What Landscaping Project Will Add the Most Value? 5 Ideas That Designers say are Always Worth it

Landscaping projects can really help transform your backyard, not to mention add value to your property. Here are 5 to consider

A backyard with outdoor kitchen and fireplace
(Image credit: Patrick Wong. Design: Jobe Corral Architect)

Landscaping your backyard can improve the way you interact and use the space, creating a calming outdoor retreat that helps to soothe, opening up your indoor space to make more room for living. A fantastic by-product of landscaping means that you might be able to maximize the value of your property too. This is particularly handy if you're considering listing your home or apartment for sale, and there are so many tweaks and edits - ranging from the easy and simple to the more extravagant - that can impress potential buyers and might just help your home edge over the line.

‘Whether it be a quiet moment for two to relax, or accommodating a family barbeque, spaces should be designed with a range of uses in mind and be able to accommodate a multitude of functions, particularly when thinking about resale value,’ says Paul Sangha, principal of Paul Sangha Creative.

To give you some ideas, we've spoken to the landscaping experts who unanimously agree that these 5 backyard projects are worth considering.

1. Adding an outdoor cooking zone

A backyard with a fitted outdoor kitchen

(Image credit: Patrick Wong. Design: Jobe Corral Architects)

'On the higher end of the cost spectrum, adding outdoor living spaces can expand the usable space and become important for people that like to entertain,' says Cate Singleton, Tilly Design's Director of Design. 'Cooking centers create opportunities for gathering and spending time outdoors.'

Outdoor kitchens are fabulous as they allow the host to immerse themselves with their guests while preparing food, entertaining among the elements as opposed to darting between kitchen and backyard.

On the simpler end of the scale for small backyards, you can opt for a portable pizza oven, like this one from Amazon, or a small custom-built brick barbecue and grill. At the other end of the spectrum are fully functioning outdoor kitchens. From kitchen islands that can be wheeled out to fully fitted kitchens that feel like an indoor kitchen and are fitted with access to electrics and plumbing, there are options out there for every sized backyard and every budget.

If you do go for the all-singing, all-dancing design, including a small sink with a tap and installing a drinks fridge makes the space even more flexible. Storage should be considered too - just take care to ensure all electrics are weatherproofed and installed correctly, with the appliances tucked out of reach of rain.

2. Landscaping with trees

A backyard with landscaped trees

(Image credit: Luke Butterly. Design: Dieppe Design)

As far as smaller outdoor projects, tree landscaping ideas to compliment the architecture and provide shade is on the lower cost end and will still add value to your property.

Privacy is an important element when you're on the property ladder and is something that can add value to your home. Homeowners want to feel secure in their homes and backyards, safe in the knowledge that they're in their own space. Trees are a simple way to tick privacy off the list, creating a landscape that feels enclosed and intimate.

A lush and verdant backyard that has an abundance of shrubs and trees will also help make your backyard feel more relaxing and enhancing curb appeal. 'Investing in larger trees is a simple way to create a more lush and well-established garden,' says Paul Sangha, principal of Paul Sangha Creative. 'Relative to hardscape interventions, trees - and mature trees in particular- are a simple and cost-effective way to add structure and layers to the garden and give it instant impact.'

If you're looking for the best trees for privacy, look out for trees that don't lose their leaves, ensuring year-round coverage. Cyprus trees are relied on for their full and thick foliage all year round, while yew trees have a hedge-like structure and can be pruned in different shapes and sizes to fit your needs.

3. Add a patio or decking

A backyard with patio

(Image credit: Elizabeth Nielsen. Design: SUBU Design Architecture)

A patio or some kind of decking is a valuable addition that can extend your home into the great outdoors. 'If your home doesn’t already have a patio or deck (depending on what makes sense directly off the back of your house), this is an expensive, but extremely worthwhile investment,' says Kat Aul Cervoni, landscape designer and founder of Staghorn NYC and The Cultivation by Kat.

'You’ll see a return on the sales side of your property and in the meantime will have the incredible benefit of having a new outdoor space to extend your living space. Dining, lounging, bird-watching, yoga, growing a container garden, the options are endless!'

The way you tile over your patio can bring character to the space. From large format stone tiles made of porcelain that are durable and perfect for long-lasting use, to slate, travertine or granite, there is an array of looks to pick from.

If you prefer the softer look of wood, decking might be a better option. Wood decks should be protected with a sealer application every one to three years as needed. Redwood and teak are great options that are durable and naturally resistant to rotting but still should be waterproofed with a sealer to guarantee your wood stands the test of time. Another option is pressure treating the wood which forces wood preservatives to extend timber life.

For another idea altogether, poured concrete looks sleek and fosters a minimalist backyard vibe.

4. Add a garden bar

Designing a garden bar

(Image credit: Landform Consultants Ltd / Rachel Warne)

A garden bar is an aspirational addition that can add to your home's value. The first decision is whether to go for a bespoke, custom-fitted bar or a smaller freestanding option. The latter might suit gardens where space is at a premium, whereas bespoke bars might be more viable if you have sweeping acres of outdoor space and a bigger budget to play with. Consider if you want to incorporate outdoor plumbing for a fully functioning sink and electricity to keep drinks cool. Your planned layout should cater to these preferences. Designate areas for refrigeration and ice, any cooking area if needed, and wet areas for a sink and bartending, then an area for counter space. If you’re going all out, consider heating too. ‘For cooler climates, consider a fire pit or outdoor heater to extend the usability of the bar,’ says interior designer Rydhima Brar of R/terior Studio. 

If you’re thinking smaller-scale, an outdoor bar needn’t be any bigger than a bedside table. It can be as straightforward as a well-placed niche built into a brick wall, or a freestanding counter that can transform when the moment arises. For smaller, urban spaces, an outdoor bar could be as simple as some deep shelving that acts as a prep and serving area. Look out for ready-to-install designs that include storage space. Having shelves or cupboards for your glasses, dishes, drinks, and bar food will help keep your garden tidy and free up space in your kitchen.

‘Custom bars can be really gorgeous and work well when trying to fit a space to a tee, but they can be cost-prohibitive for some people,’ says New York-based rooftop garden designer, Amber Freda. ‘There are plenty of pre-fab bars available that are quick and easy to install and cost a lot less than custom work.’

Choose materials that are durable and weather-resistant. ‘Stainless steel, treated wood and weather-resistant fabrics are ideal,’ says Rydhima. ‘You don't want your bar falling apart after the first storm.’ Look for worktop surfaces that are non-porous and waterproof, stain-resistant, and resistant to heat and frost, as well as to expansion, scratches, deep abrasions, UV rays, and chemical products.

5. Lightscaping

A backyard with embedded lighting

(Image credit: Elizabeth Nielsen. Design: SUBU Design Architecture)

Modern garden lighting can be the simple addition your backyard needs to elevate the space. Embracing outdoor lighting fixtures can establish designated areas in the outdoor space, and can help create outdoor set-ups and garden living rooms that encourage you to use your outdoor space, upping your home's value as you have more space to play with.

A well-placed outdoor sconce, lantern, or up-lights that are embedded in or around your patio's footprint can help shine light on your backyard's key areas and make plants take on architectural qualities when uplit. String lights, or an oversized pendant light hanging from an erected structure can bring an ethereal, dreamy quality as the daylight disappears and you slip into those balmy summer evenings, perfect for al fresco dining.

Elevate your backyard with these landscaping buys

Oonagh Turner
Livingetc content editor and design expert

Oonagh is a content editor at Livingetc.com and an expert at spotting the interior trends that are making waves in the design world. Writing a mix of everything and everything from home tours to news, long-form features to design idea pieces on the website, as well as frequently featured in the monthly print magazine, she's the go-to for design advice in the home. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.