As spring draws closer, many homeowners are thinking ahead to the warmer months and anticipating all the deliciously long summer nights spent out in the yard with friends and family. Inspired by these lovely daydreams, you might take a peek at your backyard and realize that it needs some work before it’ll feel like a welcoming space for guests. If you’d like to do a yard makeover but you’re not sure where to start, here are a few tips to help get you going.
Think of your yard as an extension of your home rather than a separate space. This will give you some good starting points in terms of choosing styles and colours for the outdoors. It will also allow for design continuity. Look at the décor inside your home and try to work the same colours and styles into your outdoor entertaining area; this feels more welcoming and inviting to guests. “To me, that’s what outdoor space is all about — extending your indoor space and creating a comfortable living space outdoors for the warmer months when we all want to be outside,” says Ron Boivin, owner of Suede Contemporary Interiors, a local, queer-friendly interior design firm that also outfits outdoor spaces. “It can be classic in look or quite contemporary.”
When creating a design plan, start with the structural elements (like decks, gazebos or pergolas) and yard surfaces (like patio stones or interlock). This is the foundation of your redesign. What kind of surface or structure would make sense for the shape, depth and width of your yard, and how do you want to use the space? Consider your light and shade needs and the activities you want to do out back. Do you enjoy curling your toes around the grass while reading in a shaded nook, or are you more about beer and barbecue on the deck? Also, take some time to consider how you entertain and what would best facilitate that. Do you host dinners for four to six or outdoor dance parties for 100? What’s most important is to ensure that your choices help to heighten the utility and enjoyment of your space.
As a second step in your design process, think about plants and landscaping and how you’d like them to shape the atmosphere of your yard. “Obviously, when you come out into an outdoor space, you don’t want to feel like you’re just sitting in a field,” Boivin says. “What kind of space do you want to create?” Think about the colour continuum you’re working with in terms of the foliage of your chosen plants and how these plants will change in shape or size or shade production as they grow. How much light do you have to work with in your yard? Do you need a shaded area for the comfort of your guests? If so, how would you prefer to create it — with plants, a canopy of some kind or patio umbrellas? Think about where you want your shade and light to be in your yard and what that means for your design plan.
Now it’s time to choose furniture. Teak and all-weather wicker with aluminum frames are your safest bets in terms of outdoor durability. “I tend to sell more of the all-weather wicker with cushions,” Boivin says. “All of the cushion fabric is by Sunbrella, which washes easily, doesn’t fade and has a 10-year sun-fade guarantee.” Again, take a look at your interior décor. What styles and colours would best tie in to the outdoor space? Be sure to think about the number of guests you typically have over at a time (two? six? 20?) and the activities you do together. What are your needs? What are their needs? How much seating will you require? And what do you want the furniture to do for you? Would it make more sense to have an outdoor dining-room set or a grouping of living-room furniture that acts as a conversation nook? “If you don’t have a built-in protection structure, like a pergola, that’s where something like market umbrellas could come in.”
Not sure you can take on this project on your own? Below, we’ve listed a couple of recommended local businesses that can help you out:
Suede Contemporary Interiors suedeinteriors.com
Artistic Landscape Designs artisticlandscape.on.ca