Make your backyard staycation-worthy with these professional (virtual) design services and tools.

By Lisa Milbrand
June 11, 2020

Backyards and patios don’t often get a lot of redesign and renovation love—they’re usually last on the list of home improvement projects. But if your summer vacation plans are looking a lot more like staycation plans this year, it might be worth splurging on a little professional help to get some fresh patio or backyard design ideas to turn your outdoor space—small or large—into an oasis.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to access solid backyard design help. Several virtual design sites now offer detailed, individualized plans on how to put together a gorgeous outdoor space in your backyard without blowing your budget. (And there are plenty of cost-effective—or even free—options for people who just need a little help visualizing their backyard renovation plan.)

Backyard design ideas - virtual landscaping, outdoor design services

Before you get started designing the patio of your dreams or a backyard you can spend the summer in, you’ll need to take measurements of the space—and of your bank account—so you can give the pro an idea of what you’re working with as far as area and budget. You’ll need to take pictures of your backyard so your designer can show you where exactly to place each piece of furniture or landscaping. And think about your sense of style (do you want sleek modern patio furniture, or are you in love with tiki bar chic for your next backyard party?), and how you plan to use the space (are you thinking casual backyard barbecues with lots of kids, or is this an adults-only cocktail party area?). That’ll help your designer give you exactly the backyard patio you desire.

Try one of these design services to help you get the backyard you want.

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1 Yardzen

The pros behind Yardzen take you through a style quiz (including your intended plans for the space and what you don’t like about it now). Packages start at $649 for garden designs with the help of an expert horticulturist—including one revision of the work—and they’ll connect you with vetted local contractors who can help make it happen. (Packages get pricier if you want help with hardscape suggestions, or have a larger yard.) Once you book, you’ll provide video and measurements of the space, your budget, and your priorities. Then your expert will design your ideal plan and send over 3D renderings, plant lists, and full CAD designs to help your contractor get the look you want.

2 Tilly Design

Tilly Design offers a menu of different backyard design options, depending on your needs—and a DIY friendly output. For $75, you can have a half-hour consultation (and two follow-up emails) with a design expert to help you tackle a small problem, like a backyard area that’s overgrown or tips on how to prune a tree. The $475 Back package starts with a video consultation to discuss the project—then the designer gets to work creating a scaled plan for your backyard design, including a complete list of all the plants and products that you need, and detailed information on how to install and care for your new backyard. An extra $100 buys you a lighting plan as well, so you can see how to best show off your new backyard design. (And if you just want an idea of what your garden style is, their style quiz helps you determine if you’re cool and contemporary or charming cottage style.)

3 Decorist

If you need more help deciding on what patio furniture you want to use to make the most of your space, interior design site Decorist may be the right destination for you. Package prices depend on the experience of the designer, starting at $299 for an early-career designer, up to $1,299 for celebrity designers. The design package includes two initial design concepts, with your final pick fleshed out with an online shopping list and complimentary ordering service, so you can leave the shopping to them.

4 Home Outside

Home Outside takes your goals and backyard design ideas and translates them to a full-blown plan. You can start with a $99 garden coaching session if you just want to run some ideas by an expert, or get your full backyard design crafted by them starting at $999. If you’re comfortable DIYing your space, their $3 app allows you to plot out your own patio backyard ideas before you start building.

5 Home stores

If your backyard looks OK but your patio is bare, many home stores—including West Elm, Pottery Barn, Crate + Barrel, Ballard Designs, and Design Within Reach—offer free design consultations. The designers can give you a quick design tip via chat, or help you plot out your whole patio design with a virtual consultation—with no pressure to buy.