Outdoor Living Improved
by Barb Duncan
Few annual milestones are greeted with as much joy and celebration in Ottawa as the day when, with great ceremonial flourish, homeowners put away the snow blowers and pull out the lawn furniture. Genuine summer weather is excuse enough for impromptu barbecues, spontaneous landscaping projects and casual outdoor gatherings of neighbours.
At this time of year we want, when at all possible, to be outside. After nine or 10 months of cocooning with Netflix, Twitter and Instagram, it’s time to unplug and to emerge from shadows of the family room. But a patch of grass and a picnic table won’t cut it. Nor will the rickety assortment of mismatched items at the back of the garage or garden shed. Not only is a backyard oasis a luxury you deserve, it’s also an investment in your home.
As anyone who’s bought or sold a house in the last few years knows, what’s on the outside counts too. People want open-air living space that’s as comfortable, inviting and stylish as any room inside.
As with the best of indoor renos, it starts with a plan. Don’t hesitate to seek out professional advice and service for this. It doesn’t have to be cost-prohibitive. An exterior transformation can take place in stages, over the space of several summers. That being said, it’s important to invest in quality hardscaping elements, from pathways and fences to patios and decks, along with expert installation. Last summer, suburban homeowner Karen Turner added a freestanding wood pergola to her backyard patio. Not only does it provide shade, it also serves to define this casual seating area. “I’m quite pleased with it,” Karen says. “It really has made a difference in how much we use our patio.”
There are other ways to update existing outdoor living space:
Trim shrubs, thin out overgrowth and tidy up greenery, including borders. Paint or re-stain weathered fencing and decks, and repair or replace rotting boards and hinges.
Add hanging baskets, plant pots and outdoor accessories that blend seamlessly with your inside décor. Don’t hesitate to move some sturdy, weather-resistant items outdoors for the summer.
Cover up. Umbrellas, canopies, and retractable or freestanding awnings allow you to sit outdoors safely on the sunniest of days. Covered patios let you to stay put and entertain even when there’s a shower. And screened-in porches permit you to sit outside after dark without feeding the mosquitoes.
Consider an area rug. That’s right, you can buy an outdoor carpet to jazz up your dining or living space.
Replace outdated furniture pieces. Paul Anderson, manager of Patio Comfort on Richmond Road, says sectional seating and sofa-like deep seating are on-trend options for lounging. There are many different materials, sizes and colours from which to choose, he notes, mentioning they can be coordinated with dining sets and other furniture groupings. “Large umbrellas that can shade multiple areas are also popular,” Anderson explains, as are fire pits that use propane or natural gas. “They add warmth and ambience to any outdoor area.” Although woodburning firebowls and fireplaces are verboten within the city limits, these options are safe, legal and appealing.