5 things people with cozy winter backyards have in them - ideas to copy for a more useable outdoor space

From foliage to furniture, create an outdoor oasis you can enjoy throughout the year

Coco Wolf Atlas sofa and armchairs
(Image credit: Coco Wolf)

How we use our backyards or gardens depends on where we live. Folks in colder climes tend to retreat indoors for relaxing and entertaining when the frost bites. Time outside tends to be left for essential gardening tasks only.

Yet we can enjoy our outside spaces for longer, even when the temperature drops. It just takes a little planning. With a few key pieces in place, it's possible to enjoy your yard through the cooler months. 

With these extras outside you can wrap up, grab some blankets and sit and star gaze, watch for wildlife or catch up on the day over a steaming mulled wine or hot chocolate in the twilight.  

Alternatively, make your yard somewhere to watch the sunrise and enjoy some quiet time in the morning before the busy-ness of the day begins. These are 5 things people with cozy backyards always have.

1. A sense of enclosure

covered outdoor terrace

(Image credit: Future / Paul Massey)

Like sitting under a porch; a backyard, terrace or patio is more enjoyable when it's under cover and protected from the elements.  A pergola, with a permanent or retractable roof, or an awning will enable you to gather outside even when the temperature dips.  Even trees and hedges will protect you from a strong breeze, if you want to enjoy the outside for longer.

'A sense of enclosure is essential to creating a cozy outdoor environment,' says Rituparna Simlai, architect, landscape architect and principal at Studio Arth. 'It evokes a feeling of being secured, while defining the space.'

'A pergola or awning allows extended use of the outdoor patio and also helps to retain heat,' Rituparna tells us. 'A screen or boundary wall and a niche in your backyard can also protect you from the wind.' 

'Plantings provide natural protection against the wind and have the additional benefit of helping to soak up excess rainfall through their roots,' says Kim Stoddart, co-author of The Climate Change Garden.

'Some suitable species are Willow, Holly and Laurel. Planting trees or bushes as a windbreak, rather than a solid barrier, helps take the sting out of a gale by slowing it down,' Kim adds. 'A pergola populated with climbing plants can provide another aesthetically pleasing defence.'   

2. A place to settle in

Fire Barrel Pyron

(Image credit: Feuerhand)

Of course if you want to create a cozy winter backyard to spend time in, you'll need somewhere comfortable to sit. Ensure outdoor sofas or seating are weather-resistant. 

'Choose a comfortable seating arrangement that resonates with you and create your own haven for relaxation and contemplation,' says Rituparna. 'Arrange the seating around a focal point, a fire pit or under the canopy of light. Throw on some warm blankets for the cozy touch.'

Metals such as steel or aluminum can withstand a rain shower. Timber furniture will need to be placed on stone or paved surfaces, not grass, otherwise it will rot. Protect outdoor furniture from harsher weather when it's not in use with weather-proof covers and pack cushions away, where it is dry and not prone to damp. 

3. A representation of warmth

El Fuego smokeless eco-friendly fire pit

(Image credit: Lime Lace)

Humans have gathered around fire for millennia, it's a primal instinct. A fire pit is a popular choice, but if that's not possible, a group of candles can create a warming effect.

'A fire pit can be a great focal point for a winter backyard,' says Riturparna. 'The warmth of the fire draws people closer. The element of fire appeals to all five senses, providing a comfortable warm sensation, a dance of light with a passing breeze, crackling sounds and a smoky smell.

'At Studio Arth, the design of a fire pit and its location is curated so that the light from the flame bounces off a pergola or gnarly trees in the backdrop, creating an evocative environment,' Rituparna adds. 'Avoid placing a fire pit near any flammable structures, at least 10 feet from overhanging branches, pergolas and rugs and other accessories. An ideal location for an inground firepit is in a stone or paved area, or in a sand pit near a boundary wall that protects it from the wind.  

'If a fire pit is not possible, the sense of warmth can also be represented by the use of wooden backyard decks or timber on the patio. Or simply using burnt sepia, orange and yellow as accent colours on accessories creates a warming visual effect.'

4. Ambient lighting

Extendable black table clamp with solar festoon lights

(Image credit: Rockett St George)

Whether you opt for portable lamps, lanterns or pretty string lights, some outdoor illumination is key for a cozy vibe when dusk falls.

'Modern garden lighting and the placement of lighting fixtures play a significant role in creating an inviting ambience,' says Rituparna. 'The use of string lights over a patio or pergola is a simple yet effective way to create a cozy vibe. The placement of solar powered patio lanterns around seating arrangements provides flexibility to redesign your lighting based on the occasion and the time of the year.'

'We love to adorn specimen trees by hanging perforated metal pendants or rattan lights from large overarching tree branches.'

Remember to turn lights off when you turn in to reduce light pollution and disturbance to wildlife.

5. An anchoring indulgence

'An inviting place is not complete without an anchor,' says Rituparna. 'A speaker or sound box with your favorite music playing, a compact gas grill, barbeque or a portable pizza oven will anchor an outside space.'

'Add a giant Jenga or a board game while enjoying the company of your loved ones in your cozy winter backyard,' she adds. 

Jacky Parker is a London-based freelance journalist and content creator, specialising in interiors, travel and food. From buying guides and real home case studies to shopping and news pages, she produces a wide range of features for national magazines and SEO content for websites

A long-time contributor to Livingetc, as a member of the team, she regularly reports on the latest trends, speaking to experts and discovering the latest tips. Jacky has also written  for other publications such as Homes and Gardens, Ideal Home, Red, Grand Designs, Sunday Times Style and AD, Country Homes and Interiors and ELLE Decoration.