Small yard, big style
Let's start with something simply and easy to do, something you can make on your own without spending too much time or money. First you need a fence and it doesn't have to be very tall, just to block view from the houses nearby. Then, a few chairs and a sofa (with waterproof material, if possible), and you are halfway there. Now, if you are busy and don't have much time to spend on your garden, just add a few plants (if they are in pots it would be easier to arrange or change them) and there it is: your private and peaceful place to charge your batteries.
A little bit more effort is required is you want to make a country-style yard. Since its main characteristic is abundance of plants, you'll have to choose several plants, from small to big, from winter to summer species. The rule of thumb: If you think there's too much plants - bring in another one! The point is to make a green barrier that will protect you not just from curious neighbors but also from surrounding sounds. For this environment rattan is material of choice and if you don't have it, a few old chairs will do just nicely.
For a yard that will remind you of the Mediterranean, start with the outdoor furniture. Luckily, there are plenty of choices: Mediterranean spreads from Morocco to Greece and all the way up to France, and that means you have plenty of furniture styles at your disposal. Conifers should be your main type of plants, and stone wall, along with the stone on the floor, will make the spirit of the south complete. If you make just one more step, and make a small waterfall, the picture will be complete.
For those of you in love with the distant cultures, a backyard in an Asian style would be perfect. The "jungle" should be tick, just like a real Asian forest, and in furniture you can combine styles. Let the pillows be from Philippines, the table from Indonesia, lamp from Vietnam... Or some other combination; all of those styles fit nicely together. However, an old grandma's sofa may also fit well, so maybe you already have a forgotten piece of furniture that can be put to use in this yard. Don't forget small scent lamps!
And for a total retreat - total Zen. This beautiful garden is in fact Japan in a few square foot. It is completely surrounded with a moss wall, which gives you total privacy, and inside there are symbols of tranquility. From the wooden floor to small stones to a bonsai-like tree, Zen is all around. If you have time, you should try to build it yourself: you may choose details, arrange and rearrange them at will for as long as you want. That journey toward your Asian piece of yard could be even more relaxing and rewarding then just sitting in an already designed garden. ■