By Jay Ladell
When outdoor space is at a premium, homeowners often struggle to find more than one use for it. Other times, these small yards lack beauty. An outdoor patio, for example, is hardly an outdoor oasis when facing a wall of garbage, green and recycling bins plopped next to an unsightly storage shed.
To transform an under-utilized or an unattractive outdoor space into a beautiful, multi-purpose outdoor retreat, allow plenty of time for the planning stage. Begin by looking at all four sides of your property for possible living, storage and garden space before creating a detailed landscape design plan.
The front yard can easily be reclaimed for living space. Many homes have beautiful front porches that often have room for shaded seating. In this private-public space, you can comfortably read, chat with neighbours or greet passersby.
If you prefer privacy, add a textured bamboo blind or vibrant patterned outdoor curtain. Give yourself a pleasant view to gaze at by replacing grass with a colourful garden for vistas that you will appreciate not only from the porch but also from the interior and and the curb.
Side yards are often overlooked – yet they are valuable spaces for storage, a transitional garden and even seating. A garden pathway with vertical plants will link your front and back yards together and require scant space. If your side yard allows, add a bench with built-in storage space that can house your garden tools.
When designing your backyard, create seperate, distinct places for each function or activity. Since most of the pre-World War II homes in Ottawa were built without garages, storage sheds tend to be placed in the backyard. A privacy screen is an excellent solution to hide unsightly items from view.
Vertical gardens that use tall, upright plants are a perfect solution for small yards. Place them next to your property line as they take up little square footage and draw interest to the end of your yard, making it appear larger. Start by adding visual interest to your fence. Add a colour stain or even invest in custom fence panels for a “Wow” effect. Does your yard lack a property fence? If yes, a lattice screen will achieve the same effect.
Plant flowering vines to climb fence-mounted trellises behind beds of upright perennials and mix in spring and summer blooming bulbs for seasonal interest. For added colour, place hanging baskets of annual flowers on hooks along the fence posts. For an artistic look, add wall art and mirrors that will reflect your personality and make your space appear larger.
The patio is a great place for multiple purposes. The secret is to purchase light, foldable patio furniture that you can move easily. Without the furniture, your patio becomes a blank canvas. Now you have a temporary space to change a flat bicycle tire, let the children play, or pull out your yoga mat to exercise. Parking spaces can even be beautified to do double duty; providing extra living space when the car is away.
Pergolas built on the patio add greenery, privacy and shade. The four posts can hold outdoor fabric curtains that you can tie back during the day and pull open at at night. Colourful pillows and seat covers provide you with an outdoor space that has the comfort and luxury of the interior of your home.
No backyard is complete without a water feature. The gurgling sound of water moving evokes a country stream, and helps block out urban noise.
A small property can have it all: a place to relax, entertain and garden. By following these tips, you will create an extension of your home. You and your family will want to spend every available minute in your new outdoor living space.
Article originally published in the O.S.C.A.R. newspaper