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Posted by Todd Thomasson on Nov 2, 2023 9:53:00 AM

A retaining wall can be both a functional and an aesthetic addition to your property. While a retaining wall can solve the challenge of a slope, it is also sometimes a purely decorative addition.

If you’re looking for retaining wall ideas, then you know that there are many different looks and even features that can be incorporated. In this article, we’ll dive into landscape retaining wall ideas that you might consider for your Northern Virginia property.

There are many ways to get creative with a retaining wall so that it is truly a valuable addition. We’ll break our article into backyard retaining wall ideas and front yard retaining wall ideas so that you can search for what’s best for your wants and needs.

Backyard Retaining Wall Ideas

If you have a sloped property, then a retaining wall might be part of an effort to grade your yard and make it more functional. A properly built retaining wall will help hold back the earth and prevent erosion. This might be used after a property is graded.

Use This Helpful Guide to Plan Your Landscape Design
But whether you need the retaining wall for grading a slope or not, there are some creative ideas that can help make your backyard wall more functional and more attractive.

#1: Use a Retaining Wall for Seating

A seat wall can be a great opportunity to “double the value” of a retaining wall. Your retaining wall’s main purpose might be controlling erosion. Even a gradual slope in your yard could lead to washouts of your landscaping, making it necessary to add a retaining wall to your outdoor living area.

But this wall can also be used for seating.

seat wall on circular patio

In fact, some homeowners want a seat wall even if they don’t have the erosion control needs. A short wall around a patio can be a great way to add “overflow seating” if you’re hosting an event and all of the chairs or couches are being used. In fact, seat walls can be a really great way to add more sitting room without the need for adding more furniture (which might be a necessity in a small space). 

In this way, they can be a really great way to increase the number of people you can entertain in your space!

As far as backyard retaining wall ideas go, homeowners also love adding seat cushions and pillows to a sitting wall to make it more cozy. The wall can be built with bench seating so that it becomes a comfortable spot to sit.

#2: Define Your Patio with a Wall Around It

We find that homeowners also like the idea that a seating wall can play a role in defining a patio. 

A rounded wall around part of the patio can help make that spot feel a little bit more intimate and cozy—like it’s its own little “room.” 

circular patio and seat wall with lighting and fire pit

Since so many homeowners love the idea of a “multi-room” outdoor living area, this is an important detail. The wall around the patio makes it a defined area and can separate it from other parts of the patio. 

This often becomes a more intimate nook and can make the perfect place to add a fire feature, an idea we’ll dive into next.

#3: Incorporate a Fire Feature With Your Wall

A patio area surrounded by a seat wall can be a great spot for a fire pit. This cozy nook will have plenty of seating for friends and family to gather around the fire. This is a great opportunity to add some cushions and pillows so that everyone can be comfortable as they sit around the fire.

seat wall with firepit

Of course, it doesn’t have to be a fire pit. We’ve even made a fire feature part of a seat wall by incorporating an outdoor fireplace into the wall itself. This really helps to make the fireplace an integrated element of the space.

Sometimes, we also use the wall for built-in wood storage. Homeowners are looking to maximize convenience and this can become the optimal place to have wood handy and ready to go.

#4: Add Landscape Lighting to a Retaining Wall

Incorporating lighting directly into a retaining wall can be both attractive and functional. 

Lighting plays a vital role in making an outdoor living space more usable in the evening hours. Wall lighting helps people to see where they’re going and avoid bumping into something.

retaining wall with outdoor lighting near patio and fireplace

But there’s no question it looks great, too. Wall lighting can make the entire outdoor living area even more attractive and inviting in the evening hours.

Front Yard Retaining Wall Ideas

In the front yard, all elements of your landscaping in Northern Virginia are really on display. Front yard retaining walls should contribute to the curb appeal and overall value of your home. 

retaining wall with plantings

A front yard retaining wall is likely added to address erosion but you still want to make your retaining wall an attractive addition. 

Here are a few front yard retaining wall ideas to keep in mind.

#5: Incorporate Landscaping into a Retaining Wall Area

If you’re incorporating a retaining wall in the front yard to level off an area and deal with erosion control, you can use that spot to add some landscape elements. Landscaped areas around a retaining wall help to soften the look. 

front walkway of home with retaining walls and plantings

A retaining wall often makes landscaping possible in an area where it previously was a challenge due to erosion. You might now have the ability to have a level plant bed where you can install flowers and shrubs that beautify the front of your home.

There is nothing like landscaping to add wow factor and curb appeal.

#6: Consider a Terraced Look

Another front yard retaining wall idea is to go with more of a terraced look. This involves using a series of smaller retaining walls that address a sloped property more gradually. Each area is leveled off and can be landscaped as you wish.

front walkway with small retaining wall

If you’re adding retaining walls to an area where people will also be walking, you’ll also want to think about possible railings and steps. 

There are many attractive ways to make a sloped front yard much more usable while also being aesthetically enhanced in the process.

Retaining Wall Installation Near Warrenton, Gainesville, and Leesburg, VA

If you are looking into landscaping in Northern Virginia, and your project is likely to include a retaining wall, it’s important that you choose a company that is experienced with this type of work.

While you might think that a retaining wall is a relatively simple hardscaping project, it can be more complicated than you might realize. The last thing that you’d ever want is for your wall to structurally fail as this can create not only a headache but a legitimate danger on your property.

Properly installing a retaining wall starts with the foundation. However, some landscaping companies will not take this phase as seriously as they should. A wall that is not built with a proper foundation will ultimately fail.

This is why it’s so important to hire a landscape professional who has the experience and does not cut corners such as failing to excavate properly or to address drainage concerns. If drainage is not addressed, water can build up behind the wall and start causing it to lean. Over time, it might even start to fall.

Using a talented landscape designer who can make sure that all of these considerations are taken into account will help give you confidence that you’re getting the full value out of your investment. 

At Rock Water Farm, it is our mission to help make your backyard dreams come true in a way that you’ll be able to truly love (and use) to the full extent. There should not be a single detail overlooked! When it comes to your outdoor living area, we understand that every detail really does matter.

Are you ready to have a property that you are proud of at your Haymarket, Gainesville, or Bristow, VA home? If so, talk to an expert, choose a solution that rocks, and get ready to see your dreams begin to take shape!

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About The Author

Todd Thomasson
Todd Thomasson

Todd Thomasson, founded Rock Water Farm Landscapes & Hardscapes in 2005. Having grown up with hard working parent role models and a strong work ethic, Todd put his Landscape & Turf Management degree from Virginia Tech into action as the lead stone mason and landscape designer for the new company. Over the years, the responsibility and opportunity of running this company has been shared with other members of the Rock Water Farm team, launching one of the leading property maintenance companies in Loudoun County. Todd is still rooted in his passion for design/build projects and continues to run the company, working with clients to design, build and maintain perfect outdoor spaces with his team.