Low Maintenance Backyard Design Ideas

Caitlin Ketcham

Article Posted By: Caitlin Ketcham

of Desert Domicile

Low Maintenance Backyard Design Ideas

We’re calling this a backyard makeover, but it’s really a lot more than that. It’s more of a backyard design extravaganza. And best of all, everything you see here is low-maintenance, and uses very little water. That makes these backyard ideas particularly good for anyone who lives in the desert or is dealing with drought conditions… or who just wants to spend less time caring for the yard and more time enjoying it.

This low-maintenance backyard is part of our Patio Style Challenge series here on The Home Depot Blog, but we had something special in mind. We wanted to see what Caitlin Ketcham of Desert Domicile could do with an entire backyard, so we upped the stakes. We challenged Caitlin to create a dream backyard, and we’d make it happen. Her backyard design ideas and drought landscaping includes plenty of outdoor seating, an outdoor dining area, a grilling station,a floating deck and even a luxurious carpet of artificial grass.

All we can say is wow! Caitlin’s backyard is full of terrific outdoor ideas that are practical and very stylish, and they require very little upkeep. We got her to write up some tutorials, too, for the several DIY projects you see in her backyard.

But first, Caitlin’s amazing backyard makeover reveal…

When I was asked to participate in this year’s Patio Style Challenge, I practically jumped up and down for joy! But things got really interesting when my original Patio Style Challenge invitation evolved into an expanded version of the challenge. The Home Depot didn’t want to just send me a patio set for a backyard makeover; no, they wanted to send me everything I needed to makeover my whole backyard!

No pressure, right?!

Our front porch, side yard, backyard, and back patio got Home Depotfied in just one week. And it was all captured on camera and video… including putting me on camera!

Needless to say, I got my very own 15 minutes of fame! A full makeover video + a series of DIY project videos will be released soon.

[Caitlin posted some fun behind-the-scenes photos of this backyard makeover project on her blog. Take a look. -ed.]


A Desert Backyard Badly in Need of a Makeover

Before we get to the good stuff, let’s take a look at the state of things before the backyard makeover.

Our backyard has been a barren blank slate since we moved in almost three years ago. As you can see, we literally had nothing but dirt, so anything The Home Depot could have sent us for the challenge would have made things look 10 times better!

A desert backyard badly in need of a makeover

A bare, barren desert backyard

A backyard and covered patio in need of a makeover


An Amazing Low-Maintenance Backyard

A beautiful low maintenance backyard

Amazing, right?! My goal in the backyard design I came up with was to make each space feel like it was an extension of the indoors. I also wanted to create a private oasis in the middle of Tuscon, Arizona!

Let’s take a tour, and I’ll point out some of the aspects of the backyard design that I’m especially pleased with.


The Covered Patio

When I started thinking about plans for our covered back patio, I kept thinking about cabanas.

A gorgeous covered patio

Covered patio with a slatted wood privacy screen

Outdoor Privacy Screen

I wanted to add a slatted screen to the open side of our patio to add an extra layer of privacy to the area. I attached vertical supports to studs in our column and house so we had a place for our slats to attach. The slats were spaced ¾-in. apart to let some air and light in but to block most of the view of our neighbor’s house and add some shade.

Check out how it was made. There’s a step-by-step tutorial for this privacy screen here on The Home Depot Blog.

A gorgeous DIY outdoor privacy screen made from slatted wood

Outdoor Curtains with DIY Pipe Curtain Rods

I also added some outdoor curtains to help block some of the sun and to soften the hard lines of our boxy patio. I hung them a little higher than I typically do because I didn’t want them sitting in dirt or rain water when it storms.

Outdoor curtains on a DIY pipe curtain rod on a covered patio

I hung our curtains high and wide from a DIY pipe curtain rod. I spray painted the pieces black so they’d coordinate with the frame of our windows and the finish of our ceiling fan.

Speaking of curtains, I made our curtains out of a canvas drop cloth. It’s a durable material that can hold up to outdoor elements but in the event that it gets dirty, I can unclip each panel from the curtain clip rings I added to the pipe curtain rod and toss them in the wash.

Tip: Hang your curtains up when they’re still damp to avoid wrinkles and to train your curtains to hang a certain way!

DIY pipe curtain rod on a covered patio

DIY Rope Curtain Tie Backs

I made simple tie backs for our curtains out of rope, twine, and more plumbing supplies. They’re super easy to make and I love how the industrial look of the ties complements our pipe curtain rod.

DIY rope curtain tie back holding outdoor curtain

String Lights and Ceiling Fan

Our backyard patio was lacking in the lighting department so we added several strands of string lights to our patio beams. They provide a warm glow at night that extends into our backyard so we can see what our dogs are doing. We also added an industrial looking ceiling fan that not only cools the space but provides an extra source of lighting.

String lights and outdoor ceiling fan on a covered patio

More Outdoor Decor

In order to make our back patio feel like an indoor room, I added furniture and decor pieces that you’d find in a living room.

The navy and white striped rug is an indoor/outdoor rug from Home Decorators Collection. I love the bold pattern and how soft the rug feels underfoot.

I also love the Tobago Sectional we added to the space. I used the Create Your Own Patio Collection tool to customize the size of our sectional as well as the cushion color. Each piece of the sectional clips together so you don’t have to worry about it shifting when you’re sitting. You can separate each piece and connect them with other ones to create different configurations for your space! It’s like having several seating sets in one!

A covered patio with outdoor rug, Fiddle Leaf Fig plants and Tobago outdoor seating set


Fire Pit Lounge

Nights in the desert can get pretty cold so I wanted to add a fire pit lounge area to our yard. That’s the Mondavi 36 in. Envirostone Round Propane Fire Pit you see surrounded by chairs from the Lynnfield Patio Chat Set.

A gorgeous fire pit lounge with outdoor bench and Lynnfield Patio Chat Set

My design called for an L-shaped bench in the corner of our house and fence wall to provide a ton of seating. The linear lines of the patio bench match the lines of the slatted screen on our back patio which helps the two spaces feel connected. I loaded our bench up with pillows to create a cozy lounging area! I mean, who doesn’t love snuggling by the fire?!

Check out the DIY corner bench tutorial here on The Home Depot Blog to see how it was constructed.

Mondavi Round Fire Pit in a beautiful fire pit lounge

The paver patio area was a labor of love. Our contractors knocked it out in a day which blew me away! The pavers are spaced 3½-in. apart, with white marble chips in between them. I love the contrast between the two materials! And it doesn’t get much more low maintenance than marble chips and cement pavers.

Pavers and white marble chips create a patio

Our fire pit sits on top of our pavers in the middle of the patio area. I’m so in love with the contemporary look of it and how it looks like it was cast from solid concrete even though it wasn’t! The fire is fueled by propane.

Where’s our propane tank? It’s hidden in our L bench, and the line from the fire pit to the tank is buried in the spaces between the pavers. Pretty awesome, right?

Mondavi 36 in. Envirostone Round Propane Fire Pit

The four chairs from Hampton Bay’s Lynnfield collection are plenty comfy and perfect for sitting in while roasting marshmallows!

Outdoor chair from the Lynnfield Patio Collection next to a fire pit


The Floating Deck Outdoor Dining Area

Our floating deck is the star of our yard! I wanted it to be large enough for a dining area and a lounging area. It can also be transformed into a outdoor stage if we’re feeling dramatic.

Floating Deck Outdoor Dining Area with Barnsdale Teak 7-Piece Patio Dining Set

Mexican beach pebbles border the deck. I didn’t want the steps to just end in the backyard because I felt like that would make our deck look unfinished. I loved the idea of carrying over the same border from the fire pit to the deck so we did just that!

There’s a full tutorial for this floating deck here on The Home Depot Blog

Floating deck with river rock border

The outdoor dining area features the Barnsdale Teak 7-Piece Patio Dining Set.

Remember the rug we added to our back patio? Well, I added the same indoor/outdoor rug from Home Decorators Collection to our deck so both spaces would feel connected. Sensing a theme yet? ;)

To complete the space, I added a patio umbrella to our outdoor dining table to help shield us from the desert sun. It’s the Hampton Bay Aluminum 9 ft. Patio Umbrella. The canopy is made from Sunbrella fabric, which is super sun- and weather-resistant.

Barnsdale Teak 7-Piece Patio Dining Set and patio umbrella on floating deck

I also hung a trio of succulent planters on our back wall to brighten up the bland blocks!

Succulents in wall-hung planter

I’m so in love with our new Barnsdale patio dining set! It’s made of teak, which is a great weather-resistant material I won’t have to worry about when monsoon season comes. The frame has a powder-coated finish and the entire set has clean, modern lines, which I love!

The chairs are almost as comfortable as the chairs in our fire pit area! They came fully assembled, which is always a plus, and they stack for easy storing.

Barksdale outdoor dining chair

Who’s ready for an outdoor brunch?!

Chair from Tobago Outdoor Collection on a floating deck

If you’re not hungry, maybe you’d like to hang out in our lounge area, sipping coffee with your feet kicked up in our Tobago chair?

Just a thought :)


Artificial Grass

Artificial grass has come a long way, and it’s what make our yard feel like a yard and not like a desert. It might be the ultimate solution for a super low maintenance backyard and for anyone who wants to save water.

We turned to the pros for installation of Turf Evolutions Pet Turf, and we’re so happy we did!

The turf is installed just like carpet, which shocked me. There’s a ton of stakes and staples holding it in place but you’d never know. There’s also a seam but it’s impossible to detect!

We love sinking our toes into the turf while relaxing in our Brown Jordan Form chairs. Their clean lines, modern styling, and gold accents make my heart go pitter patter! Also, the chairs rock back and forth! It’s a subtle motion but it’s a feature I really like and something that a lot of outdoor chairs don’t offer.

Brown Jordan outdoor chairs on artificial grass lawn


The Side Yard

I love the look of mixed materials and wanted to recreate a similar look in our side yard. We used a mix of stones (Mexican beach pebbles and pea gravel) to create a wavy pathway that leads to our front courtyard. Again, pebbles are a good way to go for easy drought landscaping. Using a couple of different sizes for your stones is a great way to add visual appeal.

Side yard with Mexican pebbles and pea gravel river bed and LED lighting

We lined the pathway with solar path lights (the Caged Bollard Black path light, to be exact) to lead the way and included some desert-friendly landscaping to add some color.

Cactus in low maintenance backyard

Solar path light in low maintenance backyard


The Front Porch

Our front patio is so inviting now, with great curb appeal!

Front porch with Tobago patio chair and succulent vertical garden

I updated our door hardware, opting for an oil-rubbed bronze door handle set  with a finish that matches our window’s frame. I love the red accents on the handle and how nicely they pair with our warm house colors!

Oil-Rubbed Bronze Woodward II Handleset with Utica Lever on an orange door

I placed a Tobago chair in the corner of our porch and added a garden stool for beverages… or succulents, as shown. I love how the back of the Tobago chair flairs out. It reminds me of Beetlejuice for some reason! It’s different and I like it :)

Tobago patio chair on front porch with orange side table and vertical succulent garden

I wanted to add some life to our patio, so we hung a vertical succulent garden on the wall! It’s a great conversation piece that greets our guests as they walk inside.

I’ve written a tutorial for this vertical succulent garden that you can see here on The Home Depot Blog.

Vertical succulent garden hangs on the wall of a front porch


So, what do you think? I’m still pinching myself because I can’t believe our backyard is done!

A huge thank you goes to The Home Depot making my backyard design ideas come to life! Thanks, too, to the contractors who made heavy duty projects happen so beautifully (and quickly!).

I hope our space has inspired you to transform a blank space of yours!

Caitlin posted more photos, a planning board and more commentary about this backyard makeover on her blog. Take a look.

Caitlin Ketcham is a designer, a DIYer, and styler. When Caitlin isn’t working her 9-to-5 job, she’s busy blogging about turning her semi-custom house into a home on Desert Domicile. She lives in Tucson with her boyfriend and their three dogs. Check out the Easy DIY Wainscoting tutorial she created for The Home Depot Blog.

For more low maintenance backyard ideas, see other Patio Style Challenge articles, as well as our Patio Style Challenge pinboard on Pinterest.