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Outdoor Privacy Ideas Help You Create a Private Refuge

March 30, 2018
a private refuge created by combining outdoor privacy ideas.

A yard isn’t always the most private or inviting space, but with the help of some outdoor privacy ideas it can become the setting for a quiet retreat.

Once you graduate from college, get married, and buy a home, the words “space” and “quest” take on a whole new meaning. When you’re single, Space Quest is the name of a B-movie that you riff on with your friends. When you’re married with kids it becomes something you do, an ongoing search for some private time to read, watch a movie, or even just think. Inside the home, this can be an impossible undertaking, and it’s why so many men and women retreat to garages and sewing rooms regardless of their automotive or tailoring skills.

But there is an area of the typical home with a lot of potential that is seldom looked to as a private retreat: the yard. With some thought and a little creativity, your yard can become a backyard retreat–a respite from the distractions of your home. We’ve got a few outdoor privacy ideas to get you started based on the size of your yard.

Outdoor Privacy Ideas for Small Yards: Pergolas and Pavilions

The typical urban yard tends to be small if it exists at all, and due to the immediacy of the neighbors, it can be hard to find privacy even inside an urban home or townhouse, let alone outside of it. Even surrounded by a privacy fence, a small yard neighbored by multi-story homes isn’t going to feel very private. Those next door can still look down into the yard from the upper floors, meaning that this kind of yard lacks the privacy it needs to act as a safe space for relaxing.

But there are still ways of creating privacy in these tight surroundings. A small garden arbor in the yard or a pergola attached to the rear of the house can block prying eyes from overhead. This type of structure is easily modified with a DIY privacy screen to make it even more private. In a small yard, a pergola with screening on top just below the beams can block the views from neighboring yards entirely. It’s a simple project to add trellises to the sides and rear of an arbor, which has the added benefit of providing a place for climbing plants to grow, which will further block sightlines as well as adding a buffer from noise. A swing seat or hanging a hammock in the pergola or arbor can create a refuge from prying eyes that is perfect for reading.

Privacy Ideas for Large Yards Start with Fences

If you’ve ever driven along a highway, you’re familiar with an acoustic wall. These are the cinderblock and concrete walls built along interstates to shield residences that border the highway from the noise coming from the highway. They’re incredibly effective, with even a short wall dramatically decreasing the level of noise behind it. They can also be built on private residences, although some restrictions will apply. Their biggest drawback is their cost, with the price of the materials and the labor of a skilled mason far exceeding that of a fence and installer. For some, though, a short section of wall blocking off a smaller area might be practical to help create a peaceful refuge.

Another noise-blocking option is a sound-deadening fence. Wooden privacy fences will block some noise (while also blocking sightlines), but they are thin and sound does carry through the fence. If you’re faced with a noise as well as a privacy issue, one of the following may be a better choice:

    • Double-layer fences are your typical privacy fences, two layers thick. One way this sometimes happens is when two neighbors each have a six-foot wooden privacy fence. This can be replicated in a single yard by hanging two regular fence panels on one pair of posts or by building a shadow box fence that hides noise-reducing pickets or panels inside.
    • A privacy fence and hedge can be combined to create an effective sound block. This is usually less expensive than a fence custom-built to block noise, although it does cost more than a privacy fence alone. The aesthetics of the combination can be very pleasing, though, adding interest and a landscaped look to the yard.

Soundproofing options such as noise-reducing panels and hedges can be added to an existing fence, as well, as long as it’s in fairly good shape. If a fence is structurally sound but a little worn, learning how to dress up an ugly fence with stains and hardware can be a good first step to creating a beautiful outdoor sanctuary.

Using Plants to Create a Privacy Screen

If you’re not interested in or not allowed by HOA restrictions to build a privacy fence, pergola, or other structure to add privacy to your yard, tall, dense plantings can serve much the same purpose by blocking lines of sight. And as we mentioned in the last section of this post, not only does a healthy growth of hedge keep nosy neighbor minding their own business, it can also help insulate your home and yard from the noise of Flo Rida’s thumping jams at 3 AM. There are many types of fast-growing plants that make good privacy hedges. Here are just a handful:

    • Leylandii is a fast-growing type of evergreen that forms a dense box hedge. It tolerates a variety of soils and can survive low temperatures, which makes it suitable for growing across the U.S. and Canada. It’s also inexpensive and can be bought in heights of up to four feet for a very reasonable price.
    • Willow hybrids are as fast growing as leylandii but have a different, lighter look and texture. These are trees first and foremost, but develop dense leaves drooping to the ground as they grow. Willows are a good choice for those who want privacy but don’t like or don’t want to prune hedges into shape.
    • Bamboo is an incredibly fast growing plant that forms thickets of dense vertical stems. It makes a good privacy barrier, and gets dense enough to even work as a fence, although it’s wise to choose the variety of bamboo carefully and plan for measures to keep its growth in check.

In many cases, a raised planting bed can help elevate young plants to a height useful for privacy, and can also help keep fast-growing plants like bamboo from spreading where it’s not wanted. A combination of plants can also create a dense, attractive privacy hedge, and to add interest and beauty to the yard you might consider a mix of dense evergreen hedges and flowering bushes such as camellias or azaleas.

Combining Privacy Ideas

In order to create a true refuge in the outdoors, many homeowners will want to use multiple techniques. A pergola or pavilion can shade a sitting area, and it can be surrounded with bushes or vining plants that help shield those in the structure from prying eyes. In turn, the yard can be surrounded by a privacy fence or a wall made of stone, brick, or concrete.

The combinations and the possibilities are endless, and it’s up to you to design a privacy refuge that works for your yard and your needs, whether you’re looking for privacy from neighbors looking down from above, or noise-blocking from the busy street behind your home. The most important feature of any privacy solution is that it’s solid, long lasting, and creates an attractive space to spend time in. If your privacy solution involves a raised bed, privacy screen, fence, trellis, arbor, pergola, pavilion, or gazebo, the hardware you choose to use will make a big difference in the longevity and beauty of the structure.

One company that understands this is OZCO Building Products. They make high-quality decorative hardware that is made to hold strong as well as look gorgeous over the long haul. They also provide a variety of outdoor plans for arbors, pergolas, raised flower beds, and even arbors with hammocks to create a great-looking private hideout where you’ll want to spend time. Their project plans are a great place to start generating outdoor privacy ideas. For more information, contact OZCO or find a dealer near you.

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