Home Decor

Design the perfect backyard

Create an outdoor space that brings all the comforts of your living room into the backyard

Backyard furnishings have come a long way in just a few years. These days, designing an outdoor area for your living enjoyment means more than a plastic umbrella table and a few stacking chairs. Here are some helpful tips for designing a functional and fashionable area for outdoor living.

Start by examining your needs

Before you get started, ask yourself: How will I use this space? “Determining the primary function will help you decide on the form your area should take,” explains Brad Latendresse, manager of the Hauser Company Store in Toronto. Without thinking, most of us immediately think table and chairs for dining, but perhaps you tend to use your yard primarily for relaxing or casual entertaining. In this case, you may prefer to opt for conversational seating, creating more of a living room setting. If you’re unsure how you’ll be using your outdoor living space, start with just a couple of pieces, and then decide what else you need as the season unfolds.

Think beyond the summer

Well-designed outdoor spaces can be used into the fall and in the early spring. “We’ve borrowed from our southern neighbours and Canadians are now designing their outdoor spaces for more extensive use,” says Ian Cleghorn, senior merchant of seasonal products for Home Depot Canada. For example, free-standing gazebos and retractable awnings can serve as protection from the sun and rain; infrared plug-in heaters can easily heat your space; and the latest lighting options can give your area illumination and ambience at night.

Extend your indoor living space

Whether your home style is rustic country, sleek modern or traditional elegance, your outdoor decor should be a reflection and an extension of the inside of your home, says Latendresse. Colours, patterns and styles should complement the rooms that your yard extends from, so the look is seamless and pleasing to the eye. Use the same principal as indoor decorating – spend more money on the classic pieces you want to last, and accessorize with trendy items that you can easily change from season to season.

Consider a variety of heat and light sources

While space heaters will keep your company warm, maybe you want to add a bit more atmosphere. In that case, think about an outdoor fire pit – today’s versions are portable, easy to use and inexpensive. Note: Check local bylaws and be considerate of neighbours when fueling your fire.

It used to be expensive to install garden lighting, but no more, says Cleghorn. “Now, solar is the hot trend. Garden accent lighting that uses solar technology has come a long way. Besides being energy efficient, today’s solar lighting does a great job collecting power and illuminating light.” Other lighting options for your outdoor living space include dimmers for your coach lights, candles, solar units that attach to umbrella poles, and perimeter lighting for your garden. Treat your garden as your artwork and light up showcase pieces – your most beautiful plants, shrubs, flowers and trees.

Add a little sound

Adding a sound source will muffle outdoor noise like traffic or high-strung neighbourhood kids. According to Cleghorn, there are two main ways. First, add water. Circulating water (such as a simple plug-in fountain or a more complex waterfall system) gives your living space a relaxing Zen quality. Remember that circulating water is the key – still water can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other insects. If your taste leans to musical sounds, entertainment systems are easy to extend outdoors with cost-efficient and weather-resistant speakers that are easier than ever to install and enjoy.

Decorate for functionality, too

Ask how items drain when they’re wet. For example, if big cushions are accidentally left out in the rain, how will they hold up? If you decide to opt for a “floor covering”, will it get all squishy after a rain shower? Latendresse recommends a new concept – teak flooring squares that snap together to cover concrete or dirt patches. Not only do they look great, they’re designed with small gaps and rubber underlay to allow easy drainage and evaporation of water.

Think about storage space

When choosing décor, remember you’ll have to store most items through the winter. If you don’t have the space inside your home or garage, here are some options:

• aluminum furnishings can withstand harsh winter weather; cast iron will also last for years without rusting
• other materials (such as vinyl and resin) can be left out but will hold up much better if covered to protect them from winter elements
• for other items such as pillows, a weather-resistant storage unit or shed is a perfect option

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