Three Wood Projects for a Private Outdoor Sanctuary

There’s nothing quite as restful as a retreat into nature—and summer is prime time for your clients to start dreaming about ways to increase the comfort and seclusion of their own outdoor spaces.

Gorgeous, privacy-granting wood projects like fences, accessory dwelling units (ADUs), and shade structures can transform even a small yard into a personal retreat. Check out these inspiring projects that can add beauty, livability, and value to your clients’ own backyards.

The Power of Nature to Relax and Recharge

Your clients are likely familiar with the restorative power of a walk in the woods or of an afternoon spent lounging on the beach. Research validates these experiences: spending time in nature can improve mood and cognitive functioning, provide a sense of emotional well-being, and support mental health. 

Exposure to natural spaces of all shapes and sizes can offer wellness benefits—whether that means traveling through a remote wilderness area or eating lunch in a small city park. A private, welcoming yard space can also help your clients relax and recharge at home.

To create a restful outdoor retreat, focus on projects that increase the privacy and functionality of your clients’ outdoor spaces. For harmony with the surrounding environment, consider designing with natural materials like wood. Particularly in smaller outdoor spaces or on lots without existing tree cover, wood can extend living spaces and increase privacy while adding to the natural beauty of a yard.

Wood is a versatile, resilient, and attractive choice. It can be locally sourced, is a familiar building material for contractors, and some species are naturally pest-resistant. Wood also offers aesthetic benefits: untreated timber is naturally beautiful, ranging from pale blonde to coffee-colored, and wood projects complement design trends from farmhouse chic to Scandinavian minimalism.

Privacy Fencing

A privacy fence can transform even a small yard into a private outdoor oasis. Wood privacy fences provide effective sound barriers, decreasing noise from traffic or rowdy neighbors. They can also make a yard safer for pets and children: a strategically placed privacy fence can cordon off an area away from busy streets, steep hills, and other hazards, providing peace of mind and allowing homeowners to relax outside without spending quite so much time running after little ones.

Wood is a popular choice for privacy fences. Simple and elegant, wood fences integrate well with the surrounding environment and can be positioned and styled to enhance existing landscape features. 

This custom-designed example from Minneapolis-based firm Barrk / Art Fencing & Designs is crafted from untreated Western Red Cedar, which is naturally water- and pest-resistant. Western Red Cedar is often left untreated to showcase its rosy color, but it can also be color-customized with a stain. Pressure-treated pine is also a popular fencing option.

Privacy Fence
Photo Credit: Barrk / Art Fencing & Designs


Accessory dwelling units (or ADUs) are a particularly in-demand backyard project. These versatile structures provide space to relax, recharge, and pursue individual passions—like a studio space for yoga, pottery, or band practice; a private writing shed; or a dream playhouse for kids. They can also function as living spaces, allowing homeowners to invite friends and family for extended stays that provide privacy for both guests and hosts. When outfitted with a kitchen and bath, these living spaces also present a passive income opportunity: short- or long-term rentals can provide homeowners with a predictable cash flow and further increase property value.

ADUs are also commonly used as private office spaces—a feature that shot to the top of many homeowners’ wishlists during the COVID-19 pandemic and has remained popular in the emerging work-from-home era. For remote workers, a quiet space to focus on tasks can reduce stress, increase productivity, and promote a healthy work-life balance. 

Grey Shaeffer of Willa Work designed this 360-square-foot ADU office in Portland, Oregon as her own private backyard dwelling unit and office. It features a tongue-and-groove structural-timber ceiling and end-grain Douglas fir flooring. Shaeffer prioritized organic materials for warmth, resilience, and sense of place.

Haseman House
Photo Credit: Christopher Dibble

Shade Structure

Not all shelters have four walls: A shade structure, for example, can provide privacy and protection from the elements without sacrificing airflow or panoramic views.

Shade structures can protect a sitting area, a shade garden, or an outdoor pool from both sun and rain. They can also provide dimension to a larger outdoor space, creating discrete areas within a yard that frame water features, fire rings, or other gathering spaces.

This Douglas fir trellis, located in Nashville, Tennessee and designed by Michael Goorevich, complements the design of the adjacent mid-century ranch house and provides a relaxing outdoor dining space while also reducing the thermal energy absorbed by the main home during the heat of the day. 

Goorevich’s shade structure features Douglas fir crossbeams and stained cypress siding, and the homeowner notes the design’s integration of contemporary features with the traditional style of the home.

Douglas Fir Trellis
Photo Credit: Anthony Matula

Free-standing shade structures are also a popular choice—particularly for homeowners who live in sunny climates. This pool-side wood and steel shade structure, designed by Lagunitas, California-based general contractor Pacific Circle, is crafted from redwood and provides a sheltered spot to towel off after a swim or lounge with an after-work cocktail.

Pool-Side Shade Structure
Photo Credit: Pacific Circle

A Backyard Retreat

The pandemic has increased the amount of time that we spend at home. It has also helped many people discover the value of spaces that facilitate taking personal time—whether that means retreating to a private yoga studio or taking an afternoon snooze in the privacy of an elegant shade structure. 

As your clients make the most of summer, let these wood projects inspire you to create functional, beautiful, and restorative outdoor spaces close to the comforts of home.

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