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Unique Features to Include in Your Outdoor Living Space

Many of our clients are looking for a similar list of features in their outdoor living space. Typical wish-list items include pools, covered living space, and fire pits, among others. However, occasionally we work with clients who are looking for more unique features to include in their outdoor living space. As designers, it’s exciting to shake things up sometimes. So today, we thought we would revisit some of our favorite unique features to include in your outdoor living space.


From backyard bocce ball to conversation pits, here are some of our favorite uncommon items you should think about adding to your next backyard renovation.


Backyard Bocce Ball Court

When you think of green space in your backyard, what do you think of? For most people, a simple lawn space is all that comes to mind. But what if there was a way to turn that green space into a designated entertainment zone? For homeowners looking to add some dedicated fun to their outdoor living space without losing green, a bocce ball court offers a perfect solution.

A rendered design of a backyard bocce ball court for homeowners in Willow Glen.
A rendered design of a backyard bocce ball court for homeowners in Willow Glen.

This first project, pictured above, was designed for homeowners in Willow Glen. Although they were initially interested in adding vegetable beds along the side of their home, they ultimately decided that a place for yard games would better serve them. Here, we designed a bocce ball court that fills the side yard of the home. Ultimately, this design was adapted to include a pool.

A bocce ball court fills the narrow side yard in the backyard living space of this home.
A bocce ball court fills the narrow side yard in the backyard living space of this home.

In this next home, the owners had a large rectangular shaped backyard. However, they also had a small, narrow side yard that they didn’t want to go to waste. Instead of filling this space with plantings, we decided to make it a destination. A backyard bocce ball court was the perfect size and offered aesthetic value as well as another entertaining space for the clients. The final design retained the backyard bocce ball court, and included a custom pool, outdoor kitchen, fire pit.


Putting Green

Now, not everybody loves bocce ball. If traditional yard games don’t speak to you, there’s yet another unique feature you can include in your outdoor living space to bring some entertainment value to a traditional lawn. Let us introduce you to the miniature backyard putting green.

A backyard putting green brings fun and color to a finished outdoor living space.
A backyard putting green brings fun and color to a finished outdoor living space.

In the project above, the putting green started out as a fun suggestion from our designer. These clients really wanted a unique, modern feel to their space and were open to more creative ideas from our designer. At the first design review, we presented a direction including a small putting green. The clients loved the functional and fun impact to the space so much that the square footage expanded notably. At the end of the day, traditional lawn space became the perfect place for homeowners to practice their putting techniques.

A rendered putting green for a Richmond home landscape design.
A rendered putting green for a Richmond home landscape design.

Above, you can see another example of a smaller putting green rendered in a smaller backyard space in Richmond, VA. Unlike the previous home, the available square footage of this property was much smaller. However, that didn’t stop us from getting creative. Instead of creating a small lawn that wouldn’t serve any member of the family well, we decided to use what little space there was to mock up a backyard putting green, which the clients loved.


Sports Court

Another unique feature we love to include in outdoor living spaces are sports courts. Most often, these take the form of backyard basketball half-courts, though their functionality goes beyond just basketball. Sports courts are a great way to get more functionality out of standard use spaces like driveways or auxiliary patios. Whether you’re shooting hoops or getting through a workout, sports courts open up a unique opportunity for your backyard space to become more than just a hang out zone.

A driveway doubles as a basketball court in this front yard rendering.
A driveway doubles as a basketball court in this front yard rendering.

At Water and Earth, we know that the backyard is not the only outdoor space that deserves attention. Creating an equally beautiful, functional front yard is just as important to many of our clients. In the above design, the homeowners wanted to transform their standard driveway into a space that served more than one purpose.


In response to this need, we proposed a basketball sports court that would take their paver driveway from something to park on, to something to play on. The finished result is a space that caters to the whole family and looks great doing it.

A basketball sports court is rendered in a client’s backyard living space.
A basketball sports court is rendered in a client’s backyard living space.

For clients with larger backyards, finding a way to fill space can be a challenge. Of course, most people want at least some lawn space to work with. However, too much grass can become impractical and can leave a finished space looking unbalanced. In the above project, we designed a basketball half court for the backyard living space. A paver pathway allows the sports court to feel connected to the rest of the design, while the large grass buffer dedicates the area to recreation. The finished design is a balanced, beautiful, unique backyard that offers something for everyone.

A sports court includes space for pick-up soccer and tennis games.
A sports court includes space for pick-up soccer and tennis games.

While our most popular backyard sports court is definitely a basketball court, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for other iterations. In the design above, the sports court takes the shape of a small soccer field, running parallel to a backyard tennis court. These additions balance out the pool and decking to the left of the yard, and help to account for the change in elevation featured in this backyard landscape design.


Another large sports court offers room for basketball practice and outdoor workouts.
Another large sports court offers room for basketball practice and outdoor workouts.

Another iteration of the backyard sports court can be seen above. Here, the court is changed in size to fit the proportions of the space. Set toward the back of the home in Goochland, VA, this court is wider than previous examples. Along the perimeter, raised planting beds help keep the space contained. A long seat bench offers space for guests to rest or cheer on their friends as they play.


Conversation Pits

The last unique design feature we love to include in an outdoor living space is a conversation pit. Best known for its prevalence in indoor design in homes throughout the 70’s, conversation pits are dropped living areas that offer built in seating to gather. This design became popular for its ability to create an intimate, cozy, “conversational” space for people to gather. While conversation pits haven’t quite made their return indoors, they’re a great option for outdoor living spaces.

A small conversation pit, rendered with Techo-Bloc pavers and a long seat wall.
A small conversation pit, rendered with Techo-Bloc pavers and a long seat wall.

Not every outdoor conversation pit needs to maintain a drastic change in elevations. Even small changes in grading can be effective in creating a space with a cozy, intimate feel. Above, the home’s long, linear living space is punctuated by steps that lead down into an outdoor dining and living area. Pavers underfoot break up the gray patio design, while a long seat wall offers plenty of space for homeowners and their guests to gather. Overall, the look is unique, without becoming inaccessible or nontraditional.

A finished conversation pit anchored by a central fire pit.
A finished conversation pit anchored by a central fire pit.

Above, you see a great example of how a conversation pit can elevate an otherwise simple design. The homeowners above didn’t have much space to work with, and the long, rectangular shape of their yard was limiting. To create visual interest and break up the space, we decided to play with elevation and create a conversation pit at the far end of the yard.


In the middle of the conversation pit, a gas fire feature creates a central point for guests to gather. From here, they can climb out and directly into the pool behind them, or take a set of stairs and walk along a long paver patio toward the other end of the backyard. The finished effect is visually dynamic while offering a sense of separation from the larger design, creating distinct space for guests to gather, talk, and relax.


Discover More Unique Feature for Your Outdoor Living Space

Looking for more unique design ideas? Check out the blog! From full breakdowns on every project mentioned in this post, to the industry advice and information you need, it’s all on the Water and Earth blog. For day to day updates and project reveals, follow us on Instagram!

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