an exclusive discount code just for you guys so you can shop these pieces for yourself. Get 15% off with the code CAMILLESTYLES15.


And if you have questions about anything in this space, head on over to the video tour on Youtube and drop a comment—I’ll be answering them all over there!

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: