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The evolution of outdoor living and entertaining

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The evolution of outdoor living and entertaining

Back in the day, you were lucky to see a pool in a backyard, but today the outdoor living landscape has changed. With an increasing focus on outdoor entertaining, combined with spikes in the cost of both residential real estate and recreational properties, people are investing in their landscapes – and the possibilities will blow your mind.


Take a backyard pool, for example. Costs can range from the tens to the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Add-ons can include digital lighting, swim-up bars, built-in hot tubs and more, but an absolute favourite is the auto cover. Think about this: At the push of a button, a cover slides across your pool, keeping heat locked in and leaves and falling debris locked out. I love these so much, I invested in one! As an added benefit for families with young children, the cover is locked by a key code and is safe to walk on. Plus, in the future, it will hopefully prevent a few teenaged parties. For more information, visit  coverstarcanada.com

Pools today are not the only source of outdoor entertainment. Backyards have evolved to include giant chess boards, outdoor theatre screens, personalized putting greens, areas to lounge around a fire and more. In fact, a recent backyard bash I attended in Waterdown, Ont. included a permanent stage for live bands built into the backyard landscape. Talk about rockscaping!


Food is always a focus and with outdoor living. Outdoor kitchens can include cooling drawers, dishwashers and designer barbecues; these are not standard barbecues, with lighted nobs and controlled heating zones, to name a few features. They don’t even call them barbecues or grills anymore, but rather an outdoor oven. For more information, visit  fisherpaykel 

Speaking of ovens, there has been an increase in the popularity of installing outdoor wood-burning pizza ovens. And why not? When you are entertaining, who doesn’t love pizza?


Gone are the days of the strapped-backed outdoor lounger. Today’s outdoor furniture is oversized, looking more like it belongs indoors than out. Depending on the size of your outdoor space, some furniture is easily stackable for winter storage. One of the best evolutions is water and sun resistant pillows, but I still recommend a simple outdoor furniture cover for increasing the longevity of your investment.


Outdoor lighting is keeping up, too. Today’s landscape lighting not only helps light pathways and create a mood, but lighting can also be programmed to showcase different colours. Think about the Toronto Maple Leafs making the Stanley Cup Final… You could be watching the game on your outdoor TV while sitting in your pool, as your entire landscape is lit-up in blue, celebrating the next win.


We can’t forget about the bar – it’s an essential item for any party, but in outdoor living, it can be the heart of an event. Outdoor bars have changed in appearance and size, but have also grown in functionality and flair. It’s not uncommon now to see an outdoor bar with a keg on tap, but my recent favourite outdoor bar was a converted shipping crate not only made into a fully functional bar, but it also had a bathroom and even an extra bedroom, for those friends who consumed too many drinks.

The one thing I’ve learned about outdoor living is, “if you can dream it, and your budget can support it, a professional landscaper can build it!!” Happy outdoor entertaining, all!


Frankie Flowers

Be sure to come see Frankie Flowers at the Backyard Living Expo on Saturday, April 4 and Sunday, April 5.


For more information please visit thebackyardlivingexpo.com

HOMES Publishing Group is a proud media partner of the BLE.


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Top 5 Spring Trends

Top 5 Spring Trends

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Top 5 Spring Trends

It’s a time to switch things up, refresh and renew your home and backyard.

by Jo Alcorn

I love spring! It’s a time to switch things up, refresh and renew your home and, more importantly, your backyard.

I’ll be at the Backyard Living Expo — coming on April 6 to 8, 2018 at the International Centre —  for an on-stage presentation at 1:15 p.m. and would love for you to join me to talk about all things backyard decor and design. As a sneak preview, here are my top 5 tips and trends for this season.


High Performance Outdoor Sound

I love music and I play it all day long and there’s no exception when I go outside to relax and enjoy the warmer weather. I love the high performance outdoor sound that Paradigm has to offer. Long gone are the days of the boom box or the huge speaker systems. This company offers discrete luxury speakers that can be wall or deck mounted and faux rocks that can mix right into you garden, There is even a garden oasis systems with an underground subwoofer for large areas.


Shading Style

While I love the outdoors, shade is of the utmost importance. This year I am obsessed with pergolas. They have retractable systems that allow the light to shine in when you want a few rays, but you can also crank the roof closed when you need some shade. The great thing about these systems is that they can be built to spec for odd shapes, attached to an existing structure or they also have great stand-alone units.


Grilling Galore

There is nothing Canadians love more than firing up the grill and when your grill can match your decor it’s even better! I love the new Weber Spirit ll series that comes in four bold colours so you can add the perfect barbecue to match your decor. My choice this year would be the gorgeous ivory colour to add to my small space patio.

Burn Baby Burn

Adding a fire element to an outdoor space helps to elongate the season, creates an atmosphere of warmth (literally warm up next to the fire) and just adds a touch of sophistication. You can choose a stand-alone unit that can be purchased at most big box stores or, if you are creating your space from scratch, it’s great to incorporate a built-in unit that fits right into your design.


The Final Touches

I love adding accessories to an outdoor space that really tie it all together. Homesense has amazing seasonal accessories that bring your space to life at affordable prices. I love to add trays, lanterns and faux plants (yes, even in an outdoor space) to my backyard designs. Pillows are also a great way to add colour and comfort to your space. I have an entire line of outdoor pillows that are fully washable and are available on my site in a variety or colours and patterns.

Use these ideas to create your very own backyard oasis. Discover the secrets behind the perfect barbecue and learn how to make the most of your backyard, no matter the size or the budget, from industry and celebrity experts at the Backyard Living Expo, which runs from April 6, 7 and 8, 2018 at the International Centre, 6900 Airport Road, Mississauga.

Jo Alcorn is the founder of whitewash & co and Alcorn Home.


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