How to design a stylish backyard space

Photo:  Drew Hadley

Outdoor living doesn’t necessarily mean “roughing it.” Quite the contrary. Modern trends and innovations are making our outdoor environments every bit as stylish, comfortable and functional as our interiors. Indeed, decks, balconies and backyards everywhere have undergone a transformation, both in the design process and the finished result. With the 2024 outdoor season now upon us, here are some trends that have already begun to bud and bloom.

Take a (thoughtful) first step

Every great space —indoors or out – starts with a vision, and that vision is based on a balance of function and aesthetics. Delineating specific purposes for your outdoor area, such as cooking, dining, relaxing or socializing, with considerations for preferred style and ambience, is the first step in a new, reimagined outdoor environment. Every al fresco area should maintain a coherent and practical link with the interior of the home, such as situating the outdoor dining space adjacent to the kitchen.

Consider the view

Embrace a broader perspective by considering how your property harmonizes with its surrounding landscape beyond its borders. Take note of its orientation and exposure. Then, maximize your space by strategically organizing seating areas. For example, set up a cosy spot to enjoy your morning coffee with the sunrise, or arrange a table and chairs for hosting hors d’oeuvres and cocktails during sunset hours. On the flip side, hide undesirable views with hedges or screens.

Turn your thinking ‘inside out’

Looking for inspiration? Look inward – in the nearest window, that is. Some might choose to lean into the nature trend, but remember, the backyard is a living space and it should be treated as an extension of the inside. Take cues from your interior colour palette, material selections and textures, and adapt them for the elements. Each functional zone of your outdoor living area requires suitable flooring, lighting, and embellishments to complete the look. When furnishing, consider integrating textiles as a means of blurring the boundaries between the indoors and outdoors. Soft cushions, throws and area rugs add comfort and cosiness and infuse the space with personality.

Adaptable and versatile

Choose pieces that are weather-resistant, while gracefully adapting to evolving design trends. Embrace natural materials such as wood, stone, rattan, wicker, teak and aluminum for timeless allure, seamless integration with nature, and the ability to withstand the elements. While factors such as UV exposure, wind, rain and fluctuating temperatures were once obstacles, today they are common considerations for designers who specialize in outdoor furniture collections.

In recent years, there’s also been a notable inclination toward versatile and interchangeable outdoor furniture pieces. New outdoor collections such as Somos exemplify this trend, offering modular designs that accommodate diverse layouts, and functional and aesthetic preferences. The appeal lies in adaptability, encouraging creative exploration in outdoor decor. Unlike conventional furniture sets, these foster individuality and allow for the creation of bespoke outdoor living areas that resonate with personal style.

Light it up

Transform your backyard by integrating lighting to enhance your outdoor cooking areas to facilitate meal preparation. Elevate the ambience and perception of space by incorporating up-lighting techniques on trees or fencing throughout the yard. Prioritize safety with decorative yet functional lighting near steps and along pathways.

Comfort and style – inside and out

One might think that our indoor and outdoor environments are opposites, but from a design perspective, the two have a lot in common, especially when viewed through the lens of comfort and style. When planning your outdoor retreat, reflect on your lifestyle and your aesthetic preferences, then put them through the wringer of the spring’s rain, the summer sun and autumn’s wind. There’s an art to creating a great outdoor living area. With the right planning and products, a basic backyard can be transformed into arguably the best room in the house.

Eugenia Triandos
Eugenia Triandos

Eugenia Triandos, is the principal designer for Montreal-based Hibou Design & Co. This multi-disciplinary design firm is known for creating interiors that are uniquely reflective and functional to their clients. Providing bespoke residential design services throughout Montreal, Ottawa, Ontario, and North America.

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