by Susan Lynn Reynolds
Canadians annually gain an extra room to their homes for 3 to 5 months, depending on where they live and what the climate is doing that year. This extra room can feel like an outdoor deck or patio or, with a little organizing and forethought, it can feel like simply an extension to the house. And it can be used that way too.
For a successful outdoor space that reflects your style, it’s helpful to approach the project all at once instead of adding pieces piecemeal. The elements you have to work with are the same as for any space.
Light –this refers to both daylight and nighttime illumination. How will you stay cool when summer sunlight floods the space? What will you use to light the space at night? How light does it have to be? Do you need enough light for games and reading in the evening?
Or is it more of a conversation area as daylight fades and the stars come out? You’ll need relatively bright overhead lighting for the former; you can make do with low level solar powered lights for the latter. To shelter you from the sun’s rays, you’ll need some kind of overhead protection, and this leads to the issue of…
Structure –Will you want a full room out of doors? Do you need protection from sightlines to the neighbours? What’s the bug population like where you live? Do you need screens to keep out mosquitoes, flies and wasps? The answers to these questions will dictate whether you need a full gazebo-like structure with screened walls, or a simple awning or umbrella just for the brightest time of day. If you’ll want to be outside when it’s raining, you’ll need sturdier protection. If you’re more of a fair-weather visitor to your outdoor space, then a water-resistant cover is probably enough. If sight lines are an issue, a green screen of vegetation may be enough – by the time the leaves die in the fall, you’ll be moved indoors anyway.
Furniture –Your choices will be dictated by the amount of time you like to spend in your outdoor space, as well as weather protection the space affords your furnishings. If you sacrifice comfort for durability, however, you’re less likely to spend more time out of doors, so it’s a Catch 22. If you want furniture with soft, comfortable cushions, you’re back to structure – you’ll need something sturdy and waterproof to protect your pieces. You need to consider winter storage as well – eventually the pieces will have to come in for the snow season. Do you have enough storage space?
Heat –If you’re going to go to the trouble to extend your house, how are you going to extend the season? There are many heating solutions available from masonry built-ins to portable units.
Décor –all the soft elements that carry the aesthetic of your indoors to your outdoors. Take a good look at the rooms adjacent to your outdoor area and use similar accent colours or design decisions (modern, rustic, steel, wood, etc.) to create the sense that the outside is simply a continuation of what’s inside.
Planned for all together at the outset, even if you don’t create your outdoor space in a single summer, by the time you’ve assembled all the elements it will feel like just one more room in your own distinctive style.<