Entertaining Backyards From A-Z
A is for Arbors
B is for Budget
Filling your yard with flora doesn't have to cost a bundle. This lush border of zinnias, sunflowers, and roses was built for $410, including the birdbath.
C is for Color
D is for Decks
You'd never fill your living or dining room with folding chairs and tray tables, so why do the same on your deck? Make the most of this outdoor room and give your home an instant makeover.
E is for Easy
Got stubborn soil? Quit fighting with it and fill raised beds with more cooperative stuff. We built this one for around $50.
F is for Fabric
Thoughtfully chosen fabrics for your upholstered outdoor furniture will give your porch or patio a polished appeal.
G is for Grill
H is for Hidden
Private gardens and courtyards not only make invited guests feel extra special, they also do year-round duty as relaxing personal sanctuaries.
I is for Inspiration
J is for Juleps
No phrase on earth is more welcoming than "What can I get you to drink?" Whether your guests prefer classic cocktails or less-potent punch, consider an outdoor wetbar or rolling cart to make entertaining effortless.
K is for Kitchens
Homeowners who install an outdoor kitchen for entertaining soon find it's an everyday way to keep the house cool while enjoying their backyard retreat. Even small spaces can host the applicances and prep areas you need.
L is for Lighting
Don't let the sun go down on your party without providing adequate lighting. In addition to its obvious benefits ("Where's my drink?"), ambient lighting can set the tone, from convivial to intimate.
M is for Makeover
N is for Native Plants
Pick plants that are native to your region so they'll love your soil and climate. Local garden bloggers are an invaluable resource in finding the ones that will grow best.
O is for Oasis
P is for Patio
One of the most gracious aspects of Southern life is the ability to sit out on the patio. Some of our favorite patios had exceptionally humble beginnings–one was a dilapidated garage while another was merely cramped and dark. The patio pictured was built in a formerly awkward side yard.
Q is for Q & A
R is for Rooftop
Speaking of the Vogts, the focus of their winning outdoor space wasn't a backyard at all, but an enchanting rooftop overlooking the ocean. If you're running out of terra firma, consider moving the party skyward.
S is for Seating
Inevitably, your guests will cease mingling en masse and look for spots to relax and visit. Create conversational areas by grouping seating and accent tables for groups of 2-5 people, like you'll see throughout our idea house in Asheville, North Carolina. For maximum charm, consider a porch swing.
T is for Table
When choosing indoor dining furniture, we often base our choices on the size of the room. In the expanse of outdoors, consider how many guests you will generally entertain. You can then plan the dining area to accommodate your guests, rather than the other way around.
U is for Umbrella
Umbrellas or tents provide daytime guests a respite from the sun's rays; vine-covered pergolas or floral awnings are an exquisite touch. Equally important is a plan B for unpredictable spring and summer weather. Permanent structures like loggias, gazebos, and covered patios can solve both problems.
V is for Vegetable Garden
Pretty kitchen gardens can be just as inviting as an English rose garden with a little thought and planning. The natural bonus: you can serve guests meals made with fresh ingredients that are as local as they come.
W is for Walkways
Unless you'd like your stiletto-clad friends to aerate the lawn, add walkways to provide guests a foothold and manage party traffic. Tightly woven pavers, like the ones pictured here from our idea house in Pine Mountain, Georgia, are formal wear-friendly. Scatter stepping stones or put down gravel or oyster shells for a more natural look that's better traversed in comfy shoes.
X is for X-factor
For a backyard that will generate buzz long after the party's ended, add a final touch that's unique to your home. Ideas include climbing vines in an eye-catching pattern, a one-of-a-kind water feature, or a pretty painted floor. Guests may never put their finger on quite what it is that sets your yard apart.
Y is for Yard Calendar
Taking your yard from bleak to blooming requires a little patience. Though you may have some control over constructed features, plants grow on their own schedule. Keeping a yard calendar with snapshots will quell antsy feelings while you wait. Blog the transformation to whet guests' appetite for your first party.
Z is for Zzzzz
Exhausted yet? Me, too; let's take a nap. A sleeping porch is the perfect spot for afternoon snoozing or housing sleepovers. Take breaks from your backyard transformation in a simple hammock and wake up refreshed and ready for more. It's o.k.―you've earned it.