Big Style, Small Space: It's Summer: Enjoy the Outdoors

Big Style, Small Space: It’s Summer: Enjoy the Outdoors

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Big Style, Small Space: It’s Summer: Enjoy the Outdoors

With summer finally here, it’s no surprise that Canadians are dying to get into the backyard, which is why we’re spending more on making that small patch of real estate into a heavenly oasis. Long gone are the white plastic chairs circling like wagons around a Plexiglas table, and in their place are fire pits and heaters, deep-seated sectional sofas, teak dining tables and chairs, and lights, lots of lights.

All of this exponentially increases the time you spend outdoors listening to the birds, or the burble of a water feature, watching the sun set, and connecting with friends and family.

Even if you don’t really have a backyard, you can create the same experience on a deck, balcony or terrace. And furniture manufacturers are eager to provide all your needs for making that possible.

Before you buy anything, though, figure out how you will use the deck. Is it where you’ll go read, lie in the sun, have friends over for dinner? If you don’t like to eat outside and you prefer to sit out and read or lie in the sun, invest more heavily in living room-style furnishings rather than a dining table.

The outdoor furnishings of today are higher quality for better looks and durability. The frames last longer, the water-resistant fabric retains its shape and the cushion foam stays comfortable.

There’s also greater choice in materials and styles. In the wood family, there’s teak, ipe or treated pine, but you can also get metal mixed with wood, or solid aluminum or stainless, or iron for a clean contemporary look. Of these, teak and aluminum last the longest.

Loose flooring tiles in teak alternative wood are easy to install and creates an immediate room setting, especially on the concrete of a condo balcony. Add a rug to pull the look together – there are plenty of outdoor carpets to choose from.

And when it comes time to place the furniture, think about where your eye will rest when you sit in a particular spot. If the view isn’t great, reorient the sightlines by moving the furniture around.


Comfort is king when it comes to furniture and that includes being waterproof — nothing worse than sitting down in a chair that oozes moisture from the most recent thunderstorm.

Privacy is an issue in a condo or a townhome but a row of boxwoods or ornamental grasses in matching containers along the edges of your deck will fix that. If you already have privacy lattice or bamboo screening up, create an instant retreat by adding some wallmounted terra cotta planters.

A hammock is a worthwhile investment for the afternoon naps or evenings spent gazing at the stars. Add bright colourful pillows and surround the area with container plants and you have a vacation destination right on your deck.

For even more visual interest, add artwork to the deck walls — wrought iron grills, architectural salvage, window frames (with or without mirrored glass).

Anything that adds the sound of water is welcome in the backyard, like a fountain that’s powered by a recirculating pump.


Decks aren’t just for daytime. Add lights around your deck to set the mood. Small white lights are magical when strung from the house to a tree. Add candles around the edges of your deck or patio – flameless ones are safer. An ethanol fire pit not only creates mood but keeps feet warm, and the best thing is they can be moved around.

Music adds to the ambience – just not so loud your guests can’t hear each other or that the neighbours will complain.


When shopping for a table, look at the expandable ones. Materials range from classic wrought iron to teak (both pretty pricey) to wood and metal – all great looking but distinctly different in style.

Chairs should complement the table, though they don’t have to match exactly, and if your deck is on the small side, get the stackable kind.

An umbrella will shade the table from sun and rain but if there’s enough space check out a pergola. It works as a nice architectural feature, shade for a living area — especially fitted with a retractable canopy system — and can be screened in against bugs.


The deck is a perfect place to let your inner container gardener go wild. They come in all shapes and sizes – the bigger ones you can put on rolling carts to move. But you can grow anything out there as long as you have the right light and soil — tomatoes, herbs, colourful flowers.

If you live in a condo tower, what you can plant depends a lot on what floor you’re on. Wind affects what you plant especially because it drops the temperature significantly, removes moisture and brings in a lot of dust. Some plants are better than others at standing up to these elements, like evergreen foliage plants, euonymus and ornamental grasses.

Once your outdoor space is set, you’re not going to want to leave. You’ll already be enjoying the weekend while everyone else is fighting traffic to the cottage.

Lisa Rogers is the exclusive interior designer for Dunpar Homes (

Lisa has shared her style and design expertise on popular television programs, such as Canadian Living TV, House & Home TV and The Shopping Channel.

Lisa is one of the most familiar faces on CityTV’s Cityline as a regular guest expert for fashion and image, health and wellness and interior design.


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