Yellow and red tulips blooming in front of a white fence

6 ways to create a private outdoor space

LIVE brighter | 5 MIN READ | 2021-05-26

Unless you live in the country surrounded by acres and acres of land, there’s a pretty good chance you have neighbours all around you. Urban and suburban living means space can be limited, fences and balconies are often shared and “next door” is within arm’s reach. Now that we’re spending much more time at home working and staycationing, you’ll likely want to create a little more privacy (hello, nosey Nelly!). Here are 6 great ways to help you take back some of your personal space right now.

1. Privacy screens

Outdoor patio set with a decorated privacy screen

Photo by HGTV

One of the realities of living in a densely populated area is living with neighbours who may not have the same sensibilities as you do. Whether you’re looking into a stockpile of “treasures”, a clothesline of unmentionables or a garage on its last legs, one thing’s for certain: It’s out of your control. What you can do is find a privacy solution that complements your own outdoor space and blocks out any unsightly views (or peeping eyes).

An easy go-to is a freestanding privacy screen. This is something you can readily order online or pick up at a big box store, and the design options are virtually endless. You’ll find everything from laser cut metal to composite and cedar trellis, and the heights range from 1.5 to 6.5 feet, so you’re sure to find something that suits your style and your big-or-small-space needs. Plus, most fold away neatly so you can store them during the winter.

If you’re up for a weekend project and don’t mind a little DIY, try custom building a privacy screen by following an online tutorial or video. This allows you to create exactly what you want and need for your backyard or balcony, and make it a more permanent fixture than a portable one. 

The great thing about this option is that it can be creative and multi-purpose, with slats that allow you to hang potted plants or shelving to house pretty lanterns for the perfect nighttime glow. 

While freestanding structures may not fall under fence bylaws, it’s always a good idea to check height restrictions in your area just to be sure.

Check out the Spruce for a few great tips to keep in mind before building a privacy screen or fence. 

2. Creative landscaping

green hedges in a backyard

Photo by Vezeteu David on Unsplash

Whether you’re looking for a small space solution for your balcony or something more substantial for your backyard, greenery is always a great – and beautiful – option. 

Think potted trees, tall grasses, bamboo and climbing vines – all cost effective solutions that can be strategically placed and moved around for optimum privacy. Have fun with the sizes of planters, the shapes of plants and a mix of colours to create something truly unique to your space.

If you’re wanting to invest in more permanent landscaping, you can grow a living fence over time. Check with a nursery or landscaper to see what trees and shrubs are best suited to your area, as well as how tall and wide they’ll get. The advantage to a well-planned hedge is that it can be virtually any height – but keep in mind the cost to plant and maintain it. 

3. A pergola

Pergola surrounded by greenery

Photo by J J on Unsplash

A classic and beautiful way to give your yard or deck some privacy from above is with a pergola. These structures obstruct views from those in taller homes or buildings close by, and can provide just the right amount of shade on hot days. You’ll find great options in a variety of sizes and price ranges at Home Depot or Wayfair, or pull out the tools (or hire a handyperson) and custom build one that fits your dimensions perfectly. Weave sun-proof sailcloth or other fabric through the top for extra protection and a beachy, coastal feel that gives off serious vacation vibes.

Even easier? Pick up a canvas gazebo that can be dismantled and put away during the winter months.

4. Simple curtains

A pergola with white curtains on it for privacy

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

Nothing could be easier or more cost effective than hanging curtains to give your patio or balcony a little privacy. It may be as easy as tying rope from end to end and clipping fabric up, or following this tutorial and installing posts to attach rods to for a sturdier solution. If you don’t have anywhere to install posts or anything to hang curtains from, try this one made of PVC pipe instead.

The nice thing about this option is you can choose drapery that adds a ton of character and colour to your outdoor space, or something neutral that feels calming and cooling. Just cue the breeze and you’ve got yourself a dreamy summer hangout spot.

5. Go faux

Backyard patio with plants being used to create privacy

Photo by HGTV

Need a quick fix and no time to grow the perfect hedge? Consider going faux. Artificial boxwood looks great, lasts forever and can be moved around to section off an area or provide modular privacy. We love this one from Amazon (although on the pricier side) and these panels that snap together to create a mega-wall. Privacy, please!

6. Get shady

Sun shade sail covering backyard patio set

Photo by House Tweaking

When you’re outside trying to enjoy your space and get a feeling you’re being watched from above, it’s almost impossible to relax. A super easy solution that’s inexpensive and quick to install is a sun sail. Attach the four corners to any structure and voilà – you’re instantly protected from prying eyes and UV rays. Nothing to tie to? Try a pop-up or retractable screen that can double as a movie screen. Bonus! Even better? Pick up an oversized umbrella like this one and you’re all set. 

Check out this clip from CityLine for even more inspiration and to explore other possibilities. 

Having neighbours nearby can be a wonderful thing – if everyone respects privacy boundaries. And now that we’re home more often than not, playing, dining, entertaining within our bubble and even exercising is all taking place right where we are, making it trickier to keep from being scrutinized. Make the most of your outdoor spaces – big or small – with a solution that gives you privacy, adds a decorative flair and most importantly, keeps the peace with the people next door. 

Have other creative ways to make your space feel more private? Let us know!