With the help of a retaining wall, you can do more than just maintain a beautiful garden. This landscaping element could be essential to prevent erosion problems and add some extra strength to multi-level garden beds. Retaining walls are usually seen by homeowners as necessary but not many people are aware of their decorative potential. You can use a retaining wall to enhance the style of the entire property. The secret lies in choosing the best design idea to match the surrounding architecture and your personal aesthetic preferences.
Why Use a Retaining Wall?
Whether you consider a DIY route or plan on getting help from a professional landscaping company, it’s safe to say that retaining walls can be quite costly. It might seem tempting to save your money and time and simply not use a retaining wall. There are very good reasons that this isn’t a smart course of action. Let’s see why a retaining wall is needed.
One of the most important aspects to consider is the ability of the retaining wall to control precarious slopes. It’s a vital part of the garden if you need to work with uneven terrain. The retaining wall will act as a backstop so it needs to be very sturdy to hold back tons of soil. Of course, the type of retaining wall to use depends on the style of your particular landscape.
A retaining wall is a great problem solver but you should also not underestimate its stylish qualities. This type of wall brings more definition to any landscape, particularly when it comes to very uneven terrain. Depending on the design style you prefer for the garden, you can further enhance the look with a matching retaining wall. For example, some concrete styles work very well to create modern vibes.
Most Popular Retaining Wall Materials
If you’re ready to start a retaining wall project on your property, make sure you’re aware of the different material choices available. Stone and concrete are very popular options to consider but you can usually obtain a more rustic effect through materials such as brick or timber. There’s also the matter of selecting the right colors to create an ideal look for your garden. Considering the huge variety of styles and materials available, it can get confusing to decide on the best ones for your retaining wall project.
Check out the following ideas to get inspired:
1. Modern Concrete
The smooth style of concrete can be an ideal match for a modern garden. Check out this sophisticated retaining wall that seems cold until you integrate greenery and colorful flowers to make the entire area feel more welcoming.
The smooth wall creates an elegant contrast when it comes to the texture as well. It grabs the attention when mixed with the rougher textures of the plants. Making your own garden oasis is a breeze when you choose this kind of retaining wall idea.
2. Wooden Fence
If you’re worried more about affordability, you can still create an attractive look by opting for a wooden fence. This retaining wall idea can work well for many properties but it’s important to ensure that you select a high-quality type of timber to handle the weight of the soil behind it.
It’s hard to find a more cost-effective option than this one. Timber fence panels can be neatly integrated into the natural décor provided by all the other elements in the garden. We recommend opting for this kind of uniform look without excessively intricate designs on the wood to avoid standing out too much.
3. Pale Sandstone
Anyone who wants to combine a modern aesthetic with just a rustic hint could probably make great use of this idea. It involves creating a retaining wall from sandstone. This material evokes a sense of luxury but much subtler than similar options. It’s a perfect solution for those who appreciate old-world vibes and have more generous budgets.
Having a large retaining wall made from this kind of elegant sandstone can be quite costly. The good news is that you won’t have to worry as much about future replacements. A high-quality sandstone wall boasts a long lifespan so it could be well worth the investment. Consider mixing the pale shade of sandstone with more vibrant plants to enhance the beauty of the garden.
4. Interlocking Blocks
Here’s a creative idea to try if you want the retaining wall to stand out in the garden. By incorporating a series of interlocking blocks on the wall, it results in a unique visual effect that will surely capture a lot of attention. The blocks have a uniform cylindrical shape that can potentially increase the sense of depth in the area.
Those with more artistic inclinations should seriously consider this idea for making a one-of-a-kind garden. Keep in mind that you can also try other shapes to complete your personal design vision. This wall offers just an inspiring example but it’s not required to have cylindrical blocks to obtain a stylish appearance.
5. Cut Stone
Cut stone can add a charming effect when it’s the material of choice for retaining walls in rustic gardens. There’s something about all the irregularities of the stone that make it a pleasant visual attraction. You can take advantage of various creative opportunities when it comes to designing a retaining wall from cut stones.
You can focus on a specific color tone or size if you prefer uniformity and tidiness. Alternatively, consider mixing different types of stones to obtain a stylish look that fits your tastes. Cut stone retaining walls also come with the added advantage of excellent long-term durability so you can enjoy the design for longer.
6. Gabion Baskets
Although they’re usually more popular in business settings, gabion baskets can also make great retaining walls for residential applications. Thanks to having this kind of open-wire design, this is a fairly inexpensive retaining wall idea, especially when compared to similar modern options such as concrete.
Gabion baskets are stylish and practical. Homeowners can take some liberties with the design and fill them according to their aesthetic vision. One potential drawback of this retaining wall idea is the requirement for a lot of available space. Smaller areas won’t be able to accommodate the baskets as easily.
7. Vertical Railway Style
Check out this interesting retaining wall idea that attempts to create a vertical railway visual effect. It looks most amazing when combined with the vibrant green grass of a properly maintained lawn. This retaining wall is recommended for property owners that enjoy a more polished look in the garden.
The way this wall cuts across the yard can easily remind you of a railway. Guests can be easily impressed by this retaining wall idea. It would be a solid match in a more minimalist garden or if you’re a fan of modern aesthetics. The concept can also be conveniently adapted according to the size of the outdoor area you’re working with.
8. Water Feature
Although retaining walls are typically used to hold back the soil, you can use this landscaping element in a more innovative way by integrating it with a water feature. This makeover can be suitable for more unconventional designs where the focus is primarily on the visual impact of the retaining wall rather than its functionality.
You can also take this opportunity to install a water feature in the garden and benefit from its soothing effects. Water fountains can make the entire outdoor area feel more relaxing even if you don’t integrate them with retaining walls. Check out this stylish water fountain designed for outdoor areas found on Amazon.
9. Boulder Wall
To give off a sense of reliable strength, consider opting for a retaining wall project involving boulders. This is a nice idea for anyone who prefers stone as the primary material for holding back the soil in the garden through a retaining wall.
It’s recommended to arrange boulders in a tessellating pattern that provides a tidy appearance. Using weathered boulders contributes to the rustic charm of the entire wall. While this idea works great for many garden makeover applications, it’s safe to say that it’s not the best DIY solution.
10. Mixed Brick Colors
If you feel that modern concrete walls are too plain for you, perhaps taking a mixed color approach would suit your garden better. Here’s an inspiring retaining wall idea that requires you to entwine bricks of different colors in a fun patchwork design. The result attracts the eye more easily without standing out excessively because only natural stone shades are used.
In this example, we’re looking at a combination of gray and rusty tan concrete bricks that enhance the sense of depth. To complete this kind of stylish look, it’s recommended to match the retaining wall with a tiled garden floor. Although you could paint the wall to make it stand out against the background, it’s often more effective to attempt to blend it naturally with its surroundings.
11. Terrace Slope
This concept is a bit harder to pull off considering how you need to work with a suitable slope to create a beautiful terrace. Notice how the modern retaining walls have been seamlessly integrated into this garden while the added seating areas transform the place in a cozy retreat.
The straight lines are fitting for creating a modern vibe but the variety of shapes and colors make the terrace anything but boring. It’s worth mentioning the different sizes of the retaining walls that surround the terrace. They seem to be accommodated with the natural design of the slope to create an elegant shift in perspective.
12. Stone Mosaic
One of the best pairings for a colorful garden is a stone mosaic used as a retaining wall. Check out this stylish idea that’s perfect for fans of maximalist décor styles. This isn’t just a basic wall but also a focal piece in the garden considering the blend of vibrant colors that are truly a beauty to look at.
The mosaic design is continued on the stone staircase to create a cohesive scene. There’s no need to worry about painting or other complicated stone designs. Just choose natural stone pebbles that show off this kind of impressive diversity of colors so you can enjoy a unique retaining wall. If the splash of color is too strong for your tastes, consider using this kind of wall feature in a garden area without brightly-colored flowers.
13. Illuminated Retaining Wall
Retaining walls made from natural stone or concrete can seem a bit too cold but there’s a simple solution to improve the ambiance. By adding outdoor lights in key areas of the construction, you can make the stone wall feel warmer.
You can notice a more prominent effect at night when the illuminated retaining wall looks more elegant. It’s also more practical in terms of finding your way in the garden in low-light conditions. The best part is that you don’t even have to worry about power consumption and installation hassles if you choose a set of solar light LEDs like this model on Amazon.
14. Living Retaining Wall
Anyone who wants to get more creative with their retaining wall designs should consider this excellent solution. If you create a special brickwork layout with sufficient gaps, you will be able to incorporate a multitude of different plants to make the wall seamlessly combined with the landscape.
The concrete slabs look quite attractive by themselves when arranged in a tidy pattern. Adding splashes of greenery in the gaps takes the design idea to a new level in terms of visual impact. This is a living retaining wall that any gardening enthusiast would aspire to create. Unfortunately, this is a very difficult idea for a DIYer so it’s best to use the services of a professional to build the wall.
15. Stone Walkway
Many gardeners looking to include a retaining wall in the garden can face the problem of blocking access to a different area of the landscape. A practical solution is to seamlessly integrate a walkway into the retaining wall such as this elegant example.
A stone stairway feels as if it’s part of the retaining wall. It provides convenient access to the areas upwards without sacrificing the sturdiness of the wall. Notice the addition of planter’s boxes on this retaining wall, which have been carefully incorporated to minimize the appearance of the gray wall. Touches of greenery maintain a uniform look by matching with all the surrounding natural features.
16. Classic Brick Wall
The beauty of a classic red brick wall shouldn’t be underestimated. Check out this simple yet highly effective design idea to craft a visually-appealing retaining wall. This is a versatile idea that can successfully match different garden styles and landscape scenes.
One thing that makes the red-orange color of the bricks stand out is the use of white grout. This kind of vibrant look works nicely with the greenery nearby to make your garden even more attractive. Guests will find it difficult to go past this kind of classic brick retaining wall feature.
17. Stone Veneer
Although natural stone is usually the material of choice for many classic retaining wall designs, stone veneer is a decent alternative that can be just as stylish in most cases. This is an artificial material created to simulate the appearance of natural stone.
Some construction projects might not look ideal with stone veneer but the faux stone can work surprisingly well for retaining walls. It brings a satisfying dose of realism to create a rustic aesthetic in the garden. There are also many advantages to selecting this material instead of natural stone. With stone veneer, you will be able to pick a more suitable color or pattern that’s usually more difficult and expensive to do with regular stone.
18. Raised Beds
Some retaining wall ideas are more practical than others. It’s the case of this ingenious solution that helps you control uneven terrain while also keep plants away from the ground on raised beds. Some extra space might be required when building this kind of retaining wall so you can accommodate the raised beds.
Assuming your propriety has a suitable layout for this kind of project, this retaining wall idea is certainly worth considering. There are some solid benefits to grow your plants in raised beds. Some typical examples include minimizing weed issues, reduced pests, and more efficient water drainage.
19. Creative Retaining Wall Design
Fans of modern aesthetic will often opt for minimalist retaining walls with sleek lines and smooth textures but that’s not a strict rule to follow. You can also get creative when it comes to designing a unique retaining wall with a modern vibe. This outdoor area can be considered a solid example by showing off a stylish retaining wall concept.
This imposing retaining wall makes use of an eye-catching design to complete the entire scene with renewed elegance. It’s perfectly integrated into the modern scene with elements such as the fire pit and outdoor courtyard. The main idea of this retaining wall design is to try out some bolder elements if you want to stand out.
20. Low Block Retaining Wall
With the help of concrete masonry blocks, you can craft a stylish retaining wall in case you’re dealing with a low slope. A smaller retaining wall project can provide extra opportunities in terms of materials and styles to choose from.
Some gardeners might feel that such a low block design looks a bit too plain for this retaining wall. It’s a matter of preference but fans of industrial aesthetic can probably appreciate the rough nature of this concept. The idea is also suitable for anyone who wants a more cost-effective retaining wall solution.
21. Curved Retaining Wall
Most homeowners focus on the retaining wall’s materials and textures but it’s also worth paying attention to the shape of the structure. This is a solid example in that regard. A curved retaining wall offers a stylish flair to any garden.
Instead of a classic straight retaining wall, opting for a curved design can improve the flow of the garden’s layout. You can take some liberties with the exact shape of the retaining wall and include dedicated sections to showcase raised flower beds.
22. Outdoor Kitchen
Another great idea for a more unconventional retaining wall, this one includes an outdoor kitchen in the scene. The retaining wall provides a good opportunity to set up a complete kitchen that can be used to host cocktail parties or enjoy a barbecue with friends.
Although this example shows off a modern approach to the outdoor kitchen retaining wall idea, this doesn’t mean that you can’t pull off a similar style in a rustic aesthetic. Aside from costs, an important drawback of this idea is the space requirement. Depending on the kind of utilities you want for your outdoor kitchen, a fairly generous area is needed.
23. Natural Wood
Retaining walls made from timber can be quite affordable and easily integrated with a varied range of design styles. Take a look at this elegant outdoor area where the natural wood retaining wall warms the entire space with its characteristic color and texture. This type of retaining wall can be considered ideal for a DIY installation because it requires less effort compared to others.
A notable issue involves the natural vulnerabilities of wood. The material is prone to rotting and warping. Make sure you choose a high-quality type of timber and treat it properly before installing the retaining wall. A high-quality wood stain is recommended. Even with these precautions, natural wood is more laborious in terms of maintenance work.
24. Mixed Rock Sizes
Combining different rock sizes in a retaining wall represents a smart idea to enhance the visual impact of the entire structure. From tiny little stones that fit in a palm to huge boulders that weigh a lot, make sure you focus on keeping a solid variety of rocks for the best look.
Natural stones that are nicely weathered can look fabulous, especially when they’re carefully blended in wild patterns. Use your creativity when fitting the rocks together and try to include different colors and textures to fully complete this stylish idea.
25. Concrete Cylinders
Industrial elements can create a striking contrast together with the natural appearance of the garden. Here’s a modern design idea that integrates a set of concrete cylinders to create a one-of-a-kind retaining wall. It’s a solid match with contemporary architectural elements surrounding it.
Although it features a fairly strong industrial vibe, the use of simple concrete palisades forms a subtle visual effect. It’s easy to incorporate the retaining wall of cylinders with the background without drawing unnecessary attention to the area. You can safely install this kind of feature on a minimalist property.
26. Artistic Stone Arrangement
If you’re feeling extra creative, consider this eye-catching idea that involves an artistic arrangement of stones that almost seems to form a picture. With the help of cementing materials, you might be able to position stones carefully to create elements such as a sun or trees.
Although this kind of retaining wall idea may not be for everyone, there are lots of gardeners that can find it appealing to try to tell a story using the stones on the wall and build their own rustic masterpiece. Artistic patterns can be formed with some effort and provide a beautiful result that will definitely be admired by any guests.
27. Multi-tiered Retaining Wall
Instead of focusing on creating a single large retaining wall, why not build multiple levels? The resulting multi-tiered effect is often more visually impressive with simple materials compared to just working on a complex design for a single-tier retaining wall.
This particular idea relies on old bricks that can easily take your mind to a rustic cobble street. Notice the stylish effect created by the rounded shape of the stone bricks. There’s just enough space left between the levels to place a few plants and add some splashes of green. It’s also possible to integrate a multi-tiered idea for modern-looking retaining walls.
28. Mixed Materials
It’s generally a good idea to use the same materials if you want to install multiple retaining walls on your property. However, modern gardeners can consider mixing completely different materials and looks to create a more unexpected effect.
This design idea is suitable for people with more out-of-the-box thinking that aren’t afraid to go beyond the usual conventions. What’s lost in terms of cohesiveness can be gained back through an innovative sense of modernity. It’s not easy to pull off correctly but the idea has some solid potential for ultra-modern outdoor areas.
29. Wire Netting
There’s usually a lot of hassle involved when trying to keep an attractive appearance for loose stone. If you still intend to use this kind of rock for a retaining wall, check out this idea that offers a reliable solution. By making use of wire netting, you will be able to keep the stones.
While this is a simple trick, the details make the retaining wall a truly attractive option. The extra thinness of the wire helps to conceal its presence so you can focus only on the stones. The sturdy netting is installed strictly for a functional reason without compromising on the aesthetics of the wall.
30. Seating Space
Adding seating to the retaining wall represents a creative idea to make this garden feature more functional. It’s an interesting solution to try if you’re worried about the retaining wall taking up extra space that could be put to better use. Installing a practical bench on the retaining wall seems like a very ingenious idea to save some space.
This retaining wall idea is recommended if you wish to plant flowers in the area. It’s now possible to sit comfortably while being surrounded by beautiful plants nearby. Even a simple seat can make a difference if you lack the space for a larger seating area. The problem with this idea is that it’s a bit too hard as a DIY project. We recommend a professional service that handles garden seat installations.
31. Sprayed Concrete
Commonly referred to as shotcrete rock, this retaining wall idea relies on sprayed concrete that provides great visual interest through its unique texture. It’s a versatile material to use for a retaining wall because you can opt for concrete in different colors to get your desired look.
If you have a colorful garden, it’s recommended to stick to regular gray sprayed concrete that forms an ideal blank canvas for flowers and greenery. Sandstone or clay colors are ideal for making the stone wall resemble a natural rock appearance.
32. Concealed Retaining Wall
Homeowners that already have a retaining wall and simply want to improve its look should consider a simple camouflaging solution. Old, weathered stones can be easily concealed by growing the right types of plants on the retaining wall.
The idea isn’t necessarily to make a focal point in the garden with flashy plants but to attempt to seamlessly integrate the wall with various greenery. The retaining wall becomes like a true part of the garden instead of standing out against the background. Bring some shrubs, climber or tropical plants for smooth camouflaging of the wall’s surface.
33. Tree Highlight
Using retaining walls for drawing attention to a particular feature of the garden is a fairly popular concept. This type of wall isn’t always intended to have a strictly functional purpose such as slope control. Lower retaining walls such as the one shown here can elegantly bring a tree into proper focus.
It doesn’t necessarily have to highlight a tree but retaining walls work nicely for this purpose considering the anti-erosion effect that helps to stabilize the roots. You can make a small curved wall to surround the tree and give it plenty of space in the front for planting decorative flowers or mulching.
34. Stone Path
Similar to adding a staircase, this retaining wall idea provides convenient access through other sections of the garden by integrating a stone path. It follows the wall and maximizes the use of all the available space. Depending on the layout of the slope and the preferred style of the retaining wall, you can opt for a narrower or wider path.
Making use of larger stones could be a great decision to create the impression of a better-defined walkway. It’s recommended to stick to similarly-sized stones for a tidy look. Another great detail of this scene is the practical placement of outdoor furniture as a finishing touch. The result is a superb relaxation area that feels effortlessly designed.
A fireplace is quite the bold addition to a retaining wall. Check out this idea that somehow managed to pull off this kind of feature. Both the small wall and the fireplace make use of the same style of stone blocks to create a harmonious design.
This idea is quite practical because you can also add a fireplace into an existing retaining wall if the area allows it. Homeowners who want to build a cozy outdoor space should strongly consider the fireplace retaining wall idea. It will be very appreciated during the cold winter season.
36. Decorative Steps
Many retaining wall ideas focus on the practical aspect of integrating walkways or stairways but steps can be simply incorporated just for decorative purposes. This is a nice example that has a strong focus on the aesthetic side of building a retaining wall. The resulting visual effect is quite striking due to the sense of increased depth.
The steps can easily enhance the relatively plain look of a retaining wall made of concrete or stone by toning down the contrasting effect of the separate levels. If at some point, you decide to change the layout of the area, the decorative steps can be transformed in more functional ones. You can remove the plants on the slope and create a seating area, for example.
37. Tidy Blocks
Wild patterns and different textures may not seem particularly appealing for some gardeners. If you’re the kind of person that prefers a tidier look for your retaining wall, these elegant stone blocks will easily match your needs.
The use of similarly-sized blocks could be a smart approach to create that neat appearance with plenty of visual impact. The retaining wall resembles the style of a medieval castle wall that can feel right at home in a garden with a classic design. Larger retaining walls like this that incorporate heavy stone blocks can be quite difficult to build by DIYers so professional installation is recommended.
38. Giant Boulders
Giant boulders are commonly used for retaining walls and it’s not hard to see why. They can make even small retaining walls seem more imposing and appear quite charming together with colorful flower beds. These heavy stones are also practical to use against soil erosion without having to worry too much about long-term maintenance.
The only obvious drawback of building a retaining wall with giant boulders refers to the need for adequate equipment to lift such heavy weights. It’s not suitable as a DIY project but this stylish retaining wall is certainly worth the extra cost involved with professional landscaping solutions.
39. White Concrete
Modern and classy, white concrete retaining walls offer an ideal contrast for a vibrant green garden. Take a look at this serene scene created by this white retaining wall that provides a great visual punch despite its minimalist look.
If you’re a fan of beach-inspired design, white concrete is an excellent material to consider, especially when you match the appearance of other elements in the garden with the retaining wall. This idea is recommended for those who own a home in a coastal area.
40. Overlapping stones
Although it seems simple at a first glance, this retaining wall design is actually quite complex. It relies on carefully overlapped stones that provide the large wall with a fresh look. The stones have a tidy layout in an eye-catching pattern that creates shadow pockets.
The resulting pockets from the overlapping stones are more noticeable when there’s a large surface area. Anyone who wants to make the retaining wall on their property stand out should try out this innovative concept.