5 Step Backyard Makeover

Create the perfect backyard using timber decking, bright, bold colours and casual outdoor furniture 

A pergola beside a pool in a backyard

Follow these tips to create a beautiful contemporary space in your garden

The key to a great outdoor space is clever design and getting the essentials like shade and furnishings just right.
When it comes to current trends, tasteful furniture that blends with the surrounding setting is out, and unusual colourful pieces are in.
Recent trends have seen a move towards bolder pieces, from sharp edged, minimalist architecture to daring colours and movable art that creates a sense of drama.

Here are five handy tips to create your own backyard sanctuary.

1. Extend with a timber deck

Decking creates usable space on any slope. Whether at ground level or cantilevered from an upper storey, a deck is a cost-efficient way to extend a living area outside. 


Go for softwoods such as treated pine or more durable hardwoods such as blackbutt.
‘My favourites are tallowwood and spotted gum,’ says Matthew Cantwell, landscape designer and director of Secret Gardens of Sydney. ‘If the budget allows, teak is one of the best decking timbers as it’s very durable and weathers beautifully.’
Australian hardwood species are a good option as many are naturally termite resistant. If you’re in a bushfire-prone area choose blackbutt or spotted gum, found to be more fi re retardant than other species, partly because they are so dense.


Oil the deck for a rich finish or let it weather naturally, depending on how much extra maintenance you’re willing to do over the years. An oiled finish needs redoing at least twice a year.


Consider the details as you would for an inside space. Toughened glass or tightened marine wire on balustrades can add glamour, as can built-in lights and deep, wide stairs that double as extra seating.

2. Putting up shade 

Shade is essential for maximum usage of an outdoor area and the ideal is to create it naturally, by planting trees in the right spot.
Other options include a permanent pergola with a fixed or movable roof. It is best to build a pergola with a perspex or polycarbonate roof to shelter from rain and sun.
'If the area faces north or northwest a plasterboard ceiling with downlights gives plenty of light. If the area faces south and natural light is at a premium a more lightweight roof covering would be preferable, such as timber slats,' says Matthew.
Market umbrellas are handy for smaller spaces. For bigger spaces, effective options include wall-fixed, retractable awnings. 

3. Setting out the furniture 

The biggest shift in outdoor furniture trends is to a more casual approach, favouring comfortable seating rather than formal dining table suites.

Comfort first

There’s a vast range of outdoor lounge settings and various other seating such as beanbags, hammocks and swinging chairs available. These have replaced the more formal dining settings as the most popular accessories for outdoors.

Fabric and finishes

Synthetic wicker remains popular but it’s the latest technology in weatherproof material that’s the biggest boost to modern styling and comfort. Look for reasonably priced cushions with solution-dyed acrylic fabrics.

Bright is right

Spaces that were originally set up to look sophisticated, especially if they were decorated more than a year ago, can start to look shabby. Injecting splashes of colour instantly modernises and adds a sense of fun.
To counteract the weathering, paint a courtyard wall, replace the bench of the built-in barbecue, paint the concrete pathway or update with bright furniture.

4. Using paint

The trend in paints is towards vibrant greens influenced by nature, and shades of indigo and purple. Black is also back and being used for small spaces for a dramatic effect.
With the weathered look also fashionable, paint finishes that give an aged appearance are also popular, as are shiny and textured finishes, from timber washes to stone paints and metallic finishes.

5. Smart Storage 

Another trend is to maximise space and storage with built-in options, like a customised bench seat made from the same timber as the deck and topped with weatherproof cushions.
Bench seats that open up to provide storage beneath are good for stashing kids’ toys, garden gear or the cushions when not in use. 

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