10 Ways to Take Your Backyard to the Next Level

From Koi ponds to fire pits, here are our favorite ways to upgrade your outdoor space

Some backyard trends never fade from fashion: the pleasant sound of water, a place to sit outdoors comfortably and literally smell the roses — and other flowers — or dine and chat, or a screened-in porch to escape all sorts of bugs and other critters. But new trends also surface and area landscape designers and architects, retailers, and manufacturers offer many of the most appealing. Click through the gallery to view a handful of our favorites.

Koi Pond

A pond for ornamental Koi fish can be customized, and illuminated with energy-efficient LED lights, which are also available in a variety of colors. (Today, you can even program them to turn on and off with your smart phone!) A small waterfall and rock outcroppings can also be added, and the water can efficiently recirculate. A three-foot-deep Koi pond, roughly 300 square feet and built from concrete, might cost $40,000; going with a thick rubber liner will lower the cost to between $10,000 and $15,000.

Photograph courtesy of Neave Group Outdoor Solutions, Wappingers Falls.

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Sprays and Waterfalls

Larger water features can be outfitted for a more natural look — as well as more family fun. Shooting sprays and lavish waterfalls can be equipped with colored LED lights for more of an eye-popping show. Each “Lamianar Deck Jet” spray is $3,000, mounted into a patio. A similar waterfall with rock border runs $4,000 to $5,000.

Photograph courtesy of Neave Group Outdoor Solutions, Wappingers Falls.

Smokeless Fire Pit

Another upscale version of the increasingly popular fire pit looks like a coffee table with lava rocks embedded in the top. The rocks come in a choice of colors, and the pit works by having a pipe bring propane gas to it, which also means smokeless enjoyment. Cost: $449.99.

Photograph courtesy of Neave Group Outdoor Solutions, Wappingers Falls.

Outdoor Kitchen and Pizza Oven

No longer is a barbecue sufficient for many wanting to cook and dine al fresco. These days almost every piece of indoor kitchen equipment is available for the outdoors, including pizza ovens. The key is stainless-steel to withstand cold. This handmade stainless steel Kalamazoo pizza oven costs $14,000.

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Photograph courtesy of Neave Group Outdoor Solutions, Wappingers Falls.

Screened Porches

They’ve become popular again. They appeal as a quasi-indoor/outdoor place to extend interior living areas and enjoy Mother Nature but without bugs. They’ve become much more akin to furnished rooms with a fireplace, fan, TV, comfortable furnishings. Sometimes, they’re also equipped with retractable insect screens to morph into outdoor rooms. A new variation can be a separate freestanding outdoor porch as the firm of Demetriades + Walker in Lakeville, CT, did in Red Hook over looking a pool (top left). Or it can be attached to a house as architect James Crisp of Millbrook did for clients (top right).

Photographs courtesy of Demetriades + Walker (left) and Crisp Architects (right).

Multigame Sports Court and Putting Green

Not everyone wants to sit back and relax; a sports court can now offer multiple activities from basketball to shuffleboard, and more. New materials such as Flex Court are also weather resistant and softer on the feet than that old schoolyard-style blacktop! A multi-sports court with FlexCourt raised tile floor, basketball hoop, and fencing might cost $30,000 to $35,000 depending on accessories; a putting green, $12,000 to $15,000.

Photograph courtesy of Neave Group Outdoor Solutions, Wappingers Falls.

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Freestanding Pizza Oven

Equipped with a temperature gauge, flue damper, and air vents to retain and regulate oven heat for great cooking and smoking results, this steel model comes with wheels for “delivery” anywhere in the garden. It also can be used as a traditional oven. Cost: $249.99

Fire and Water

A favorite pairing; here the match is for a 36” natural gas fire pit, and stand-alone, manufactured hot tub measures eight feet by eight feet. The prices range, depending on model, specifications, and detail, from $5,000 to $15,000 for the pit and the tub from $15,000 to $40,000. Both from Elite Landscaping Inc., Poughkeepsie.

Art in the Garden

Personalize a garden with a Buddha sculpture or any piece of art that can withstand inclement weather — and add charm. Lindsay McGowen has done so at her retreat property, Land of 13 Moons, near the Ashokan Reservoir with a variety of rental possibilities viewed online at her web site, www.landof13moons.com. Her goal was to create serene gardens throughout the landscape where guests could wander for renewal and nourishment. Price unavailable, but many stores carry a variety of Buddhas.

Photograph by Tom Hammang; courtesy of www.landof13moons.com.

Outdoor TV and Fireplace Combo

They’re the perfect pairing for homeowners who want to stay warm and maybe roast S’mores while catching their favorite TV shows outdoors. These new-style “fireplaces” don’t use wood but do use propane gas and sometimes gels; they’re also weather resistant. The. TVs, too, work in cold and hot temperatures and have anti-reflective screens to cut glare. Similar TVs cost $5,000 to $12,000 depending on size and features; the split-faced travertine stone fireplace might cost $30,000.

Photograph courtesy of Neave Group Outdoor Solutions, Wappingers Falls.

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