Tips on extending your time outdoors during the best time of the year
So much time is spent making sure the interiors of our homes are comfortable for both ourselves and our guests, oftentimes too little attention is spent (in Canada) on detailing our outdoor spaces.
Surely it is a reflection of the short season, where we struggle with either a chill, intense heat, bugs, rain or wind. Planning parties or even simple gatherings in the yard can be stressful when so much is out of our control.
In a recent project, the team at Eurodale designed a space for daily enjoyment and regular entertaining, all with a focus on solving some of the challenges we all may face in our yards. Here are some key takeaways to consider when planning and designing an outdoor oasis to help ensure you maximize the enjoyment of your time beyond the walls of your humble abode.
Think of the typical high-traffic zones, pathways and spaces you may need for daily use and less frequent access. Guests with mobility aids or in high heels will appreciate a well-constructed and level pathway. Permeable concrete pavers add visual interest over poured-inplace concrete and are more environmentally sensitive due to drainage. Frost and weed growth can affect the joints, so they are not totally maintenance-free.
We used large-format pavers that reduce joints in patio areas, and then added purposefully large joints for visual interest and ease of care in walkways. Gate sizes at 36 inches or wider allows for easier traffic flow for guests and for care and maintenance equipment to pass as required.
Sun and rain
Occasional cover from excessive direct sun and rain can be critical in the creation of any outdoor space. When outside, a view to the sky is always nice, but the ability to quickly shelter from discomfort when the temperature ramps up or a sudden rainshower comes down ensures you are not forced to run back inside. A variety of awnings, pergolas, shades and modular shelters can help. If you are planning to leave them outside, be sure to think about their ability to withstand harsh conditions, including windstorms, as you don't want anything to end up flying into your neighbours' yards during a storm.
Again, weather durability and weighting are key factors, along with comfort. Cushions in Sunbrella's weatherproof fabric is an absolute recommendation. Will furniture be moved or fixed? Will it remain outdoors or be stored inside when not in use? Is sitting or lying the preferred lounging position? At this site we created zones around the yard, including a more formal dining area, a casual sitting spot by the barbecue, a lounging area in the rear and a seated firepit space for an afterdinner cocktail.
Trees and plants
Nature's protection from the elements can provide shade, privacy and soften the feel of any yard. Trees grow in different shapes and different conditions, and can also be a nuisance with pollen, fruit, nuts and by way of some of the creatures that live in them.
Do your research and think of the placement, soil type, specific need and annual lifecycle of what you are planting. Native species are always recommended. Plants have different light and water needs, too, and while some require little maintenance, others require constant care. Be realistic about the "colour" of your thumb; don't merely select trees and plants based on their visual esthetics.
When the sun goes down, the good times need not cease. Pathway lighting, ambient space lighting or darkness should all be considered for safety but also for setting the mood. If star-gazing is a pastime, light pollution will hamper that, so having smart-lighting controls on your phone can come in handy. Downlighting or a "Solar Eye" path puck with a "bat hat" reduces up to 98 per cent of upward light spillage that can also impact nocturnal animals. Bats eat mosquitoes, so being kind to them is the right move, and also helps keep the stars in sight.
The last word
Plan and design your outdoor space for the existing site, take stock of the existing features you love, and work to fix the ones you don't. Outdoor spaces can be for any passion or occasion, so the best thing is to prioritize your wishes and work toward improving the space to fit your needs.
Whether it's gardening, relaxing, swimming or dining, be it solo or with friends, a well thought-out space will bring you years of pleasure as long as you think of the space in all weather conditions.
When planning your own addition, renovation or custom home project, be sure to start your search at renomark.ca, the home of the professional.
Brendan Charters is a founding partner at Toronto design-build firm Eurodale Developments Inc., the 2020 BILD Renovator of the Year. eurodale.ca, @eurodalehomes, 416.782.5690