12 San Francisco Backyard Ideas For a Personal Retreat

May 23, 2022

In San Francisco, the median lot size is around 2,500 square feet. That means you might know how valuable a backyard can be for using every inch of space. The San Francisco backyard ideas in this piece can help you do exactly that. Whether you’re working with a landscape architect or doing it yourself, these ideas can help you cultivate the Bay Area backyard of your dreams. 

Below, you’ll also find a few ideas for the property surrounding a detached accessory dwelling unit (DADU) in your backyard. If you’re interested in increasing the value of your property, a DADU is a great way to do so while earning passive income from tenants. To make your DADU even more comfortable, you can add a private outdoor seating area. Read on to explore other San Francisco backyard ideas, space-saving solutions, and low-budget landscape designs.  

12 San Francisco backyard ideas

Below are 12 San Francisco outdoor living space designs and ideas to expand your property’s potential. From classic fire pits for nights spent roasting marshmallows to ideas for seating solutions that include every BBQ attendee, this list has you covered. 

1. Use stone or concrete walkways to break up the space 

A paved stone walkway in the backyard is great for separating yard areas and making a space feel larger. For instance, a pathway that leads to a garden, seating area, or DADU entrance can give the illusion of a longer distance to the destination. Plus, smooth pathways are a safer way to navigate the backyard, ideal for older tenants if you want to build a DADU for aging relatives. 

When you use your DADU like this – as a granny flat – you give in-laws or older parents a private, comfortable space to call their own. The paved pathway leading to the DADU’s front door can seal the deal on creating an entirely separate space completely detached from the main house. 

2. Relax outdoors on a daybed 

Your backyard should be an oasis, so it should include a spot to kick off your shoes and rest. An outdoor daybed for yourself, guests, or tenants can create a relaxation space when you need an escape from the great indoors. Plus, you can find daybeds in all kinds of sizes and shapes, so multiple people can spread out and enjoy it. 

3. Add outdoor furniture for entertaining 

Outdoor dining furniture next to a small herb garden.
Photo by Altifarm Enverde on Unsplash

Patio furniture, including a simple table and chair set, provides more options for entertaining in the backyard. It lets you make the most of your outdoor living space, so you can dine al fresco or take the party outdoors. This outdoor seating space can add another advantage for tenants living in a DADU. It can offer them more space outside their living environment and a spot to soak up the sun. 

4. Include a pergola to stay shady

You can add a pergola over your patio furniture to provide the perfect amount of shade. A pergola can also create extra comfort, so you can take advantage of your outdoor living space even when it’s extra sunny. Sit under the pergola to work in your backyard when you’re looking for a change in scenery. It’s a simple addition that doesn’t take over the space because it extends up and over the backyard area. 

5. Install a floating wood patio for your furniture

Who doesn’t love a space to sit outside with friends or family? A chic and compact backyard setup could include a square floating wood patio, a table and chairs atop it, and a pergola covering it all. This little oasis in your backyard doesn’t have to take up a ton of room – it can be as large or small as you like. Plus, it can serve as an amenity for DADU tenants. 

6. Stay toasty by the fire on chilly nights 

A fire pit might be the ultimate backyard accessory (well, besides an accessory dwelling unit). It’s a cozy centerpiece for the backyard that brings people together as everyone huddles around it for warmth. It’s also not nearly as complicated to install as you might think. Just put it together and let days spent outdoors bleed into the night with a crackling fire lighting the way through the darkness. 

7. Add a fence bench for extra seating 

For fenced-in properties, a fence bench can add more seating while saving space. This bench connects to the fence near your home and DADU – it can be as long as the width of the fence itself. It’s ideal for small backyards where larger patio furniture could take up too much space. 

8. Make the night come alive with warm lighting

Making the most of your backyard means using it at different times of the day for a tranquil escape. Adding warm light can help you create an inviting ambiance in the evening, as warm lighting is associated with calm and comfort. You can also try a solar light path with off-yellow hues to make navigation easier at night. Your family, friends, or potential DADU tenants will thank you for the added ease and safety. 

9. Grow native flowers for added natural beauty

A garden displaying various kind of plants all up against a shed. Some plants are hung and some are potted.
Photo by Cherry Laithang on Unsplash

For added flora and fauna to make your backyard a natural paradise, plant native flowers along your patio edges or walkways. If you do add a DADU, shrubbery or a small garden near it can make the unit feel more like home. That said, it’s important to grow native flowers because they’re beneficial to the local environment and wildlife. Plus, there’s no need for fertilizer when you go native, so you’ll save money – San Francisco backyard ideas can be low-budget.

10. Lay an outdoor rug over a paved patio 

San Francisco’s cooler climate doesn’t provide the best conditions for lawn maintenance. Plus, water usage restrictions common in California may restrict how much a lawn can be watered – and thrive. Paved backyards are a great alternative, and with a paved backyard, an outdoor rug can tie the space together. It can create an added cozy feel perfect for your outdoor haven. 

11. Inspire tranquility with a mini waterfall

A source of running water in your backyard purely for relaxation can help you in your journey to create a beautiful landscape. And a mini waterfall or fountain doesn’t have to take up a lot of space to provide a touch of tranquility. Something small but alluring is all you need to enjoy the calming bubbling of running water at daybreak. 

12. Install a DADU that prioritizes outdoor space

Installing a DADU in your backyard is a great way to use your outdoor space while adding more indoor space. The space part of the equation is especially important if you want to rent out your property – most tenants want as much space as possible. That’s true inside, of course, and it can also be true on the outside. Combining 500 square feet of indoor space with all the above San Francisco backyard ideas can help prospective tenants instantly see their new home. That’ll continue once they move in. 

This blend of indoor and outdoor living can make a DADU in the San Francisco Bay Area extra appealing. The weather may have its ups and downs, but the summer days are long and comfortable — ideal for outdoor relaxation. 

Celebrate outdoor living 

Exterior view of a One Bedroom ADU by Spacial Homes
Photo by Spacial

You can make the most of your property with a backyard that works for you and your family. When you take advantage of every inch of space, you’re investing in your quality of life. You’re also investing in that for any tenants or family members who live on your property. And if you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area and are interested in taking your backyard to the next level with a DADU, contact Spacial to get started. At Spacial, we can install a move-in-ready, airy and open DADU in under a year. It’s our mission to help you expand your space.