VICTORIA - With the sun shining and weather warming up, most homeowners want to spend more time outside on their patios and decks. But instead of just putting up an umbrella and calling it a day, Larry Myers recommends homeowners consider their outdoor space as an extension of their interior.
Myers, designer and owner of Victoria's Alfresco Living Design, says his philosophy when it comes to creating outdoor living spaces is seeing a patio or deck that looks like any other room in the house.
"I think there should be very smooth transitions and continuity between indoor and outdoor spaces," says Myers. "There should be efficiency and good flow to support people moving and navigating between the spaces."
Whether it is a smaller condo deck or a large home patio, Myers starts by looking inside for how someone has chosen to lay out the interior and the views of windows to the outside.
"I look at the interior decor and the residential architecture, and I try to bring those attributes that connect spaces from architectural to personal style," he says.
Regardless of the space, Myers says the main thing people overlook when creating their outdoor living space is the scale of the area.
"The tendency for most people is to underscale," he says. "People should look at scale and how things properly fit into the space, and I think that is one of the mistakes people usually make, is that they underscale."
Myers says people also don't usually deal with the vertical spaces.
"It's about using the space to its fullest," he says.
Like Myers, Candace Mallette, landscape designer and owner of Candace Mallette Landscape and Garden Design in the Ottawa area, says homeowners should approach their backyard as they would a house by creating rooms that serve different functions.
"Design your yard into rooms," she says. "You could create an area where you'd barbecue, a service area tucked away that isn't visually where you'd see with your clothes line and shed, and then maybe a patio for dining with a small reading area. If you put different rooms in your backyard that works really well."
While the actual design and layout of an outdoor space can be difficult, Mallette says one of the biggest concerns she addresses from homeowners is around privacy.
The position and size of many residential lots means many homeowners are dealing with neighbours on either side, and Mallette says a raised deck can decrease privacy by creating the feeling that a homeowner is too exposed when they are enjoying their outdoor space.
"One of the solutions we came up for clients with concerns about privacy is that we try to encourage them to go with a patio right down on the ground because you aren't raised up feeling like you're on display," she says.
"A patio that is low to the ground also creates more of an intimate space. If the deck is already created and it is a large deck we do try to encourage people to do an easy fix like large planters in groups. Large tall tropical palms can almost create a screen or a wall that they can use."
Beautiful outdoor living spaces aren't just limited to those with big backyards. David Amodeo, owner of Empire Landscaping and Garden Services in Victoria, says any balcony or patio can be transformed into an outdoor oasis by adding a few things.
"Lots of people like artificial grass so they can take their socks and shoes off," he says. "Potted plants work very well on balconies.
"Herb gardens, leafy greens, strawberries, blueberries and tomatoes are just a small sample of what food grows well on balconies provided it gets some sun, and even without any sun you can use hostas or ferns."