Let's face it: Even though we love our neighbors, we all occasionally want to step outside without having to strike up a conversation. Although fences and brick walls can do the trick, adding an extra divider, screen or plant barrier can block your neighbor's two-story view for good.
To create your secret retreat, freestanding privacy screens, wood slat partitions and partially enclosed pergolas are effective (and nice to look at). Plants are also a great choice. Landscape architect Bruce Clodfelter often uses holly, evergreen and Ligustrum for a more natural partition, while garden designer Stephanie Bartron frequently goes with a bamboo or hedge barrier. For something a little more decorative, both architects recommend a trellis or arbor; Bartron frequently uses climbing vines, espalier shrubs and grapevines for added cover, while Clodfelter added Confederate Jasmine, Baltic Ivy and kiwifruit to his own personal patio.
Regardless of your materials, both Bartron and Clodfelter agree that placement is key. "Your first instinct is to put up a hard wall right on your property line, but sometimes that isn't the best space for it," Clodfelter says. "It's better to place those screening devices closer to your house; it's counterintuitive, but it makes your backyard look bigger."
As you consider how best to solve your own backyard privacy dilemma, try using one (or many) of these creative solutions.
Raise some artistic decorative panels. Privacy screens don't need to be boring. These custom pieces block the neighbor's view and act as an interesting outdoor focal point.
Think about the view from above. If you live in the city, an arched trellis will ensure that no neighbors — not even those towering over you — can see what's going on.
Create seclusion with a wood slat wall. With a partition added to an already-there concrete wall, this small deck now offers plenty of privacy.
Keep it private with curtains. For a more secluded setting, add outdoor curtains to your pergola. They're easy to move when not in use and can help add to your outdoor decor.
Screen in your hot tub. Ensure your spa isn't out in the open by installing these corrugated acrylic panels. You can even filter light from behind for a romantic background glow.
Go vertical with your flowers. To block the view of two-story neighbors, landscape architect Bartron bolted this tall custom metal trellis onto the garage wall. She added colorful Orange Clock Vine for additional privacy.
Think about an outdoor fireplace. Flanked by arborvitae trees, a tall fireplace effectively hides this fun entertainment space from sight.
Decorate your space with a living wall. Give a tall fence new meaning by creating your own vertical garden. It adds even more privacy, and does it with style.
Don't block off your entire view. Landscape architect Clodfelter is all about privacy, but he likes to open up small windows between his property and his neighbors' for the occasional "borrowed view." Here in his own garden, he used jasmine and ivy to create a partial partition but left the middle of the trellis wide open.
Create a potted plant border. For an inexpensive apartment solution, try adding medium-height potted plants along the balcony railing.
Stray from the ordinary. If you have to have a fence or wall, try going with a unique material. This bamboo adds interest to a retaining wall and helps enhance the yard's Asian feel.
Raise those planters. Add more vertical cover (and much-needed color) by securing planters on top of a low concrete or brick wall.
Invest in a covered patio. Although it might be more of a splurge, a pergola like this one paired with a perfectly positioned fireplace wall conveniently blocks neighbors from seeing your dinner party.