Cover Story: In The Zone
The designated areas of Leigh-Ann Allaire Perrault’s backyard makeover add up to countless hours of summer fun
By: Leigh-Ann Allaire Perrault
Photography By: Larry Arnal
There aren’t many things more boringly Canadian than talking about the weather, but now that warmer days and balmy nights are in the forecast, I have to tell you…I’m doing cartwheels across the lawn at the thought of summer patio season!
ALL-PURPOSE PATIO PLAN
Maybe it’s the fact that after a decade of living with a lacklustre backyard, my husband and I FINALLY invested in a complete outdoor overhaul, starting with a new low-maintenance concrete patio that has turned our once-underutilized patch of suburban grass into a multi-functional extension of our home. Early in the planning phase, we discussed how we envisioned spending time in our then-blank-canvas backyard, and determined that we wanted to include dedicated zones for lounging, dining, and cooking, as well as a fun zone for outdoor games.
For the lounging zone, we opted for a modular, maintenance free woven resin sectional that is perfect for relaxing with our feet up on lazy days but can also comfortably seat up to 10 guests when we’re entertaining. We defined this zone by introducing a substantial outdoor area rug that adds softness underfoot and is large enough to sit under the front legs of the furniture to anchor the area.
SEAMLESS COLOUR PALETTE
When we were shopping for the lounge set, we searched specifically for neutral beige, gray, and black finishes that would complement the existing exterior brick façade, trim, and fixtures of our home to create a cohesive look.
We then introduced touches of colour through affordable outdoor cushions and potted annuals, and I even transformed kitschy hot-pink plastic garden flamingos into a pair of flirty fowl with a quick coat of Universal spray paint in Copper Rose.
Another major consideration for our lounging zone was staying cool on sunny sweltering days. Our backyard gets direct afternoon sun, and I often felt like a sizzling strip of bacon when I sat out for more than five minutes, so I included a large free-standing market umbrella in the space that can be tilted to shield us from the rays.
For the dining zone, I had visions of creating a relaxed al fresco environment complete with comfortable seating and a self-serve beverage cart, but after searching high and low for the perfect piece, I decided to flex some DIY muscle and make my own! With less than $200 worth of materials and an afternoon of construction, I created a mobile drink station that features a mounted bottle opener, folding sides that lift for extra prep surface, and an insulated cooler inside to keep beverages cold. To finish it off and complement the dining set, I added a quick coat of Varathane Ebony Stain and an exterior clear-coat to protect it from the elements.
Like most exterior dining tables, our cast aluminum set has an umbrella in the centre, which makes it difficult to display a centrepiece, and any potted plants that I leave out on the tabletop often blown over with a gust of wind. So, I decided to craft an upcycle solution by adding a fresh coat of high-gloss black paint to an old Bundt pan from my kitchen, and then I planted a collection of fresh annuals inside it. Now, with the umbrella through the centre, I have no worries of it blowing away, and it creates the perfect focal point on the table.
DISHING OUT THE BEST
Our biggest backyard splurge was creating an outdoor cooking zone! We installed a simple stacked-stone peninsula to house a built-in BBQ, and topped it with a solid slab of granite featuring a breakfast bar overhang at the back. As the saying goes, “the party always ends up in the kitchen”… and well, the “burger bar” is inevitably where everyone tends to gather now when we entertain.
LET THE GAMES BEGIN
And when it came to creating the “fun zone,” it didn’t take much more than a few outdoor games of ladder golf and badminton to set the tone for family activities. On weekends when the neighbourhood kids come over to play, I even whip up a quick DIY giant checkerboard using a square cardboard template, a can of YardArt spray paint, and a collection of red and blue dollar-store Frisbees to act as the game pieces, and it makes for hours of afternoon fun.
By designing our outdoors with distinctive zones in mind, we now have a multi-purpose space that not only maximizes the style and function of our once-bland backyard, but also extends our living space exponentially during the warm weather months.
OUTDOOR FURNITURE: DOT Furniture; PILLOWS, AREA RUG, DINING ACCESSORIES: Canadian Tire; BBQ: Napoleon; Universal metallic spray PAINT and YardArt PAINT: Rust-Oleum
A self-proclaimed DIY ninja, Leigh-Ann believes that great design has little to do with how much money you spend, but rather how creative you can be with your budget. As an expert on CityTV’s Cityline, Leigh-Ann embraces every opportunity to spark creativity and instill confidence in others who strive to “DO IT YOURSELF.” For more information, visit huelala.com @leighannallaire