Backyards: Do You Have One?

Our teeny NYC apartment doesn’t have outdoor space (except a rusty fire escape), but Alex and I often daydream about having a backyard. These garden photos are so inspiring. Can you imagine having a glass of wine and playing Scrabble out there in the evenings?

Plus, a Manhattan penthouse garden below…

Yowza! This place is for sale for a cool $4.5 million, if anyone’s looking. :)

P.S. NYC rooftop houses, and a guy with a hammock.

(Pool photo by Michael Graydon, and glass house photo by James Geer. Two photos via The Senses Five. Manhattan penthouse via Sotheby’s)

  1. This place looks so beautiful and relaxing. I always dream of having a home with nature and greenery. I loved the picture gallery. Looking forward to own this backyard house.
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  2. I have a tiny piece of dirt on our back patio that I decided to turn into my “minnie garden oasis” My favorite part of it is the pumpkin vines that are accidentally growing (I was trying to enrich the dirt first by throwing all of our food scraps( my idea of composting)) and now I have a ton of pumpkin vines everywhere :)

  3. I have a small backyard and I’m thinking of doing a landscaping here but I wonder if there are some rules I need to follow because of the short space.

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  4. What a gorgeous house you got here! I definitely love the huge backyard. Hope we had one as well. As for now, we are settling into a small garden in front of our house where I can plant some flowers in a pot.

  5. We recently moved from a high rise apt. smack dab in the middle of the city (with a roof top pool and fitness center) to a home on 2 acres. My husband loves it, we share the extra hours of yard work and I do enjoy the yard. I prefer city life though.

  6. All I have to say about that penthouse rooftop garden is: “Dang!”
    Pretty amazing.

  7. Those pictures are gorgeous! I especially love that peaceful little cottage at dusk.

    We have SIX acres! Coming from a Brooklyn apartment, it seems crazy. I’m actually a little overwhelmed with how much space it is.

  8. wow! how absolutely gorgeous!

  9. we have a little deck, but we need to get some patio furniture! i can’t wait till we can have a backyard though. :) these are gorgeous and that glass house is amazing!

  10. I agree with Sarah, you are pretty much guaranteed a backyard in Minneapolis even if you live in the city. I have a lovely back yard that is quite private even though I have neighbors just feet away. My garden is simple by design so that I can maintain my busy life style & my space without help. I love diggin in the dirt and gradually my ability to keep things going is improving. I am considering a tree for my front yard. I’ll be sure to post some photos on my blog when the work is complete.

    Check my blog out if you have time. I am just getting started and you are partly to blame for my new addication. Thanks for the inspiration.

    S. Katherine

  11. I love my garden and you have made me appreciate it a lot more. There are some pics of it on my most recent blog post as I’ve started growing my own veg!

  12. Joanna congratulations for this great post,the picture are fantastic.Daniela

  13. Anonymous says...

    Hi Joanna

    I love your blog. We live in a small rental house in Melbourne, Australia, that backs onto a park. It’s great to be able to open our back gate and invite the park into our backyard. Now we just need to find a house to buy that has the same set up! Hope you find yourself a little slice of greenery.


  14. We have a garden something like the first picture. We traded acreage for moving back to the city and having less space. We love it! It is nice having a pool and a courtyard but no grass. So low maintenance.

  15. Beautiful inspiration. We used to have a tiny deck and we moved out to the country and now have 5 acres. It’s a lot of work, but it’s so peaceful and serene. We really love it. :)

  16. Beautiful spaces!

  17. Caz says...

    I grew up in a capital city in Australia and everybody had a garden! There are apartment blocks around, but they’re certainly not the norm. We had a huge half acre with a pool and so much space to run around with our dog, ride our bikes, and build treehouses. Most friends had smaller yards, but still plenty of space to enjoy. But there’s no bad connotations to living in the suburbs like there seems to be in NYC. Everyone lives in ‘the suburbs’ – there’s a cluster of skyscrapers in the city centre, and within 5 minutes of that it’s all ‘suburbs’!
    Right now, in my mid-20’s I could happily live in an apartment, but certainly not once I had kids. Even if there were plenty of parks around, nothing beats having your own space that you can build a treehouse in and run around without supervision (or your parents having to worry about ‘stranger danger’).

    All those yards are beautiful, I especially love how peaceful that second one is :)

  18. We do have a “backyard” of sorts. We live at a boarding school so I help take care of a community garden right outside my back door and my kids think the playing fields are their “yard.” It’s a fantastic place for them to grow up.

  19. wow, those are gorgeous spaces! WE rent a tiny, 96-year-old house on a double-lot in Seattle (some of the areas of town that were incorporated late have huge lots; everyone in our neighbourhood has a double-lot!) and even though we are only renting, we put in a garden. We grow strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, currants, gooseberries and elderberries, have several veggie beds, and maybe a half-dozen separate perennial beds in the front and back of the house, filled with pretty and fragrant flowers (lots of David Austin roses, jasmine, and nicotiana for the summer) that keep the hummingbirds and the big fat native bumblebees (who live on our property) happy all summer long. =)

  20. I dream of a backyard with a veggie patch and lots of summer BBQs. I love the 1st and 2nd one.

  21. very nice. I do, and I moved from the city just for that. My backyard is now 3 acres, and much to my surprise Im not missing city life. But I am more then happy that I was able to grow up there. Toby is a lucky boy!

  22. These are all lovely! I especially love that penthouse garden

  23. I have a back yard and it’s usually too hot here to enjoy it even at night. *sigh*

  24. Wow, that penthouse is beautiful! I live in New Zealand, so there is heaps of space. 99.9% of houses here have lots of land! In my house, I have a swimming pool and a tennis court, but in my old house in London, we thought we were so lucky just to have a really small backyard out the back! I suppose it just depends on the city you live in.

    Kate {Something Fabulous}

  25. Anonymous says...

    Yes, we live on 9 acres, mostly wooded, but perhaps an acre and a half or two acres is cleared for the house. The back deck is off the first floor, but the house is set into a slope, so the deck is elevated (with walkout basement below.) It’s very peaceful – as if you are up in the trees- and we can grill and sit out with wine. The house is surrounded by trees in every direction so it’s completely private.

    That said, this is the first time in my adult life that I have not lived in an apartment in an urban setting, and I would actually much rather be in an apartment in a cool city, even if I had no outdoor space, than be here. In cities you have plenty of parks (although an apartment with a balcony is great.) I do love to garden and will miss that when we finally move (I’m leading the push back to the city) but I miss the energy of cities like crazy.

  26. 13 acres of backyard! Mostly pastures for the horses, but there’s about an acre of yard that my mom has gardened up. When I was growing up (in Atlantic City) I was one of my few classmates to have a backyard, and it was about 20’x20′. There was even a tree until our neighbour made us cut it down :(

  27. I live in an LA loft right now so I don’t have a backyard either. I’m moving to Portland at the end of the summer and one of my requirements for my new place is a backyard. I’m dying for a garden to grow flowers and veggies, and a space to have outdoor barbecues!

  28. e says...

    Yes, we have a backyard after many years in apartments with not even a balcony! I wouldn’t give it up for anything! Sitting out on the patio listening to the birds singing so happily in the morning, growing our own fruit and vegetables, having gigantic BBQ parties – truly priceless. I’ve gotten to the point where I sincerely care more about making the yard a nice, livable space than I do about the house. We utilize it that much. I’m heading out there right…now! :)

  29. unfortunately i do not have a backyard yet. but i could totally live with any of those in your pictures :)
    great findings!

  30. Wow, gorgeous backyards. We live in a condo on the bay in Virginia Beach so no backyard for us either.. want one badly though! We are looking to move within the next year or so and a backyard is hopefully in our future!

  31. We have a back yard in our current house for the first time (after years of apartment living in NYC and then LA), and I always feel like we should be using it MORE. We’ve got a vegetable garden, a hammock, several fruit trees, and a deck with both a dining table and some lounging chairs (and I admit the deck gets a lot of use. We eat outside most summer evenings). I hope as our kids get older the backyard will get even more use out of it.

  32. I would gladly take the $4.5 million dollar apartment with the dream backyard! My backyard right now consists of grass that needs a little TLC but I can’t complain much, my dogs have space to play. Thanks for the inspiration!

  33. Honestly, my first thoughts regarding our backyard go something like The dogs kill all the grass! We use so much water just to keep a few plants alive-ish! The Chinese Sumac is taking over! There’s chicken poop everywhere!

    But whenever I want to complain about something I try to think about what it would be like not to have it. So yes, I like having a yard (and dogs and chickens and dirt).

  34. we live in Jersey City and we have a SMALL backyard, but it’s big enough for a few plants, a nice outdoor table, and a future gas grill :D

    (right now we use the charcoal one on the fire escape… shhh!!)

  35. I grew up with the most wonderful backyard I could ever imagine! My grandparents owned a blueberry farm (they lived right next to us), and we had about 15 acres to build forts in the woods, go four-wheeling with a sled attached in the snow, climb many-a-tree, and pick fresh apples, plums, cherries, blackberries, and pears whenever we wanted! Those memories are some of my absolute favorites.


  36. Great inspiration. We have a backyard, but it’s on a very steep hill so it’s a little intimidating. We’re hoping to make some areas flat to have a lawn or patio area. Your photos got me excited to think of something to do with it. It’s a beautiful space with a view of the entire SF Bay so it would be worth it!

  37. We’re in Seattle and a year ago we moved from a 1-bedroom condo into a little cottage with a lush backyard. It was the best decision ever. Summer BBQs and bonfires! :) xo

  38. yes we do! the pictures are really cute :)

  39. We have a backyard! We also live in NC, but for good reason we like the outdoor hiking, fishing, climbing, skiing, beaches, etc. However, I do envy the NYC life! It’s 2 different worlds, but we always want what we can’t/don’t have! PS – yards are a lot of work! xoxo A-

  40. Anonymous says...

    It would be awesome to have even a tiny back yard with room for a blow up paddling pool and a sand box. :) How easy to open the door and just go outside! Imagine the finger painting and popsicle eating that could go on! Might be worth moving to Brooklyn?

  41. My family home in the suburbs has a back yard complete with trees, swings and a trampoline. The house I grew up in had a yard with a pool, grapefruit trees, and plum trees, but I can’t imagine having to keep up with a backyard myself though (even though in an ideal world I can just have someone else do it for me!).

    mon amy

  42. We have a postage stamp of a yard. On the plus side, an electric lawnmower is totally practical. On the other side, there’s no room for a swing-set (or a tree to hang a swing from). Which means we get plenty of exercise walking to the one playground that has swings, but it would be nice to have at least one swing in the yard for our swing-loving boy. We’re at least hoping to put in a patio sometime in the near future.
    My dad built the swing-set that was the envy of the neighborhood when I and my three siblings were growing up. One set of neighbors had a gloriously large sandbox, and the others had the swimming pool. I never realized how lucky we all were!

  43. I will take one of each, please of those backyards! We actually have a pretty nice backyard and I spend alot of time outside when the weather is nice. We live in SoCal, so it’s pretty nice year round. I have a huge tree that I want to put fairy lights on and hang lanterns – that is my immediate project for the backyard.

  44. We currently have the best backyard. We live in Gabon (Africa) where it’s 30 degrees Celsius every day and we’re really lucky to have a beautiful, large pool, outdoor kitchen, grassy area and papaya, banana and passionfruit plants. I will most certainly miss it when it’s time to move!

  45. I am very lucky to live in Brooklyn and have a backyard! It’s not *quite* warm enough, and my boyfriend often has to work late, but I am banking on some summer afternoons spent back there!

  46. sarah says...

    Yep, we bought our first home (with a big) backyard two years ago, and we spend tons of time outside. (We live in Colorado where weather is pretty wonderful from May until October). It’s been fun planting flowers, adding vegetable gardens, hanging a swing in a big tree, finally having space for a dog, and on and on….

    I dream of big city living sometimes, but I know that we would miss our outdoor spaces way too much! (And really, yard work has become our cheap entertainment May-Oct. :)

  47. we have an entire acre of yardage over here… its a little TOO much for us at the moment (no kids.. except three crazy dogs) but i do enjoy having the space..

    an dont even get me started on bbq’s and patio wine time… makes me LOVE living in CA (:

  48. Wow! I think it’s really neat seeing that amazing garden in that spot. I have always dreamed of a backyard for my family. I grew up with a huge one, complete with a huge jungle-gym and playhouse designed and built by my dad, my mom’s massive garden, a huge section of raspberry bushes, two apple trees, lots of grass to play in, and a concrete pad for riding tricycles. It was so fantastic, I only hope we can have something a fraction as good as it was!

  49. apartment living/city life definitely equals YARD ENVY (though I feel lucky to be in DC, and surrounded by green, blooming, Rock Creek Park). I keep “joking” that I’m going to lay sod down in our parking space and wait to see what our neighbors say.

  50. We have 3.2 acres with lots of room to roam, and a VERY large playhouse that sits on stilts surrounded by trees in our backyard. A fire escape just wouldn’t cut it for us, but I understand that that is the norm in NYC.

    Here is a tour of our playhouse in the backyard that I filmed at the request of one of my blog readers… Enjoy!

  51. living in the midwest + a little ways from a metro city, we do have a nice little chunk of land next to a creek :) i’m not fond of cold winters, but when summer rolls around we practically live outdoors! i grew up in an apartment as a child, so i basically had a small cement backyard to play on, so it’s very nice to have greenery!

  52. Caitlin M. says...

    We’ve only got a teeny deck now but, we’re moving this summer and we found a cute little house with a small backyard and a screened-in porch!

  53. Oh my goodness these images are gorgeous! I dream of having a backyard as well! I would love lots of greenery and vines…

  54. I just said goodbye to a beautiful backyard (1.5 acres) today and am writing this from a hotel as our family waits to jump on a plane and relocate to the big smoke! What is the opposite of a tree change?! Crazy! And exciting. We’ll be living steps from the city’s botanic garden, but I know I will miss having even a sliver of private green space all to ourselves. Ps every meal tastes better eaten in your own backyard – especially breakfast!

  55. Our backyard is currently just a field of dirt. We just moved into a new house and there is absolutely NO landscaping yet – I can’t wait to get busy and create a backyard. I LOVE the photo of the yard with the small pool. That would be great!


  56. I’m lucky in that I have a big sprawling yard. Farm life is good like that sometimes :). We have a hammock under two maple trees that’s perfect for summer napping. We’re also building a new pergola where an old (small) barn used to be and I can’t want for it to be done. We play bocce out on the back lawn almost every night in summer months!

  57. April says...

    I cannot for a second imagine living without a backyard. Ours consists of a screened-in porch which leads to an L-shaped pool. In the very back of the yard is a large vegetable garden. On the side is a swingset for the kiddos and an above-ground tomato garden. Maypops and blackberries grow wild along the wood line. I’m southern to the core and dearly love spending our hot, humidity-ridden summer days by the pool. Our summer evenings are spent harvesting the garden and nights consist of grilling out and cooking fresh vegetables.

    Our youngest usually wants to shed his swimsuit so at some point there will be a tan little boy with a very white hiney jumping in the pool. :)

    It’s pretty great.

  58. I grew up in a city with a small backyard, which I think forced me to have an even larger imagination. Recently, I just moved to a rural area (which kind of freaks me out), but the good news is I have several acres surrounded by stone walls. *Sometimes* I put on my pasture boots and walk around like Kate Middleton. I feel like she does that. Does she, even?

  59. My husband and I just closed on our first house a few months ago. It has 1.89 acres. SUCH A BLESSING to have a yard, but definitely maintenance.

  60. We live in the ‘burbs with a .5 acre lot, so we have a nice backyard. It does take work, though. Unless you have just grass, you need to weed and maintain your perennials, replacing them when they give up the ghost. It is wonderful when everything is blooming, though! We have two little ponds that take the water from our sump pump and put our fish in it during the summer (we live in the upper midwest…they don’t survive in it during the winter since they freeze solid). We lived in a townhome at one point and I really missed having a yard.

  61. We also have a small house and a big backyard with an awesome patio. Four years ago we ripped out the back half of the yard and put in a huge vegetable garden. Last year we added four chickens to the mix. My husband and I and our three year old love it and we spend the November-April inside looking forward to spending April-October outside. In the winter, my favorite place is in front of our fireplace. In the summer, it is a warm summer night sitting on the patio looking out on a hopefully weeded garden, kiddo playing with the garden hose and a gin and tonic in hand while dinner grills. That for me is pure heaven. OK, it is probably even better when said kiddo is tucked away in bed and not potentially spraying us with the hose. :-)

  62. My husband and I live in a tiny apartment too – in San Francisco. We have access to our roof, and to great parks, but it’s not the same. We may decide to have our first baby while still living in the city, but I think we’re leaning toward moving to an area where we can have a yard shortly thereafter. We shall see. :-) Thanks for posting, and for giving me something to day dream about this morning.

  63. Anonymous says...

    I have a yard here in Denver, which I do enjoy, but man, it is a lot of work. I would love to have an apartment with a nice balcony or patio and just a few plants instead. Ah, the grass is always greener…..

  64. I have always had a backyard and I wish I would taken more advantage of them! I have alot of memories playing games, laying out and having family time in our backyards!

  65. Oh wow, those are incredible! We live in DC, so no backyard for us. We dream of having a big backyard with a garden and a pool where we can sit on our deck with a beer and watch our kids run around in the yard. Someday :)


  66. Fabulous pics, I love the first one and that rooftop one in the city seems cool, crazy price tag though! The Hubby and I are always dreaming of leaving NYC for a huge yard for our boys. I’m actually chiming in from AZ, visiting my bestie. The hubby called me out to the yard last night to gaze at the clearest stars I’d ever seen. I must admit i wanted the light on in fear of what creature was, I’m such a city girl but it was amazing!

  67. Fabulous pics, I love the first one and that rooftop one in the city seems cool, crazy price tag though! The Hubby and I are always dreaming of leaving NYC for a huge yard for our boys. I’m actually chiming in from AZ, visiting my bestie. The hubby called me out to the yard last night to gaze at the clearest stars I’d ever seen. I must admit i wanted the light on in fear of what creature was, I’m such a city girl but it was amazing!

  68. Beautiful photos, Joanna! We do have a large backyard (one perk of living in the ‘burbs;) Last summer, after much begging, I talked my husband into hanging a hammock on our screened-in porch–it is the perfect place to take naps with our baby boy. Sometimes I feel annoyed living in our cookie-cutter neighborhood; this post was a good reminder of how lucky we are to have a great outdoor space. (And has inspired me to start a container garden!) XO

  69. Our backyard is where we live! My daughter would be very unhappy if she couldn’t be outside most of the day!

  70. I always dream of living in NY, but then I immediately start missing the thought of the outdoors. Our home is backed up to the woods, so we’re pretty lucky. Except one morning, I’m pretty sure I heard a wart hog behind the fence…I grabbed the dog and took off sprinting BACK inside!

    I still absolutely love reading about your life in New York, though.

  71. Love love that top image, a pool!
    really miss not having a backyard, our default is gorgeous central park but not the same!

  72. gisella, haha, brooklyn might be in our future for sure!!

  73. natalie, your house looks so beautiful!!

  74. aww, lauren, what a sweet note, you made my day:)

  75. kate, how fun!!! good luck with the move!!

  76. Infinity swoon on the first back yard! That’s amazing!
    We have a shared yard that no one ever uses.

    The J’adore Blog

  77. Oh Yes! I have a backyard!! :-) In fact, my whole blog is based around it!! I don’t know what life would be like without it!

  78. I felt like when I had a back yard it went very under-used. Now all I have is a little back patio off my apartment building (which is still something) and I miss the back yard. I would love it if my next apartment had some roof top space or a little court yard.

  79. I forgot an important detail… we don’t Scrabble, but we always have a glass of good wine (we are portuguese, right? :-))

  80. I wish I had a backyard. I have a fair sized balcony which is nice but not the same. I would love grass and a little garden and to be able to let my dog out to go to the washroom without having to go with him :)

  81. Those backyards are fantastic! We are putting in a new fence & landscaping our backyard this summer. Unfortunately there won’t be any pools or ponds but I would love to put in a lot of green plants & bushes like the last photo!

  82. My husband and I live in a tiny house but it has a back and front yard. At first, I thought the yardwork and maintenance would be too much, but it is so worth it. Late summer afternoons on our deck, early morning coffee, and happy hour on our front porch are my favorite times. It’s a great way to entertain lots of friends without having them all crammed inside.

  83. My husband and our daughter live downtown Kansas City, MO and do not have a backyard, so we have made the PARK our oasis!!! I would love to have one to these…neat photos.

    ox, amanda

  84. move to brooklyn, most of us have backyards! you two would be the perfect addition to the chic williamsburg parents.

  85. I do… I have a little frontyard where my kiddo loves to see cars pass by (fortunetly, our street is very quiet) and a bigger backyard, with a barbecue, 2 lemon trees, 1 orange tree (the oranges are very bitter!!), 1 plum tree (the plums are delicious), a medlar tree, a small plantation (where we had coriander, parsley, red chilli, bay), a grass area where we take long naps in the spring, but has to be fenced because we have a crazy dog that loves to digg holes… :-) she has a big area to run, digg and bury bones ;-) In spring/summer we put a big screen TV over our covered well and have dinner with friends and watch movies (or soccer championships)

  86. Sadly, no, I don’t have a backyard. It’s the only thing I miss in my studio in Brooklyn…

  87. Living in Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean but on an apartment, we don’t get a back yard, but we do have a large balcony where we eat and have drinks with friends when the nights are nice and cool-that’s 9 months a year. :)

  88. I have a Park Slope backyard, and it makes my house the place to be in the summer. My friends and I do a lot of s’mores and beers out there.

  89. Our new house has one, which is so rad for patio parties and reading on the grass, but I’m also discovering that lawn care is kind of a full-time job!

  90. Ugh, wish I had a backyard!!! When I lived in Hoboken, my first apartment had a tiny, but all mine, backyard. No one had ever taken care of it before, and I spend my first summer there trying to make it all my own. I wanted to plant a small garden, but the soil was in such mad shape (garbage everywhere I dug up), I would have had to spend way to much of my own money to make it usable. Still, a girl can dream.

  91. We have a terraced backyard. TERRACED! 3 tiers… so lovely and it will be so fun to play with the landscaping.

  92. We’re waiting to close on our first home, and the one thing my husband and I can’t stop talking about is the backyard! BBQs, corn-hole, and fire pits — here we come!!

  93. Nope, we live in a condo! Our neighborhood has a lot of parks, but it’s not quite the same thing as having your own space.

  94. Living in the Midwest, you’re almost guaranteed a backyard. Even in big cities, like Chicago and MPLS, there’s always a ton of lush green space to treat like your own backyard. I definitely benefit from it. It’s such a great escape from four walls and wood floors!

  95. We live in a tiny house with a HUGE backyard. It’s my sanity, I wouldn’t survive a day in NY living in an apartment…

  96. When my husband and I were looking to buy, I was dead set on a townhome. My husband on the other hand wanted a house. We made a deal that if he found one with a big backyard I could get some puppies. I quickly agreed and have never loved having a backyard more!

  97. Well, I was born in a country where you can easily have a backyard (which I do have! A big one…) and it really is priceless. You can throw a big party with your friends, you can chill with your family, have BBQ, sunbathing while you almost fall asleep with the sound of the birds (as much unreal as it might seem, you can have all this in the middle of the city). It’s wonderful to know it is all yours!

  98. We’re moving to our first house(with backyard) next week. I was so excited until these photos gave me extreme backyard envy! Looks like I have some work to do! (we’re hoping to make our patio super cozy and set up an outdoor projection area for outside movie nights!)

  99. We have a backyard… with just grass.. and nothing else..! it’s so sad.. those backyards in the photos look amazing…

  100. Joanna, you continue to brighten my day, every day, just like you did with your sweet email in the fall. Thank you for the work you put into this – and for echoing my own thoughts so often in such a kind, genuine voice. I feel like I have something to read that really resonates with my life! Hope you have a lovely day.

  101. Anonymous says...

    yea…i could totally drop 4 million that easily…if only i were european or from a wealthy part of asia, or a hedge fund guy..