West Elm + REI: How to Create Your Backyard Escape

This spring, REI Co-op and West Elm are partnering on a first-ever co-curated collection of on-the-go outdoor pieces to help people feel more at home outside, from the campsite to your own backyard. As part of our partnership, we’re publishing a series of guest posts from our friends at West Elm. Here, they share six tips for making the most of your outdoor space. 

Think of your backyard as the outdoor outlet you can always depend on, even in times of uncertainty. By making the most of your outdoor space, you can increase your livable square footage during warmer months and carve out a versatile destination to relax and recharge. 

City dwellers, this one’s for you, too. The ultimate “backyard” isn’t just for those with the truest definition of the word. Whether you’re working with a vast expanse, a room-for-two city balcony or something in between, you can create a low-lift, high-impact retreat with a few key essentials. Your backyard “staycation” is six steps away.

At-The-Ready Lounging

Forget your grandparents’ card-table lawn chairs. Simply put, if your outdoor seating isn’t comfortable, you likely won’t want to spend considerable time in your space. Think living room comfort meets outdoor durability. Plush, water-resistant cushions and furniture frames with casually reclined backs are the foolproof formula for achieving backyard bliss. 

A Place To Eat Al Fresco

From a communal coffee table to an expandable dining table, you’ll want somewhere to be able to have a full-on meal. If you’re tight on space, consider a side table or C-table, offering just enough surface area to keep a cold drink and snack at arm’s reach.

A two-seater bistro table

A two-seater bistro table (like this West Elm Outdoor Wren Bistro Table & Metal Stacking Chair Set) is perfect for small outdoor spaces. (Image courtesy of West Elm)

Something Soft Underfoot 

Extending your living space outside means starting from the ground up. Instantly upping the cozy factor, a durable outdoor rug helps ground a space visually so it feels like its own “room.” Plus, it’s easy to clean and softer than a wooden deck or stone patio under bare feet. 

Outdoor rug

Choose an outdoor rug that suits your style—it’s an instant vibe-maker. Here, West Elm’s Framed Arrows Indoor/Outdoor Rug is paired with the Acadia Outdoor Sofa & Lounge Chair Set. (Image courtesy of West Elm)

Mood Lighting

The best outdoor areas are just as inviting during the day as they are after dusk. Our recipe for instant ambience: string lights, lanterns and hurricane vases. Whether you’re lighting up a small porch or an entire patio, nothing transforms a space quite like string lights. Look for medium-size round globes with brass accents—not your average holiday lights, but so stylish you’ll want to keep ’em up year-round. Hurricane vases with candles cast a flickering glow that begs for lingering well past sundown. 

Backyard with lights

Set a *mood* with clusters of flickering candlelight and overhead string lights. Pictured: West Elm Portside Aluminum Outdoor Dining Table & 2 Bench Set, Modern Porcelain Hurricanes and Simple String Lights. (Image courtesy of West Elm)

Outdoor-Optimal Accessories

Weather-resistant outdoor pillows encourage lounging and stand up to the sun, splashes and sweat that summer throws their way. Large trays allow you to easily tote food and drinks from the inside out and simplify cleanup after. Unbreakable acrylic or melamine tableware is ideal for outdoor use, not to mention more eco-friendly than disposable paper or plastic.

Backyard accessories

Candlelight, throw pillows, a prop-your-feet-up-pouf. Think of what you love most about your living room, and extend those comforts outside. Pictured: West Elm Summit Indoor/Outdoor Rug. (Image courtesy of West Elm)

Plant Pets

Like endorphins or puppies, plants make people happy. Is your porch street-facing? Hang plants on your railing for instant charm. Working with a teeny tiny balcony? A narrow herb garden will prove its worth. Styling out a larger rooftop, patio or back deck? Fill in empty corners and dead space with lush, leafy plants, like ferns or palms, to create an outdoor oasis. We recommend grouping together planters of varying textures, shapes or hues to add visual interest. The only rule: The more, the merrier—it is the great outdoors, after all. 

Planters in a backyard

West Elm’s Cityscape Planters come with built-in liners for easy watering. (Image courtesy of West Elm)