Tag Archives: Shade


Five steps to turn your backyard into an entertainer’s delight

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Five steps to turn your backyard into an entertainer’s delight

What better joy is there in life than spending time with your loved ones? Incorporating the visits of family and friends into your backyard design may help these occasions happen more frequently, and it takes a little thought and planning to make this happen.

You might be thinking that your backyard is perfectly adequate: A well-trimmed and mostly green lawn, a tree for shade, and a few chairs you picked up on sale at Costco. Sadly, the majority of suburban backyards in America today are relatively indistinguishable from one another and not all that inviting. What makes a backyard inviting? Here are five ways you can turn your backyard into an entertainer’s delight – without an inground pool and a diving board.

Resort-style atmosphere

As you flip through home and lifestyle magazines, what do you notice? Plants. That’s right, plants are the number one way that you can turn your backyard into a place where people will love to spend time. You don’t have to be a decorator, but it doesn’t hurt if you are! The first thing to realize is that there’s no such thing as having a green thumb. There isn’t a division between people who can communicate with plants like some kind of botanist Dr. Doolittle versus people who will kill a plant just by watering it once. Yes, there was a time when information wasn’t as freely available as it is today, but if you combine the practical advice you’ll find on the internet with the local-specific advice you can get from someone who works at a nursery, you should be able to handle adding some wonderful atmosphere to your backyard.

Water features improve your backyard

Yes, your friends and family would probably be very happy if you let them know that you have just installed an inground pool and that they are welcome to stop by anytime. However, most of us don’t have that kind of budget. Luckily, you don’t need a pool to add some pizzazz to your backyard. Shop around for a water feature instead. This could be anything from a small electric fountain to a wading pool. There’s just something about water that makes people feel relaxed and social.

Outdoor cooking makes your backyard sizzle

Part of what makes gatherings among friends and family so enjoyable is the sharing of food. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a way of preparing food that is more sociable than when you cook in an outdoor kitchen or on a grill. If you’re one of the lucky ones with a complete outdoor kitchen, rejoice. However, don’t fret if it’s not in your budget. A charcoal or gas grill can provide plenty of fun and entertainment, and with a little online research you can narrow your search down to some of the best grills available on the market today.

Shade from the sun is a must

An easy backyard feature to overlook is also one of the least expensive to buy: Any kind of shade. If you’re lucky, nature will have provided shade in the form of trees. However, a visit to an outdoor furnishings store will have a variety of options. Umbrellas are popular; in fact, you may be able to find a vintage umbrella at an estate sale. Some entertainers go further and build pavilions for their backyard. In between those two options are a variety of other structures, often made of canvas, which can be assembled and taken down with relative ease.

Stay outside with comfortable furniture

Lastly, how is the furniture set-up in your backyard? Are there comfortable places for everyone to sit? A set of outdoor furniture will be an investment that pays for itself over and over again with dividends of rest and relaxation. A properly-placed couch is something that can be lounged upon when the weather is just right, and you’ll find yourself spending more and more time in your backyard – even when you aren’t entertaining.


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Urban Heat Islands

Hot town summer in the city

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Hot town summer in the city

Edited by Allan Britnell

For the last 100 years, scientists have been exploring the reason why temperatures are so much warmer in the city compared to the rural areas surrounding them. This phenomenon, called an urban heat island, is a direct result of our activities.

Unfortunately, with global warming, this increased heat continues to go up in areas with lots of stone and concrete like parking lots and even in our own backyards. Even though more cities are investing in green spaces and promoting green roof technology, several online sources state that more than 70 percent of all of the surfaces that we are currently installing in our landscaped spaces are concrete, pavement, stone, or pavers. We are turning our own backyards into mini urban heat islands! Now if you have a client who wants a patio or if you specialize in stone masonry and installation, then there is good news. There are simple ways to reduce the heat in the backyard and still have a beautiful space that will not only last for years it will help increase the home’s value.

Help your clients choose lighter stone colours. Dark stones using black or dark grey pigments have been very popular for the last decade. Like wearing black clothes on a sunny day, dark stone choices heat up way more than the lighter options. White paving stones have become very popular for designers because of the modern aesthetic. Unfortunately, while going with a white paver might be better to displace heat, the idea of the sun bouncing off of the surface already makes my eyes hurt just thinking about it. Instead, I try and move my clients towards lighter colours that have flecks or speckles of darker material in them.

Throwing shade: Cantilevered umbrellas keep the sun off of guests, while rugs help prevent stonework from absorbing too much heat.
Throwing shade: Cantilevered umbrellas keep the sun off of guests, while rugs help prevent stonework from absorbing too much heat.

Incorporate shade into the design

By increasing the amount of permanent shade on the patio, you reduce the amount of sunlight and heat that the stones actually absorb. I’m a big fan of a pergola with large fabric panels that can be installed every spring and removed before the snow. This is such an important add-on to any project. Make sure to ask your clients if they have planned on adding shade. If a pergola is not for them, suggest using a large umbrella. I’ve been impressed with a lot of the new technology in umbrellas lately. Solar-powered models that are cantilevered with a good heavy base not only allows you to create shady all day long, they also charge in the sun, creating free light wherever you need it at night!

Simply adding an outdoor rug is also an effective way of displacing the heat. While stone may absorb and hold the warmth of the sun, the synthetic fibres of outdoor rugs don’t. Even the darkest rugs hold significantly less heat than a dark patio stone. They also act as a barrier between the sun and your patio, preventing it from heating up in the first place.

This summer is going to be a hot one across the country. Lets educate our clients so that we all work towards managing the urban heat islands that we are creating in our backyard.

Carson Arthur is a landscape designer and television personality.


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Made in the shade: 4 ways to add backyard sun protection

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Made in the shade: 4 ways to add backyard sun protection

By: Darla Grant-Braid

Come rain or come shine, there’s one thing that every backyard needs and that’s shade. Whether lounging, BBQing, or gardening, a shade element is necessary to ensure your comfort and make it possible for extended enjoyment of your outdoor space. Shade elements come in all shapes, sizes and price points. Here are a few options:


The classic patio umbrella has been a staple in backyards for generations. While the designs may have changed over the years, at its heart, this traditional shade element remains the same.

Whether supported by a center post or an offset design, patio umbrellas are a low-cost way to add colour and shade to your outdoor living space.

Additionally, they can be easily moved from place to place, and also offer excellent protection from the rain. Their relatively small size means that they are easier to store in the off-season than some other options.

Cons: Can be dislodged by wind, minimal coverage.

This option does not require professional installation.

Portable Gazebo

Portable backyard gazebos have been a popular option for the past decade. They provide more coverage than umbrellas, typically enough to shelter an entire dining or lounging area.

Many of these portable gazebos also allow the option of insect protection, via screens. While costlier than umbrellas, the wide range of styles and construction materials make this an affordable option for most homeowners.

At the lower end of the price spectrum, there are gazebos that are either freestanding or meant to be held in place on grass through ground stakes, while at the higher end, there exist gazebos with sturdier frames, intended to be bolted to a hard surface.

Cons: Certain models may be unable to withstand storms without incurring damage. Some models must be stored over winter or may run the risk of rusting.

This option may require professional installation.


A pergola is an architectural feature, traditionally constructed as a garden archway. In recent years, these wooden structures have gone from acting as simple archways to becoming the focal point on decks and patios.

The pergola is typically a frame, consisting of posts and crossbeams. This means that the “ceiling” is primarily open and will not provide complete sun protection. The shade provided by your pergola is determined by the size and spacing of the crossbeams. Although sun protection can be extended by adding canvas or other fabric to the beams.

Cons: Pergolas can be expensive to install, may require a building permit, and does not provide complete sun protection.

This option requires professional installation.


An awning is fabric stretched over a metal frame that is attached to the over, over a window or door. They can be fixed or retractable.

In addition to providing limited sun protection in the outdoor living space, awnings can have an impact within the home as well. Their position above a window of glass door means that they can help reduce a room’s internal temperature and also protect furnishings from the impact of direct sunlight.

If your awning is positioned over your grill or outdoor kitchen, they can allow for more comfortable outdoor cooking in both sun and rain.

Cons: Retractable models can be expensive, may be susceptible to wind damage if not retracted, may be prone to mold and mildew if not cleaned.

This option may require professional installation.

*Article courtesy of EiEiHome


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