By Hollie Grace James
As establishments begin to reopen, with COVID-19 regulations strictly in place, many people are still opting to stay home, preferring solitude, or gathering with their friends and loved ones away from the crowds. In doing so, creating the perfect outdoor oasis has never been so appealing. And it doesn’t require tons of square footage, or an entire overhaul, to construct a blissful backyard that, although only a few steps away, feels like a total escape to your own private, heavenly hideaway.
Denise Hulaj and Jason Bellaire, partners at StyleHaus Interiors at 372 Piccadilly Ave., explain that outdoor spaces have been gaining popularity over the last few years. Even prior to COVID-19, people have become increasingly invested in these exclusive sanctuaries. Although the tough Canadian winters may limit their year-round usage, this doesn’t mean adjustments can’t be made in order to optimize their functionality as the seasons change.
Rochelle Spracklin, of Yards Unlimited Landscaping Inc. at 77 Holland Ave., explains that outdoor “rooms” have been on trend recently. Clients are adding reading areas, conversation pits and even outdoor televisions, with the goal of using their backyard as an extension of their home. But scrap the typical dining table and chairs with an umbrella, say Hulaj and Bellaire, and focus on lounge seating, outdoor kitchens, pizza ovens and fire pits. Spracklin echoed something similar, explaining that these features create warmth and coziness, extending the summer season.
“Add a pergola, screen or gazebo to protect you from the elements during the off seasons,” Spracklin said. “[And] night lighting adds ambiance, [so] even when the snow flies, you can have a different visual effect.”
Currently, as clients look to create homey, relaxing backyard spaces that can be used everyday, Spracklin is noticing an increased demand for pools, large patios, water features, elaborate plantings and outdoor kitchens, “so that they feel like they are vacationing in their [own] backyard.”
Hulaj and Bellaire also predict there will be further increased demand for these comfortable, functional outdoor spaces because they can be tailored to both cooking and entertaining. Even if you have only a small space to work with, Spracklin insists the results can be just as amazing.
“With the right choices of stone elements, furniture, focal points and plants, it really can be an extension of their home,” Spracklin said.
Spracklin advises to think of your garden as a year round living space by planting evergreens, especially interesting ones with unique shapes, as they provide virtual interest all year round.
“Plants such as hydrangeas keep their dried flowers, grasses stay tall and true and elderberries keep their berries. [This] all adds up to a lovely off season experience,” Spracklin explained.
Hulaj and Bellaire point out that indoor and outdoor spaces don’t necessarily have to be completely distinct from one another, as is exemplified in their recent project, a stand-alone outdoor dining pavilion complete with fold back glass walls that allow the space to open up entirely to the outdoors.
“Generally, people want easy access to indoor spaces, specifically to the kitchen [in order to] bring food out,” they explained.
Another great option for extending the short Canadian summer is a sunroom, say Hulaj and Bellaire, as they can be enjoyed for three seasons and offer protection from both the elements and insects. Although they believe that this space should have a relationship to the overall style of the home, this is the spot where you can let formalities drop and incorporate a bit of whimsy.
“We love rattan/wicker pieces, indoor/outdoor area rugs and pillows, baskets with blankets for cooler evenings, lanterns, books and board games,” they said.
This story appeared in the 2020 fall edition of Homes & Condos.