Bring the hottest design elements of your home, outside

Backyard life these days is about more than just a cold drink on the deck. People are using their outdoor spaces more and they are bringing the design elements of their home outside. We spoke to some of Canada’s talented landscape designers about the hottest trends for your backyard.

Outdoor Living Trends….
The concept of the outdoor room has been around for more than a few years but that idea is now translating into multiple rooms in one backyard. Design expert and HGTV television host Carson Arthur says more and more people are looking at less lawn and more usable space. “We always look at full sun patios, but what about a shaded area? Plant a big tree and do a seating area under the tree. It takes out a huge section of grass. It’s environmentally friendly because the tree is going to remove the CO2 from the air, but also you lower the ambient temperature in your backyard with the shade.”

Nan Keenan of Toronto-based Kennan Designs says her clients are creating separate rooms outside. “A lot of time people will have a living room and they’ll actually even have a dining room and a leisure area by a pool, or pond, or hot tub.”

Economics, and in particular rising housing prices, are driving people into smaller homes, particularly in the cities, so the natural next step is using outdoor space that may have been left as lawn before. “It’s really quite nice now because people are really taking advantage of, and using, the space they have,” says Keenan. The result is a multi-use backyard and less lawn.

In fact, many people are choosing to get rid of the grass altogether. They cite the work needed for maintenance, water and chemical bans, as well as difficulties like growing grass under increasingly mature trees as reasons as reasons to opt for other surfaces. Larger patios are becoming more common, as are surfaces like pea gravel or wood chips.

Even young families are doing without the lawns. Keenan says they make do with visits to the local park or they find other options for their kids. She recalls one client with young children that got rid of the grass completely in favour of pea gravel. “It was like a big sand box,” says Keenan. “They had their dump trucks out there. They loved it.”

Some of that lawn space is also being turned into gardens for growing vegetables. The organic and local food movement is moving into the backyards with people growing their own food. People are either building gardens or incorporating edible plants into their current flower gardens. Plants like herbs or vegetables like tomatoes look good, and, Keenan says, mixed with the exotic perennials they create a great visual mosaic.

The environment is another big motivator in current design trends. The price of products like paving stones made from recycled glass bottles or decks made from plastic bags have come down to the point that they are comparable with the more commonly used materials. “Their sales trends have gone shooting through the roof, because [the companies] are now using that message to homeowners, saying you can have the home of your dreams and you can do right by the environment,” says Arthur.

Nan Keenan adds that the green movement in landscape design is only going to increase. She’s seeing growing interest into concepts like green walls and green roofs. “I am very keen on trying this vertical growing. You can do your annuals that way. You can grow your herbs.” The walls are a whole new way to incorporate greenery into a backyard design and they come with irrigation systems that make care easier. The roofs too, Keenan says, will become more common as the use of such technologies in office buildings in major centres translate into residential homes.

Backyard design is becoming less about the big lawn and more about creating usable spaces where people can live, both inside the home and outside. Economics mean trips to the cottage are less likely so people want the cottage lifestyle in their backyard. Carson Arthur calls the backyard the ‘new frontier’ in home design. Home and Garden television has driven interior design over the last decade but it is now pushing those efforts outside to create calm and inviting living spaces in the yard.

On May 24th, 2011, posted in: Outdoor Living, Summer by

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