16 No-Grass Backyard Ideas for Designing a Beautiful Outdoor Space

raised wooden deck shade blue umbrella

What would you rather be doing on a summer afternoon? Mowing the lawn or relaxing with friends and family in your backyard? Use these ideas for creating inviting, grass-free areas in your yard as inspiration for a no-mow landscape.

01of 16

Embrace Outdoor Living

red patio furniture back yard garden landscape
BOB STEFKO

Make lawn mowing a thing of the past by replacing your turf with a large patio for gathering and entertaining. This family did just that by installing a beautiful outdoor seating area surrounded by planting beds. A wide garden path around a fountain further reduces lawn space. The last remaining strips of grass are easily tamed with a push mower in just a few minutes.

02of 16

Carve Out a Slope

flagstone patio sitting area with garden stream
EDWARD GOHLICH

In sloping backyards, mowing can be even more of a chore (not to mention a workout). The owners of this home chose to carve out space in their slope to create an outdoor seating area, complete with a sturdy pergola for added shade. A stone retaining wall keeps the slope in place and frames a bed of colorful plants. A water feature takes advantage of the slope to create a waterfall effect.

03of 16

Embrace a Minimalist Look

backyard garden gravel concrete pavers grasses
Tufts of green soften paths of geometric concrete pavers and gravel. Although the plants vary from grasslike sedge, clipped boxwood, and fuzzy lamb’s-ear, they share a similar sphere-like shape. HOLLY LEPERE

Maintaining a constantly green, lush lawn takes a lot of water and other inputs, especially in areas where drought is common. The designer replaced a mostly dead lawn with a soft, airy palette of drought-tolerant ornamental grasses and other plants in this California landscape. Water-permeable gravel and large concrete pavers complete the low-maintenance space.

04of 16

Widen a Path

backyard stone patio with outdoor seating
DAN PIASSICK

Cut down on lawn chores and add more living space by widening garden paths. Here, an extra-wide path of flagstones leads to a spacious patio. If an outdoor gathering requires more room, the pathway blocks are large enough to comfortably accommodate additional seating.

05of 16

Spread Out

back exterior muted palette deck with dogs
SHAUN SULLIVAN

Don’t skimp when adding a deck or patio. The more space you can cover, the more options you’ll have. Not only will there be less grass to mow, but you’ll also be able to add more comfortable oversize furniture. In addition, this generous size deck leaves plenty of room for outdoor seating.

06of 16

Swim, Don’t Mow

Elevated view of backyard with swimming pool and seating area
BOB STEFKO

Even small backyards can be transformed to feel like a luxury resort. In this suburban backyard, the lawn was replaced with an in-ground swimming pool that ties together four small entertaining areas. What was once a labor-intensive lawn is now the centerpiece for family fun.

07of 16

Plant a Slope

flower garden slope with gravel path
EDWARD GOHLICH

Pushing a mower up and down a steep hill on a hot day can be a real chore. So to eliminate that hard work, the owners of this sloping property opted to create a wide path through terraced garden beds of drought-tolerant plants. Stacked stone walls help hold everything in place and give the space definition.

08of 16

Consider a Courtyard

Garden patio with pea gravel and greenery
DAVID TSAY

Before this backyard was remodeled, the only view was of a fading green lawn struggling to survive under the nearby trees. But help came when the homeowners replaced the tired turf with a gravel courtyard punctuated with circular concrete pavers. The result? A welcoming and low-maintenance yard that looks as inviting from ground level as it does from above.

09of 16

Use Every Square Inch

above view back yard patio garden landscaping
KRITSADA PANICHGUL

Losing your lawn allows you to make the most of every square inch of space. For example, in this small urban backyard, tightly fitted flagstone pieces interspersed with squares of river rock and low-growing plants create a natural, easy-care environment. A deck made from composite materials anchors the opposite end of the yard. Sheared evergreens, lush bamboo, and small trees add greenery to the space while also providing shade and additional privacy.

10of 16

Mix Materials

home exterior patio garden lanscaping
WERNER STRAUBE

Small spaces don’t have to look cramped if you’re clever about mixing paving materials. Here, a narrow backyard looks a lot wider than it actually is because the bricks were laid in several complementary patterns that draw the eye through the space. In addition, the two small patios are separated by a strip of concrete. It creates the illusion that the area has doubled in size.

11of 16

Grow Food

vegetable garden planted in rows by farm house
DANA GALLAGHER

Most veggies do best in the same conditions that turf prefers: well-drained soil in full sun. When you remove lawn to plant a vegetable garden, you’ll have so much more to show for your outdoor sweat equity than grass clippings. These homeowners replaced their lawn with an edible garden, where rows of lettuce, carrots, greens, and other crops provide plenty of fresh produce for creating delicious, healthy meals.

12of 16

Deck the Yard

raised wooden deck shade blue umbrella
JAMIE HADLEY

If you have wet or uneven ground, why not deck the area and sell your lawn mower at your next garage sale? Here, a shady, muddy backyard was given dry footing with the addition of a large raised deck. This no-grass backyard idea adds entertaining space. Eliminating mowing and weeding chores will allow more time to relax with family and friends in your no-mow backyard.

13of 16

Plant a Garden

backyard flower garden
MARION BRENNER

Instead of spending time and money keeping a lawn in top shape, you could grow a lush garden, turning your no-grass backyard into an oasis. In this modest backyard, a collection of planting beds overflow with a mix of colorful flowers and edible plants. In addition to supplying the family with armloads of fresh flowers and veggies, this beautiful garden keeps the neighborhood birds and butterflies nourished.

14of 16

Plan for Family Fun

sofas gray cushions outdoor glass fire pit pavers
A custom firepit, made from a repurposed industrial propane tank and filled with crushed clear glass, sits at the center of the outdoor living room. A gravel frame ties the firepit to the rest of the yard. HOLLY LEPERE

Removing the lawn isn’t enough to turn your backyard into a relaxing retreat. Think about how you want to use the space and build the landscape around your family’s needs. For example, gravel and large concrete pavers set off a gorgeous fire pit for entertaining after dark in this drought-tolerant landscape.

15of 16

Mimic Nature

woman walking into backyard patio garden
BOB STEFKO

A manicured lawn requires so much effort to maintain because other plants naturally want to move in and mingle. Taking your cues from Mother Nature when designing your backyard will actually make things a little easier. This homeowner used a mix of shrubs, perennials, and stone to create a natural look. As a result, the upkeep is minimal, and the garden looks like it sprung up naturally.

16of 16

Keep Seasons in Mind

outdoor furniture fire pit in backyard fall
BOB STEFKO

The less lawn you have, the more you can create cozy spaces for enjoying the outdoors all year round. Make sure to consider what each of the different seasons offers in your backyard to make the most of them. Here, for example, the owners knew they wanted to enjoy their yard as long as possible in the fall, so they surrounded their stone patio with shrubs and trees that would provide bold autumn color. They also included a portable fire pit to warm up chilly nights.

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