When the weather forecast finally starts to fulfill its promise of warm, sunny days, our yards provide a welcome oasis for relaxing and entertaining. Modern homeowners are eschewing the typical grassy expanse of yard and are instead envisioning their outdoor area as an extension of their indoor space divided into “rooms.” “Outdoor rooms accomplish a variety of practical functions, like seasonal living space, as well as design purposes, such as making a small space appear larger,” says landscape designer Michael Dimitriadis. Here are a few ways you can divide and define your outdoor space, whether it’s a small patio or a bigger yard.
Dimitriadis uses a few tricks in his designs to create the illusion of space, even if he’s working in a very small area:
Plants, from low hedges or shrubs, to annuals and flowering perennials, can provide natural barriers between outdoor rooms. “I often use lines of plants to define a space, ” says Dimitriadis who describes this “linear planting style” as a throwback to the formal, Victorian approach to garden design. Even one specific row of flowers can make it obvious that you’re stepping into a different space. The plants don’t have to be tall – Dimitriadis often uses a border of yews to delineate a space.
If you enjoy entertaining, Dimitriadis recommends creating multiple seating areas. “Personally, I’m not a big fan of the patio table with the umbrella,” he says. “When you have a party in the backyard, people want to mingle.” If you have the space, he recommends setting up a few smaller tables around the yard that will seat two to three people each.
If you’d like to establish a reading area, or a place for lounging, Dimitriadis suggests setting up a space that seats four, such as a couple of outdoor couches with a coffee table in the centre, or comfy chairs around an ottoman. Add a point of interest to this “room” with a grouping of flowers or a longer-lasting plant like a cut-leaf Japanese maple.
Whether it’s a small patch of grass that’s soft underfoot or a big jungle gym, section off a part of the yard that’s just for the kids. When his own children were small, Dimitriadis designed a raised area with different types of gravel in a variety of sizes and colours, from beach pebbles to pea gravel. “They played in it for hours, “ he remembers. “They loved digging around for the shiner stones – it was like finding buried treasure, and it wasn’t sandy and messy.”
Canadian summers are short, so consider adding a small fire pit or fireplace to your yard. “You can extend your outdoor season into October,” says Dimitriadis, who recommends a little table fireplace. “It doesn’t have to be expensive.”