9 Clever DIY Ways for a Shady Backyard Oasis


It’s pretty tough to enjoy summer activities in a backyard that bakes in the afternoon heat. We all need a way to get out of the sun, but still be able to spend  time outdoors. We found these 9 clever DIY ways to a shady backyard oasis for you to help turn your space into a retreat! We didn’t want to just share the same ol’ wood pergolas (though if thats what you are looking for, check out our post on DIY pergolas!) so we hope these unique and creative shade structure ideas hit the shady spot!

Our feature project above, is a DIY drop cloth fabric shade cover made by ‘Anything Pretty’. Check out her tutorial, it took them just a couple of hours to get this up, and made over their old pergola! LOVE the globe lights woven through the shades.

Here is another tutorial for a fabric shade by ‘Koiphen’. Good close up photos here to help you understand the wire system for holding the shades.



From ‘J and B Marvin’, this DIY fabric pergola has a quick tutorial, and a lot of good tips. Same type of system as the project above. This is fully retractable too!



Ok, so you need Google Translate for this one, unless you read Dutch. At least, I think it’s Dutch! But I love this one, because it’s a freestanding DIY fabric pergola that can be put up even where there is no existing structure. From ‘VT Wonen’.



Hope you were paying attention to those tutorials, ’cause these next few ideas don’t have instructions, but they follow the same principles of the ones you’ve seen so far! This space from ‘InDecora‘ has a simple wire mounted fabric shade, with grommets to string the cable through. Grommet kits can be bought at craft and sewing stores, and this could be made out of sturdy canvas drop cloths from the hardware store.




Same idea as some of the projects above with this slide wire canopy from ‘Superior Awning’.



From Jamie Durie of ‘HGTV‘, these sliding canvas panels are mounted and slide the same way as the fabric ones above. There are eye hooks mounted on the frame of the panels, and the wire cable slides through the hooks, over the top of the panel. These can be moved to cover different areas of the space as the sun moves.



Also from ‘HGTV‘, covering sections of your existing pergola with canvas cloth makes a more permanent shade structure. Clever!



Finally, if you want a cool look for over your patio, or even your pool, think about using shade sails. They come in triangular and rectangular shapes of different sizes, and are attached to posts, trees or buildings with hooks and cables. Check out our post on how to hang shade sails for more info on this project!

9 Clever DIY Ways for a Shady Backyard Oasis

Image Credits: Indecora, Anything Pretty, Koiphen, J and B Marvin, VTWonen, Superior Awning, HGTV, HGTV, ShadeSails.com




  1. Joe Felegi says:

    These are such creative designs! I wouldn’t mind building one in my own back yard. I do have a question, however… Do you ever have problems with them when it rains?



  3. Wonderful ideas,
    thank you for sharing,
    soon I’ll be sharing my garden shaded space inspired by you :)

  4. Thanks for featuring our pergola!! It’s such a perfect addition to our sunny western porch.

  5. I was looking to add some curb appeal with a small stone patio and a pergola to the front of the house. This wasn’t what I was looking for initially but maybe in the backyard.

    Thanks for the nice ideas on creating shade over a large area.

  6. It is Dutch and yes I can read it :)

  7. Melanie says:

    If using these drop clothes for outdoor use.. Do they need to be treated with something to keep from getting mildew? Just wondering how they hold up.. Seems they would be durable unless mold & mildew starts..

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      As long as they get fresh air and sunshine, we think they should hold up really well… If they are in a shady enough space that allows for mold to grow, then you probably don’t need to be adding shade! :)

    • Ditto what Kathy says. I have plain white bedsheets hanging out on my pavillion and they stay nice all summer, even when it’s stormy. I wash them in the fall and then store them indoors for the Maine winter.

  8. Johanna Hyink says:

    I currently have two dead spruce trees that were very old. They are about 15ft apart. They were our only shade in our yard. What are your thoughts on putting wires in the trees and then using some material I could slide back and forth to provide shade when needed?

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      Our first thought is that dead trees have dead roots, which means they are not a stable “pole”. I would remove the trees, then install poles with concrete as we did. Good luck!

  9. I went to Joann Fabrics and bought some duck cloth, which is just like drop cloths, but comes in many beautiful colors. It was $9.99 a yard, with 40 percent off with their coupon. Love it- my sister and I put it up this weekend on my existing pergola. Question- on the 7th picture, what are those cute silver orbs on the seat?

  10. The top picture would look great over my deck. I really like the lights.

    I wonder what precautions need to be taken to keep something like this from blowing away in the windy midwest?

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      We live in a windy area as well, and we keep the strands a good distance from each other and make sure they are hung taut so they don’t swing too much in the wind. We also just have to accept that we will lose a few bulbs in a really bad wind storm!

  11. Vonda Brunner says:

    How do the canvas and sails holdup in the wind? We get strong winds at times and I’m concerned with the wind catching it and pulling the structure down.

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      We also get high winds, which is why we caution you must have a sturdy structure to secure it to. We sunk poles 2 feet into the ground with concrete and they have never moved with up to 50 mile an hour winds… Make sure you adjust the shade sails taut so there is not a lot of play in the wind…

  12. Great ideas! I love the idea of sliding panels that you can adjust as the sun moves.

  13. Thanks for sharing these lovely and easy (and cheap!) ideas for shade. BTW, while in Brisbane recently, I saw many of the sails used on both homes and commercial structures (like restaurants and schools), and those folks do get some heavy rain and winds. I saw them in many different colors. They looked nice.

  14. Randy Watson says:

    OK… stupid questions regarding the slide wire canopy idea.

    1. What do you use to reach the panels to slide them open and closed (they’re to high to reach otherwise)?
    2. Once you get them into position (either open or closed) how do you keep them from sliding on the wires in the breeze?

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      Not stupid at all! That project isn’t ours,but I would think one of those poles people use for interior blinds might work? Anyone have ideas?

    • My mum has canvas awnings on a pulley system so I was thinking of trying something like that I like that it can be secured in open or closed position we get wind here that pulled down the shade cloth we’ve had before so I’m liking the idea of having them closed and out of the way when wind picks up.

  15. Wear can you get the fabic at ?

  16. That’s an awesome Idea I think I’m going to do that for my mom next summer.

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