To be completely honest, the size of the backyard was one of the main reasons why we made an offer on our house - it's a big yard by Philadelphia standards. But to say it needed some work would be a massive understatement. It was filled with sand, astroturf, and old tires.
After a few days of clearing out the sand and filling the yard with clean dirt, we started working on the backyard, using inspiration that we'd seen as a guide. With lots of help from friends, we walked over 2500+ pounds of paving stones one by one through our house and into the backyard, sectioned off an area for our patio, filled with gravel, sand, and a patio base, and finally laid the pavers and filled with polymeric sand.
We built raised garden beds for evergreen shrubs and a trellis along the back fence to grow climbing plants like clematis and blackberries, and then planted sod between the patio and garden beds.
All in all it took a couple weekends and a lot of work, but we made such a difference between before and after! Next year we're planning on putting in a small deck off of the back of the house, and maybe a wood burning stove or outdoor fireplace so that we use it from spring to autumn!