8 Outdoor Essentials to Make Your Backyard Feel Like a Living Room

Why should inside get all the attention?

July  6, 2022

Now, we spend a lot of time deliberating how to best reflect ourselves in our homes, but what about our outdoor spaces? While you could certainly create a functional outdoor setup with some cobbled-together items, we prefer looking at it through the lens of designing a living room. And just like a living room, any truly cohesive outdoor “room” should contain a specific group of items that make it feel cozy and lived-in. Would you design a living room without a couch? Or lighting? Or a rug? We think not, so we sought out some help determining the core pieces needed for a backyard oasis.

Justina Blakeney, founder of the brand and blog Jungalow is more boho than modern, more maximal than minimal, and more abundant than restrained, so it's no surprise that she’s crafted some amazing outdoor living spaces that are full of life. “I believe that good design increases quality of life,” she’s written. “I believe in vintage, organic and handmade. I believe in the healing power of plants, good light and fresh air.” Well, so do we.

Ahead, Blakeney's tips on creating a truly magical place for the season—and beyond.

Monica Ahanonu x Ruggable Outdoor Mango Desert Sage Rug Photo by Ruggable

1. Ground the Space with an Outdoor Rug

Rugs are not just for the insides of your space. “A rug can work some serious magic in any outdoor area,” says Blakeney. “It can anchor and define the space, add color, and give your feet a softer surface to walk across. You can even try layering rugs for a more eclectic and collected look. Vintage kilims or round jute rugs are great for adding in texture and global vibes.” If you're prone to spills, try a washable rug with fun pops of color that'll hide stains until you can toss it in the washer.

Allsop Mediterranean Solar Market 12" Lantern Photo by James Ransom

2. Add Ambience with Lighting

“Dining al fresco is one of my favorite activities,” she says, and you know we agree. “In our backyard, we have soft ambient lighting coming from our market lights and our rattan pendant light. If you're into statement lighting, try a Moroccan lantern with a pierced metal pattern that will cast pretty shadows and mimic the stars in the night sky.”

Cultiver Dining Set Photo by Cultiver

3. Add Polish with an Outdoor Tablecloth

Most outdoor tables have weathered their fair share of the elements, leaving them worn or unpleasantly rusty. If shabby chic is your thing, skip this one; for everyone else, get yourself a tablecloth. “I love bringing bright, bold textiles into every space I design. An outdoor space deserves the same love,” says Blakeney. “A vintage textile, such as a suzani or mud cloth, makes a great tablecloth. Adorn your outdoor dining table with a textile to really make the space feel warm and inviting.”

Greendigs Macrame Hanger Photo by Greendigs

4. Plant Plants Everywhere

Plants were meant to be outside (that’s where they come from, after all). “I'm all about bringing the outdoors in with my use of indoor plants in home decor,” says Blakeney. “But this maximalist isn't going to pass up a plant opportunity. Depending on your climate, grab some outdoor plants (succulents love the Los Angeles sun!), pop them into macrame or rattan hanging planters or planters with feet that provide some room for drainage, and dot the space with plants to bring it to life.” Whether they're hanging up, raised on a stand, or planted directly into the ground, the greenery can help cover unsightly fences, add a contained feeling to a space, perfume the air if you’re growing aromatic herbs, and add color to any drab spots.

FLÎKR Fire Personal Concrete Fireplace Photo by Julia Gartland

5. Gather Round the Fire for Cozy Camaraderie

Ending an evening around a fire just feels so good: the light, the heat, the smell. “A fire pit is usually the center of any outdoor space at night,” Blakeney says. “It's a great way to get everyone together, cozy up under a blanket if the weather is brisk, and get your s’mores on.” For small spaces or wooden decks, this tiny, but mighty concrete fire pit only uses isopropyl alcohol for extra convenience and safety.

Castlery Maui Loveseat Photo by Castlery

6. Welcome Guests with Ample Seating

When you want to say “Pull up a chair,” you gotta have a chair—or at least something people can sit on. “If you're planning on entertaining in your outdoor space, think about creative ways to maximize your outdoor seating options,” says Blakeney. “Bench-style seating is great because you can load it up with comfy pillows and don't have to worry about moving chairs or heavy furniture around.”

Sand & Stable Teele 18'' Wide Round Pouf Ottoman Photo by Wayfair

7. Maximize Space with Multipurpose Poufs

Don’t forget the poufs! These flexi babies have so many uses—is it a table? Is it a chair? Is it a footrest? Yes! Yes! Yes!—making them truly indispensable. “Poufs are a great way to provide additional seating and add a little flavor to your outdoor lounge. They can be stored easily and are a great transitional piece that can be used inside or out,” says Blakeney. Plus, there are so many options in terms of material and design, so you can achieve whatever backyard vibe you’re going for.

Shade Round Outdoor Umbrella with Base Photo by Castlery

8. Create Space in the Shade

“The summer sun can be intense, so if you're planning on spending a lot of time outdoors this summer, there are easy ways to create shaded areas where you can just chill—literally,” Blakeney says. A large umbrella is the easiest method, and this one comes with a sturdy base for safety and a cantilevered pole so you can tilt the angle and make sure you're always in the shade.

This post was updated July 2022 with some of our favorite products to create an outdoor sanctuary for the season.

How do you create a welcoming space outdoors? Share your tips with us below!

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Bunny Schulman

Written by: Bunny Schulman