Backyard Makeover

Ah, the sound of birds chirping, lazy heat beating down on the grass, luscious greenery under your feet and the chatter of happiness wherever you turn. This is the feeling of summer we yearn for year-round. And this is what coaxes us outdoors from our winter cocoon.  To be able to enjoy the short lazy days of summer, which tend to disappear almost in the blink of the eye, we should aim to blur the lines between indoor and outdoor living. It is simply bringing the outside in and inside out. Here, for the love of summer finally around the corner, we’ll highlight the outdoor living aspect of enjoying our exterior space using elements of interior comfort. JUne 2019 Subi S. photo4

When we imagine our homes, we imagine different spaces that exist inside of it, all of which we need in order to bring about ultimate comfort. Similarly, when we think of our backyard space, we should aim to create the same layout of space and all the necessities as the indoors. There should be an area allocated to prep and make meals hot off the grill, as well as a space to relax with our sore feet up. Just as we have a fireplace to warm up our insides in various rooms of our house, we should create a warm nook with a natural fireplace feel (whether it is a stone encased firepit or an erected gas fireplace wall, the sight and sound of fire crackling away while we sip on chilled sangrias is the feel we are going for here). Keep in mind that EVERYTHING has to be weather proof in an outdoor space, and I mean everything! One does not want to keep storing things away in the midst of a looming thunderstorm, so the key to longevity is not to worry about the little things and just buy weather resistant materials. 

Here are my seven tips for creating an outdoor oasis you are sure to wish for all year-round. 

1. Create what you have inside, outside

All the rooms you deem necessary inside your home, bring it outside. We all know that the kitchen is the heart of any home. Build a corner of your outdoor space to accommodate a cooler (it can be built-in fridge, wine coolers or portable ice filled box), a meal prep area (it can be cart on wheels made with weather-withstanding material, or a built-in countertop and island), and a heating or cooking element (bbq, stove, or even electric or gas-equipped portable burners). Equipped with drawers and cabinets to house your utensils, along with bar stools and other seating area, you’ll have a charming space to entertain the hungry and the thirsty. Pictured here, I’ve opted to place an additional pool side bar as well as roll away ice cart as the pavilion was just simply too far a walk from the pool to grab a chilled drink by the waters. JUne 2019 Subi S. photo2

Incorporating a seating area in any corner of your backyard should involve plush cushions, a warm throw, and a means to rest your restless feet. What you imagine in your living room can be brought to life outside of the mentioned space, and should take centre stage in your outdoor oasis. This is where family and friends gather to mingle and thus should have plenty of seating to accommodate cozy close-knit conversations.

Sitting around may be appealing but lounging around is more of what the heart desires. Pool loungers don’t necessarily have to be only by the pool side or just to sunbathe. You can use these loungers (or hammock) simply to sit back, relax and enjoy the sunshine on the grass area, on the patio, and anywhere you visualize yourself sitting for hours. 

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2. Create a Zen space:

Our lives are more hectic now than ever before and as a result, we want to enjoy the relaxing feel of a zen-like environment inside our homes. When we bring that to our outdoor living, it is essentially putting together mother nature’s finest treasures into a more cohesive and serene oasis. We want to feel the connection to the earth and nature around us, so what better way to do that than to be closer to the ground. Create a low-to-the ground seating (will surely be a hit among kids!) with plenty of oversized and plush cushions thrown haphazardly around combined with low ottoman to provide seating at staggered levels (pictured here, I’ve chosen to buy inflatable ottoman so that storage is easy and is also light weight to move around). 

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3. A water feature is a must!

Whether it’s a built-in pool or an inflatable one, dipping into a cooling body of water on a sizzling night is almost as good as that perfect hug when exhausted from a long day. Something about the feel and sound of water calms our senses and helps put all the stress on the back burner. If your backyard is too small for a pool, invest in a large water feature like an electric fountain that will put out continuous lapping music to your ears.

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4. Fire up!

Besides water, another element from Mother Nature is fire. It’s the best way to relax when there is a chilly bite to the night. A portable fire table is the easiest way to add fire to the backyard and serves double duty to house cups and things around the periphery, as well as providing warmth. A firepit is another way to go, if your community allows them, but my favourite is tall patio heaters. They warm you up from above simply by standing there. And if your space can handle it, go for multiple ones standing tall and proud next to any lounging space. Building a fireplace wall or even a portable fireplace to be in the midst of the gathering will surely provide a crackling warm atmosphere to the night. 

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5. To Be or Not to be Entertained

When I say entertainment, I am not implying a mean mix of cocktails or music to uplift the mood. I mean an area dedicated to just sit around and play games. If budget and space allows, it can be a basketball court. But of course, not everyone lives on acres of land for this type of luxury. A small space with a storage cart to hold games for a lazy night of chess or cards under the stars will surely help drain a long day away. 

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6. Go Green!

Don’t forget to bring all these together by going green! Luscious greenery, potted floral plants (go sexy, go black! I recently bought a pot of Black Magic Petunias after doing a double-take at the unique sexy and velvety appearance. Who knew flowers came black?) and tall potted emerald cedars divide and conquer any outdoor oasis. When you have a dining area backing into your lounging area, these cedars can beautifully divide your space like no other shrub can. When placing them, line them up linearly with a minimum of three, or group them in three’s with staggered heights of potted greens. Be careful of mixing too many colors when introducing flowers into the mix, you want to keep things serene and calm and the way to do that is to go easy on the eye with at least 2-3 colors instead of everything under the rainbow. 

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7. Then There was Light

You can do absolutely everything from the list above and the space will still not be complete without the proper use of lighting. 

Light is what will set the mood when the sun goes down. Whether it is candlelight or solar powered or electrical, its twinkling glow will catch your eye. Light can be from above, the sides, shining down and flickering up. Consider battery or solar powered uplights inside shrubs or potted plants. Pictured here, I went generous with the amount of solar powered lights and candles in and around this backyard. At night time, the light from each corner of the space helps to create an ambiance to wind down, relax and sip on a cocktail.

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In summary, summer is only here for a short season so make up a reason every day to enjoy the outdoors with your loved ones. Treat yourself to an oasis even as you step outside of your home, and enjoy your space under the sky with the same serenity and comfort as the space under your roof. Happy Summer!

Photos and article submitted by Subi Shehaan, Design Contours