With our harsh long winters, it's no surprise that Canadians are dying to get into the back yard come spring. Which is why we're spending more and 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 plexiglass 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 back yard, you can create the same experience on that deck or balcony. And furniture manufacturers are eager to provide all your needs for making that possible.
The outdoor furnishings of today are higher quality for better looks and durability. The frames last longer, the fabrics retain their shape and water resistance, and the cushion foam stays comfortable. And if you mix high and low within a good quality line you'll get more bang for your buck.
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, stainless or iron for a clean contemporary look. Of these, teak and aluminum last the longest. Teak needs a little more babying, but wipes clean in a jiffy.
If you're the kind of person who likes to change things up from time to time, consider modular furniture – pieces that fit together as a sectional or stand alone as chairs which allows you to change the seating arrangement however and whenever you like.
Loose flooring tiles in teak alternative wood is 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.
Outdoor living room
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.
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.
Anything that adds the sound of water is welcome in the back yard – like a fountain that's powered by a recirculating pump.
You're short on space, and while there's usually just two for dinner, you still like to entertain friends and family for dinner occasionally. So 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.
Storing your outdoor dining essentials – bright coloured table mats and napkins, covered lanterns or candle holders (so they don't get rain damaged) and cushions – is important if you don't want guests sitting down to a wet bottom. Either stow in a cubbie by the back door, or keep in one of those waterproof deck chests that doubles as a bench. Don't forget to keep extra throws on hand for guests on chilly evenings.
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.
Lisa Rogers is Executive Vice-President of Design 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 design.