9 Backyard Design Trends Inspiring Us in 2020

As the world changes, the world of background design trends seems to be changing, too. This year marked a new decade full of possibilities. As we inch towards summer, there’s a lot more uncertainty. However, some incredibly positive trends are emerging.

As human beings, we’ve become more family-focused and aware of what’s important. We seem to be more interested in proactively making positive changes in our lives. We also seem more collectively aware of our impact on the world as a whole.

These societal attitude shifts are translating directly into backyard trends. The exciting thing is that these trends are also pretty awe-inspiring. They have me wanting to spend even more time in my backyard.

If you’re looking for a little inspiration for your outdoor space, here are nine of our favorite backyard design trends for 2020. 

Trend #1: A Focus on Sustainability

Image of a seedling sprouting in a lightbulb, showing the concept of sustainability

Sustainability isn’t a new concept. People have been environmentally aware and moving towards eco-friendly design for a while. In 2020, this focus extends to backyard design trends, too.

There’s a significant rise in the use of solar lights, drought-tolerant landscaping, composting, and drainage systems. This year, we’re seeing more excitement surrounding low-emission lawn mowers, permeable pavers, and programmable irrigation systems.

People are also shifting towards more sustainable materials for their decks and outdoor furniture. Reclaimed wood and other recycled materials have gained momentum over less environmentally friendly alternatives like plastic or steel.  

There’s even been a significant uptick in backyard farms, home gardening, and chicken ownership since the coronavirus started, which takes personal sustainability to a whole new level. Overall though, sustainability has moved from just a catchy buzzword to one of the most significant backyard design trends for 2020.

Trend #2: The Use of Smart Tech

woman and man looking at smart home tablet

People love smart tech, and the backyard design industry knows it. There’s no shortage of nifty new gadgets for the backyard in 2020. The most popular tech this year are systems that integrate with your smartphone.

There’s intricate lighting software that you can program and control with your phone. There are pool robots and lawnmower robots that you can control with an app. There are audio systems, programmable watering systems, patio heating and air conditioners, security systems, and more.

Essentially, if there’s something that you want to do in your backyard, then chances are that there’s now a techier, smartphone-controlled app that can do it better, with less sweat from you.

These sorts of innovative solutions are fun to show off to your friends and family. The real benefit, though, is that they make having a functional and fun backyard a breeze.

Trend #3: An Emphasis on Lower-Maintenance Design

A hardscaped backyard showing bricks and stone walls

Everyone is looking for lower-maintenance garden trends this year. It’s not because we’re lazier. It’s because we all have much less time than before. We want to spend more time enjoying our backyard than working on it.

This desire for low-maintenance design has resulted in an increase in drought-resistance landscaping and hardscaping. (Hardscaping is landscaping with stone, bricks, concrete, etc.) The drought-resistant landscape also ties into the sustainability trend we already discussed.

The goal of perfecting a green and manicured lawn isn’t on anyone’s backyard design trends list this year. Instead, people are much more focused on designing backyards that are functional and low maintenance.

Trend #4: Minimalism is In

Two Adirondack chairs in a backyard showing the concept of minimalism

Minimalism isn’t just a trend for inside your house anymore. The minimalism movement has made its way outdoors and onto our list of backyard design trends. If you haven’t inhaled Marie Kondo’s book or watched that Netflix series yet, you might not be familiar with minimalism principles.

Minimalism isn’t a new concept, but it started gaining mainstream attention in 2016, right around the same time the tiny house movement took off. The philosophy is simple: it’s about getting rid of everything that isn’t necessary and focusing on the things that matter.

This often means investing in higher-quality products from the start and resisting impulse buys. As a design aesthetic, it’s a significant departure from the busy decoration motifs of the past. When it comes to backyard design trends, it’s all about practical furniture and features paired with minimal decorations.

Ultimately, this aesthetic allows you to focus on the activities you’re participating in versus what’s surrounding you.

Trend #5: Functional Gardening

A woman's hands holding a small plant over the dirt

When it comes to garden trends, there’s been a considerable shift towards functional gardening. This is especially true in a post-coronavirus world. People don’t want to just garden for aesthetic reasons. They want to garden with a purpose.

There are more people interested in composting and gardening to grow edible plants. There’s a palpable desire to be closer to the food supply. So, more people are taking it upon themselves to learn to garden and grow their own food.

People are also interested in creating gardens for their children. They want to provide a space for their kids to learn, play in the dirt, and connect with nature. So, there are many more gardens whose purpose is to create a space for childhood enrichment.

Finally, there are also backyard design trends and gardening around the habitation of wildlife, particularly bees. More gardeners are gardening to foster ideal environments to promote and attract bees. Overall, these garden trends are leaning more towards purpose and less towards aesthetics.

Trend #6: Water Features are Still in Vogue  

A close-up of pool water in the sunlight

Water features remain one of the prominent backyard design trends of 2020. While we’re all more conscious of water conservation, we still enjoy a good water feature. There’s something so relaxing about the sound and appearance of water.

Water features include pools, fountains, fishponds, and, more recently, rainwater collection systems. The right water feature for your backyard depends on your region, budget, and preferences. However, including water somewhere in your backyard seems like a must-have this year.

Water features serve several purposes. First, they look fantastic. Second, they usually make some noise, which helps drown out any ambient sound, allowing you to escape the outside world. Third, if you integrate an irrigation system, a birdbath, or a rainwater collection feature, you can also contribute to sustainability efforts.

Trend #7: Entertainment Takes Center Stage

A ceramic fire pit on an outdoor patio

Many of us find ourselves at home more than usual. Because of this, our backyards have become beacons of entertainment and peace. It’s no surprise, then, that entertainment is a top priority in backyard trends.

Expect to see more outdoor kitchens, firepits, and backyard theaters in the months to come. Also, anticipate seeing yard games like croquet, backyard Jenga, horseshoes, and bean bag toss become permanent yard fixtures, rather than things you pull out of the garage twice a year.

Backyards are moving towards full-time entertainment spaces. The more activity zones there are, the better the backyard. This doesn’t feel like one of those fleeting backyard design trends, either. More people are prepping for future stay-at-home mandates by beefing up their yard for full-time fun.

Trend #8: Moving the Living Space Outdoors

An indoor-outdoor living area with couch and pillows showcasing one of the backyard design trends

Along the same lines as entertainment spaces, more people are expanding their living space by creating more livable outdoor areas. Wicker furniture and stiff plastic chairs are being replaced with comfy outdoor couches and blankets to lounge on. Patios and decks are starting to look much more like outdoor living rooms than the porches of the past.

It’s not just furniture either. Weather- and glare-resistant televisions are gaining traction along with full fireplaces, dining rooms, bars, and ceiling fans. The fun thing about this trend is that you can be as elaborate or as simple as you want.

Some people will take this trend to the extreme with a fully covered outdoor living and dining area. Others will embrace the trend by bringing pillows outside and upcycling an old dresser into a nifty outside bar.

Trend #9: Niche Designs

A zen garden in the backyard of a house

For the last trend on our list of backyard design trends for 2020, we’re actually merging a few interesting trends into one. There are three particularly fascinating backyard design trends that aren’t right for everyone, but may be perfect for others.

The first of the three is Zen spaces. As we all search to find peace, some people are turning to Eastern backyard design trends and creating Zen Garden-inspired backyard spaces. They’re taking a corner of their yard and designing it to mirror the aesthetic of a Buddhist monastery, complete with rock gardens, waterfalls, koi ponds, and relaxing décor.

The second design trend is the rise of kid corners. While a swing set or sandbox isn’t outside the norm for backyards, some parents are going all out and creating inventive and dedicated kid corners. Since more children are at home these days, parents are feeling the need to have plenty of engaging activities for their kids to do. A section of the yard packed with kid-friendly equipment is a perfect solution.

The third trend is for the pet parents out there. Pet play areas, including “catios” (cat patios) and dog obstacle courses, are gaining popularity this year. Pet owners who enjoy spoiling their furry friends are going absolutely bananas for this backyard trend.   

These three niche backyard design trends speak to the rise in people’s desire to create custom spaces that fit their unique lifestyle and needs.

Putting Backyard Design Trends into Action

Group of young adults lounging in a backyard next to a pool

The main theme across all the backyard design trends remains the same: People want to spend more time doing the things they love in their backyards. As a culture, we’re becoming more aware of our values and impact, and that’s translating into backyard design.

We’re focusing more on quality, both in the products we’re using, and in the ways we’re spending our time. While we’re hanging on to some traditional design trends, I think we’re in the process of creating a new design paradigm.

I predict this decade will be one that’s focused on family and creating spaces to cultivate our relationships. I imagine we’ll spend much more time soaking up the sun and escaping in our backyards. While there are a lot of things to feel worried about, the possibility of spending more time with the ones I love in my backyard is something I’m really looking forward to.

What are your favorite backyard design trends? Share below!