9 Upscale Backyard Landscaping Ideas for Phoenix, AZ Properties

October 4, 2023

Cacti and planters as landscape boundary

For most homes, the backyard provides a space for outdoor living, entertainment and recreation. People also prefer it over the front yard for utilitarian activities like outdoor cooking and tool storage, which are best done away from prying eyes. Based on current landscaping trends, there appears to be an increased interest in upscale makeovers in this normally private section of the home.

Table of Content

  • 1. Set Up Your Outdoor Living Room on a Patio or Deck
    • 2. Choose Your Weather Shield: Pergola vs. Gazebo vs. Ramada
      • 3. Beat the Winter Cool with an Outdoor Fireplace or Fire Pit
        • 4. Complete the Deluxe Experience with a Custom Outdoor Kitchen
          • 5. Custom Pool, Putting Green or Play Area: Deciding on Your Recreation Spaces
            • 6. Garden, Lawn or Other Water Features: Which Focal Element Best Represents You?
              • 7. Ensure Walkways Allow for a Pleasant Outdoor-to-Indoor Glide
                • 8. Add Landscape Lighting for Safety and Style
                  • 9. Finish with a Sleek Wall or Fence
                    • Discussing Your Backyard Landscaping Design Idea with the Pros
                    • What do homeowners consider luxury backyard landscaping ideas? For many, “luxury” means grandeur in visual style and lifestyle. Besides architectural appeal, people also want the cozy home interior atmosphere outdoors. In Phoenix, Arizona, that means using cutting-edge technology and design concepts to tame the desert into a picturesque and friendly dwelling place.

                      Straight Line Landscape understands clients’ needs from many years of experience. So, in this blog post, we give you our top recommendations for creating an upscale desert landscape.

                      1. Set Up Your Outdoor Living Room on a Patio or Deck

                      The outdoor living room simulates the indoor feel outside your home. Comfort and entertainment are a given, but what makes it special is that it provides a deeper experience of nature. The outdoor living room should be as conducive to relaxation and jovial chats as the home interior.

                      Design-wise, you have two options. You can set up your outdoor living room either on a patio or a deck.

                      • Outdoor Living Room
                      • Pool with fire pit
                      • Backyard lounge
                      • Backyard with fire pit
                      Patio vs. Deck: The first photo shows a patio living room with an outdoor fireplace. The second photo has a patio living room near a pool. The third photo shows a poolside deck living room. The fourth photo has a deck seating area warmed by a fire pit. All done by Straight Line Landscape.

                      An upscale patio, positioned at ground level, not only enhances safety but also affords practicality for installing heavy furniture and premium equipment. Typically built from either natural or high-quality artificial stone, it serves as an ideal location for sophisticated outdoor kitchens, elegant fire features, and flammables. Moreover, the construction materials chosen for these upscale patios require little maintenance, blending convenience with luxury.

                      Meanwhile, a deck is elevated from the ground. If high enough, it can give a panoramic view of the outdoors. If your backyard has uneven terrain, a deck can make an even, stable support for your outdoor living room. Decks generally have a greater return on investment than patios.

                      Whichever you choose, it’s always best to consult a trusted landscaping professional. They will help you maximize your outdoor living room's safety and comfort features.

                      2. Choose Your Weather Shield: Pergola vs. Gazebo vs. Ramada

                      A shade structure protects your outdoor living room from various environmental elements, ensuring comfort through any weather. It also provides overhead privacy, which your guests will appreciate if your neighbors live in taller houses. The right style can likewise add elegance to your backyard space.

                      The most popular backyard shade structures are pergolas, gazebos and ramadas. You can read more about their differences from one of our previous posts.

                      • Pergola
                      • Ramada

                      Patio living rooms with different shade structures. The first photo showcases a pergola, while the second one has a ramada. Straight Line Landscape’s creations.

                      Of the three, pergolas provide partial shade but are better for supporting climbing plants and viewing the night sky. Gazebos and ramadas are solid roofs, which are more appropriate for housing delicate equipment. Choose a design that matches your deck or patio best.

                      3. Beat the Winter Cool with an Outdoor Fireplace or Fire Pit

                      The Arizona desert is known for being particularly shivery in the winter. A fire feature can keep your outdoor living room cozy during those months. Besides protecting you from the cold, outdoor fire features can serve as focal points, create a dramatic setting and help cook food in your outdoor space.

                      An outdoor fire feature can be an outdoor fireplace or fire pit.

                      • Outdoor fireplace
                      • Fire pit-heated nook

                      Outdoor Fireplace vs. Fire Pit. The first photo shows an upscale fireplace warming up an outdoor living room. The second photo has a fire pit-heated nook. Done by Straight Line Landscape.

                      An outdoor fireplace is a powerful heater, with the firebox directing most of the heat toward your outdoor living room and keeping it from escaping into the air. You can put a pizza oven or grill in it without losing its charm. If big enough, you can use it to camouflage unsightly spots in your outdoor living space. 

                      By comparison, a fire pit gives off less heat. However, the right design ensures it still works well in a desert climate. A fire pit allows 360° interactions as it doesn’t block anyone from view. Fire pit fountains combine fire and water elements and are currently popular luxury fire feature trends.

                      Read our blog on outdoor fireplace ideas to learn more about various fire feature designs. 

                      4. Complete the Deluxe Experience with a Custom Outdoor Kitchen

                      Anyone can set up a portable grill outdoors and start cooking, but nothing can make home barbecues fancier than a custom outdoor kitchen. It is currently an in-demand home improvement because of the unique cooking and dining experiences it creates. Huge investment returns and unlimited design options make custom outdoor kitchens a popular backyard addition among people seeking to elevate their lifestyles. 

                      An example of a complete high-end outdoor kitchen. Design and construction by Straight Line Landscape.

                      Some ideas to consider are a “complete” outdoor kitchen, various types of cooking equipment, a spacious outdoor dining area and an outdoor bar.

                      A complete outdoor kitchen has all the functions of an indoor kitchen—cold and dry storage, washing, food preparation, cooking and serving. It’s convenient to have one if you plan to host large parties throughout the year. It’s also a good choice if your outdoor kitchen is more than a few yards away from your house.

                      To complement a complete outdoor kitchen, you may fill it with a wide array of cooking appliances. Besides a grill, you may get a pizza oven, a flat-top griddle, a smoker cabinet and others that let you prepare food in unique ways. Chefs and foodies in your family will thank you for having a loaded outdoor kitchen.

                      A spacious outdoor dining area leaves no guest without a seat. So, if you have one, it only means you’re a thoughtful host. If you have limited dining table space, you can make an extra seating area close to the pool or other places where guests can mingle.

                      Consider an outdoor bar if you have room to spare and friends who love your weekend rosé parties. It can also serve as an extension of your dining space. Not all outdoor kitchens come with outdoor bars, but if they do, they let you stay ready to entertain large crowds.

                      Read our previous blog post to know more about outdoor kitchen features that rock.

                      5. Custom Pool, Putting Green or Play Area: Deciding on Your Recreation Spaces

                      Recreation spaces make the backyard more fun. They’re even the centers of action in some homes. Besides their inherent entertainment value, they enhance social interactions and help you with your fitness goals. Some ideas to consider are a custom inground pool, putting green and play area.

                       Custom pools have always been part of luxurious homes. Design and construction by Straight Line Landscape.

                      Inground pools are those permanent custom swimming pools built below ground level. Custom pools have been associated with posh living since time immemorial. Besides their beauty and investment value, they can cool you down from the Phoenix heat, help you stay fit and carry their weight as a major attraction during outdoor parties.

                      • Putting green & turf
                      • Miller - A backyard playground

                      The first photo: A backyard putting green. The second photo: A backyard playground. Creations of Straight Line Landscape.

                      If you’re a golf enthusiast, you can go for a putting green. Young children in the family may request a playground, with or without a playhouse. You can also consider other activity spaces that your family and guests may enjoy, such as an outdoor TV room, a basketball court and a tennis court. The possibilities are endless!

                      6. Garden, Lawn or Other Water Features: Which Focal Element Best Represents You?

                      Customization is a luxe idea by itself. You can create a standout backyard design with focal elements that imprint your personality on your outdoor space. A focal feature is either the first thing guests notice or the one with the most permeating presence in your landscape. It makes a statement not just about you but also about how invested you are in your environment.

                      A curated garden shows your nurturing essence. In the arid climate of Phoenix, Arizona, the common choice is cultivating native plants due to their minimal water and maintenance requisites. Yet, a tropical flower garden, albeit demanding in upkeep, speaks to your fondness for natural beauty. A vegetable garden means you’re thinking of food security. Utilizing pots and planters facilitates the cultivation of water-loving greens amidst Phoenix's desert backdrop.

                      Desert-adapted plants in a Phoenix backyard garden. Done by Straight Line Landscape.

                      A lawn can either be natural or artificial. Natural grass, like a flower or vegetable garden, shows you’re the strong, nurturing type. Artificial turf is more appropriate for busybodies with pollen allergies or limited lawn care time but still want touches of green in their backyard. 

                      • A lawn covered with natural grass
                      • An artificial grass lawn

                      Natural vs. Artificial Lawn. The first photo: A lawn covered with natural grass. The second photo: An artificial grass lawn. Installed by Straight Line Landscape.

                      An extra water feature, such as a fountain or waterfall, makes a captivating sight and attracts wildlife. Having one shows people that you place great importance on both style and nature. Phoenix home water use regulations are less strict in backyards than in front yards, so consider building a pond in this area of your property.

                       Water-efficient waterfalls enhance the beauty of this upmarket poolside living room. Design and construction by Straight Line Landscape.

                      Shade structures, outdoor fireplaces and other hardscapes can also become a focal feature in your backyard landscaping. Anything that enhances visual appeal or conceals imperfections can do the job.

                      7. Ensure Walkways Allow for a Pleasant Outdoor-to-Indoor Glide

                      The ground you walk on is probably the least conspicuous aspect of your backyard. That is until it creates an inconvenience.

                      Backyard walkways should integrate the outdoors with the indoors smoothly. If people bottleneck toward your backdoor, you may have to widen the walkways and the door. If they have to make an awkward turn to enter your house, you must create a better path. If the pavers are slippery, you should replace them with something slip-proof.

                      • Patio with predominantly straight paths
                      • Straight and curved pathways surrounding a curved poo

                      Create stylish walkways by playing with straight and curved lines. The left photo shows a patio with predominantly straight paths. The right one shows both straight and curved pathways surrounding a curved pool. Slip-resistant pavers and ample space ensure safety and comfort when people use them. From Straight Line Landscape’s projects.

                      While we’re on the subject of walkways, consider a style change along with enhanced functionality. Straight walkways are more appropriate for a small yard. For large or sloping yards, consider curved patterns. You may also add boulders, colored rocks or potted plants at the sides as appropriate to accentuate the design.

                      8. Add Landscape Lighting for Safety and Style

                      Landscape lighting ensures your safety at night—a must if you have a swimming pool, outdoor kitchen or anything innately hazardous in your backyard. It also lets the best features of your property stay visible after sundown. Additionally, strategically placed lights can add fun and glitz to your backyard gatherings.

                      • Landscape lights around a swimming pool
                      • Landscape Lights over an outdoor kitchen

                      Landscape lights around a swimming pool (first photo) and over an outdoor kitchen (second photo). Fire features can add drama to your landscape lighting. From some of our projects.

                      Overhead lights ensure good visibility overall. Ground lights make walkways easy to find. Go for both when you can. Play with colors, heights and light movements during important occasions.

                      9. Finish with a Sleek Wall or Fence

                      Enclosures are highly important in backyard landscaping design. They ensure privacy and security, conceal unpleasant sights in neighboring areas and mark the boundaries of your property. Here, consider a wall or a fence.

                      A wall is a solid structure made from a tough material like brick or concrete. Landscaping walls provide a complete privacy screen and protection from intruders. You must build them at just the right height to prevent ventilation problems and heat buildup.

                      A wall enclosing a plant-lined lawn. Idea from Straight Line Landscape customer.

                      Meanwhile, a fence is built from posts connected by boards, chains, nets, rails and others. Fences provide only a partial screen. They’re also less secure than solid walls. However, they don’t cause heat retention and ventilation issues or block the movement of aerial life forms. If you prefer a fence over a wall, you can plant hedges or trees near it to enhance privacy.

                      A fence separates the pool area from the other activity spaces in this backyard, while a wall encloses the property. Done by Straight Line.

                      Discussing Your Backyard Landscaping Design Idea with the Pros

                      At this point, you should have a good idea of what features you want in your backyard. It’s best to list them down before your landscape design team makes their initial visit. It also helps to consider the following factors during the design and planning phase:

                      Your Property’s Orientation

                      The location of your backyard—whether north, east, south or west of the house—matters when organizing activity spaces.

                      For example, a backyard due north is highly vulnerable to dampness and biting winter temperatures. A solid wall is your best protection. A water feature, such as a swimming pool or pond, may be placed away from this wall and closer to the house.

                      Meanwhile, a west-side location can be scorchingly hot on summer afternoons as the sun sets in this direction. If you want a swimming pool here, a nearby pergola or garden can minimize water evaporation.

                      Climate Considerations

                      Think of climate factors that may impact the design of your activity spaces and the longevity of their materials. For example, strong winds can create large fires, necessitating windbreakers beside your outdoor kitchen and fire features. Tiles are great for ramada roofing because they provide complete overhead protection but retain little heat. However, you must frost-proof them to enhance their durability.

                      Your Backyard’s Character

                      In terms of style, luxury has always been associated with curvy and elaborate patterns like those found in Victorian architecture. But these days, “luxury minimalism”—where you choose quality over quantity of materials—has also become fashionable due to the demands of modern living.

                      There’s no right or wrong answer here, as it really depends on your preferences. The important thing is not to look overdone either way.

                      Luxury minimalism applied on a patio design. Straight Line Landscape creation.


                      People have different levels of comfort when it comes to privacy. For instance, your guests may not trust a neighbor of yours they’ve never met. They may refuse to swim in your pool if your backyard is exposed to outside view. Privacy screens should be a vital consideration in your design if your backyard still doesn't have one.

                      Eyecatchers and Eyesores

                      Your landscape design team may ask about things you want to enhance or mask in your backyard.

                      For example, a deck can give you a better view of a vast garden. Landscape lighting lets your evening guests appreciate the lush planting in your backyard oasis.

                      An angle that allows you to have a good look at the mountains must not be spoiled by obstructions. But feel free to embellish or conceal a plain-looking storage shed.

                      Noise Reduction

                      The backyard is the best place to build a Zen garden for relaxation. However, neighborhood noises may spoil the experience for you. A solid wall can dampen outside noises. A waterfall or fountain can provide a soothing background sound.

                      Minimizing Wasted Spaces

                      Side lots and dirt yards can become wasted spaces if not remodeled.

                      For example, many people leave the sides of their properties undeveloped, merely serving as alternative routes from the front porch to the backyard. To make them more enticing to guests, you can pave the walkways and embellish them with planters and water features.

                      Dirt yards can tarnish your backyard landscape. You can convert them into a lawn, extra seating area, garden or recreational space.

                      Surrounding your pool with a mini-garden and palm trees.

                      Just as important as remembering the details of your project is deciding who to entrust it to. The right landscaping team ensures their clients are happy about their backyard remodeling. At Straight Line Landscape, client satisfaction is both our mission and passion. 

                      Getting the Luxe Outdoor Space You’ve Always Wanted

                      In summary, most people define a luxurious backyard as a stunning outdoor area with an indoor feel. The following elements are most important to the landscape design:

                      • Comfort
                      • Recreation and entertainment
                      • Esthetic appeal
                      • Functionality
                      • Privacy
                      • Safety
                      • Lifestyle-enhancing features
                      • Customization as a unique expression of the homeowner’s character

                      To get your dream backyard landscape, it’s always best to get help from trusted names in the industry. A reliable landscaping team captures your ideas and brings them to life perfectly.

You dream it. We design and construct it. You enjoy it.

Here at Straight Line Landscape we are experts in custom landscape design and construction. From the creative design and selection of materials to installation and construction, you’ll recognize quality and attention to detail from start to finish.

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  1. joshua weinholt

    on August 17, 2020

    Truly modern and innovative backyard landscaping ideas you have shared here. Thanks for sharing this informative and detailed article.

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