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February 10, 2011

Dreaming of Summer? Start Planning Your Outdoor Living Space Now (Part One)

Don't let the endless snowdrifts get you down! Spring is just around the corner and as temperatures start to rise, homeowners will emerge from their winter hideaways ready to soak up the sun and some outdoor recreation. While most of us relish the idea of spending more time outside, our soggy and neglected backyards often offer little in the way of motivation.

This spring, before heading off to your local nursery for floral inspiration, stop and consider how to get the most out of your backyard. In other words, don't think garden...think outdoor living space.

No matter what the size of your backyard, more and more homeowners are taking advantage of every available bit of square footage and extending their living space outside. The easiest way to do this is to consider your outdoor living space as an extension of your inside space.

Make a plan

Whether you're hiring a professional or doing it yourself, the first thing you'll want to do is make a plan and define the space. Measure and map your backyard on grid paper, noting the direction your yard faces, and when and which area gets the most sunlight. This will help you decide where to place outdoor furniture and what kinds o plants will do best in each location. Just like the inside of your house is divided into many different rooms, the same concept can apply outdoors. Some questions you may want to answer before you proceed are:

• Do you have young children who need a place to play?

• Do you want a deck or patio for entertaning that is accessible from your dining room or kitchen?
• Is there an existing pool, hot tub or pond or are you planning to install one?

Once you decide what your family's priorities are, it makes designing the space easier and more manageable.

Maintain the flow

Think of your backyard as an outdoor room and choose materials, furniture and accessories that allow your inside space to flow effortlessly into your outside space. A great way to create the illusion that your home extends into the yard is to cover a cement patio with decking tiles comparable to your indoor flooring, or to paint the deck the same colour as your house. Outdoor furniture and appliances similar in quality to what you have indoors are popular and the ideal way to maintain the flow.

Keep it simple

Whether you need a tree to help shade your deck from the hot afternoon sun or a row of evergreens to add privacy to your backyard, don't be intimidated by the selection on display at your local nursery. Choose wisely and ask for help when necessary. You'll want to pick shrubs and flowers that will perform well under your specific lighting and lifestyle conditions. If you don't have much time to devote to your garden, ask a professional to recommend plants and flowers that require minimal watering and attention.

Set the mood with the appropriate furnishings

Choosing outdoor furnishings engineered to being outdoors may cost you a bit more, but they'll last longer and won't find their way to the landfill for years to come. Earth tones with a splash of pastel continue to be a popular colour palette. And just as you would decorate the walls of your home with artwork, don't forget to decorate your new outdoor living space with some personal touches to make it your own.