4 Yards Gain Pretty Views With Creative Privacy Screens

Nothing can the spoil the enjoyment of a pleasant outdoor lounge or a backyard barbecue area like a direct view of an unsightly neighboring property. Knowing that your neighbors have a clear view of what you’re up to when you’re outside also can dampen the mood. That’s where creative outdoor screening solutions can help.

In tightly packed neighborhoods, outdoor privacy screens can create intimate and private outdoor spaces — benefiting you and your neighbors. They also can work within your yard, blocking less attractive or more utilitarian views from your main outdoor living spaces. See how designers effectively and creatively added privacy in the following four yards.

1. Contemporary and Moody Dark Stained Cedar Screens

Designer: Sander Freedman of Sander Design Landscape Architecture
Location: Forest Hill neighborhood of Toronto
Size: Backyard is 500 square feet (46 square meters)

In Toronto’s Forest Hill neighborhood, this new backyard design provides the homeowner with an outdoor space where she can relax and entertain. “She wanted a calm outdoor space where she could chill out at home,” landscape architect Sander Freedman says. Creating a feeling of privacy and seclusion from close neighbors was important to create the effect that the homeowner wanted.

Freedman edged the yard with a low retaining wall made of a gray concrete linear block system from Techo-Bloc, topping the wall with black granite. In addition to acting as soil-retaining devices, the walls also create planting beds and add backyard seating.

Screening solution: Stained cedar panels. Three blue-gray stained cedar privacy screens sit atop the planting beds, blocking the views of unsightly shrubs and chain-link fence along the property line for anyone sitting outside or inside the home.

The screen is broken up into multiple panels, minimizing the feeling of a solid barrier and creating more of a sculptural effect to tie it in with the rest of the backyard. “The horizontal planks pick up on the linear siding on the house, and the screens helped create an outdoor room architecturally,” Freedman says. Peegee hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’) grow in front of the screens to soften them.

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With the dark stained cedar screens in front of dark foliage, the edge of the yard appears to recede and blend in with the property border. The screens enhance the border in a subtle way.

Freedman used dark and light materials to complement and contrast one another in this contemporary design. The concrete pavers lend a contemporary vibe, while the green foliage, boulders and cedar paneling add a serene Japanese-inspired sensibility.

See more of this Toronto patio

2. Board-Formed Concrete Feature Wall With Fireplace

Design and construction oversight: Landform Design Group
Location: Salt Lake City
Size: Backyard and side yard together are 4,200 square feet (390 square meters)

As part of a phased overhaul of their outdoor space, a couple in Salt Lake City worked with Landform Design Group to renovate their backyard, designing it to center around a new outdoor dining and kitchen area. “Coming from California, they understood outdoor living and how important useful outdoor space can be,” design principal Jayson King says of the homeowners.

Screening solution: Board-formed concrete wall with fireplace. The outdoor dining area directly abuts the garage and driveway. To separate the two spaces and create more ambiance, the team installed a freestanding board-formed concrete wall with an integrated gas-powered fireplace and Cor-Ten panels. A gap allows the owners to freely move between the backyard and the driveway.

The design team used rough cedar for the board-formed concrete, adding an aggregate-texture finish. The effect ties the wall in with the horizontal board fence used around the yard’s perimeter.

This view also give you a sense of the wall’s height and how it divides the two spaces.

See more of this Salt Lake City backyard

3. Tiered and Planted Backdrop

Designer: Sylvie De Brabandere of ACRE Landscape Architecture + Design Studio
Location: Toronto
Size: Patio is 360 square feet (33 square meters)

As opposed to the screening solutions in the previous projects, which were much closer to the primary outdoor living spaces, this backyard in Toronto required screening of a more distant view. “This yard was just a long, narrow, flat lawn that was shaped like a bowling lane,” landscape architect Sylvie De Brabandere says. At the end was a direct view of the neighbor’s yard and shed.

Screening solution: Tiered planter beds. The designer installed two rows of plants on raised beds along the yard’s back edge, screening the view of the yard and shed behind. Evergreen cedars on the right side block the view of a neighbor’s shed year-round. On the left, Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’) adds contrasting texture, shape and color and effectively screens the view beyond. The house sits about 8 feet above the ground, so the new design provides an attractive view to the homeowners when they’re inside as well. The clean, contemporary design is softened with loose, naturalistic plantings.

The concrete planter walls are faced with black basalt flagstone. The dark color lets the plants stand out. Here we see geraniums spilling over the wall in late spring, adding color.

See more of this Toronto backyard

4. Artistic Cedar Fence

Designers: Fanny Hothan, Jordan Widjaja and Vladimir Radutny of Vladimir Radutny Architects
Location: Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago
Size: Lot is 5,600 square feet (520 square meters); 160 feet long and 35 feet wide

This 100-year-old home in Chicago’s Logan Square is characteristic of the neighborhood, architect Vladimir Radutny says. The two-story brick building sits on a long, narrow city lot, surrounded on three sides by structures, and the lack of screening left much of the yard exposed to the multistory, multiunit apartment buildings that flank it. As part of the home’s renovation, Vladimir Radutny Architects upgraded the exterior space.

The new deck with privacy screening is the backyard’s key design element. It’s a gathering and entertaining destination, a playground, and a corridor for getting from the home down into the yard. It breaks up the lot into multiple smaller areas, reducing the feeling of being in one long, narrow outdoor space.

Screening solution: Architectural cedar fence. A new two-sided cedar fence lines the deck as it descends into the yard, forming a porous barrier between the home and the adjacent apartment building (whose entry sits just on the other side of the fence). The fence stands about 13 feet tall on the neighbors’ side and between 8 and 10 feet tall on this side.

Vladimir Radutny Architects

The architects arranged the cedar slats on both sides of the fence according to how much privacy they wanted to create. The material is more tightly packed closer to the house, creating the feeling of a solid screen. The spacing between slats increases farther from the house, allowing more light to penetrate. “You don’t need as much privacy at that point,” Radutny says.

See more of this Chicago backyard

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Annie Thornton

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