The snow melts, the buds start to burst, and the prospect of warmer days are no longer a wish but have finally arrived. With all the enthusiasm of sun and outdoor living your backyard might not be ready to live up to the task of hosting, especially after a gruelling winter season. A backyard revamp may be on the horizon, so we’ve put together a list of popular items to consider including in your upcoming projects.
Lay the groundwork . . .
One of the most fundamental items to consider is the space planning. It is important to determine where you would like everything to go and what the functionality will be. Are you planning for a pool, cabana, more green space, an outdoor bar and seating? Outlining your needs will ensure a solid foundation for which everything can progress from. The most important aspect of this stage is finalizing what you want and investigating what your boundaries are if any. Your local municipalities and zoning by-laws have rules and requirements with regards to the placement and coverage allowances of many popular backyard features. Pools, cabanas, patios, sports courts, and decks are just some of the potential items in a backyard redo that your local planning officials will have regulations to ensure safety and neighbourly consideration. Your architect or design professional will help work through your list of items with a zoning review and permit applications to find the best design solution. This does take some time but is well worth the planning. If structures are improperly placed or added without permission or inspection, they can be mandated to be removed.
Not just an accessory . . .
Cabanas, detached garages, and large-scale, storage sheds are what we consider in the industry as accessory structures and always require permits. We’ve helped many clients expand their outdoor living spaces with cabanas; extending the backyard’s months of use and incorporating significant design elements that make outdoor living and entertaining effortless. Below, our Sinatra Cabana was designed with many different elements to keep the owner’s and their guests comfortable and entertained. Situated near the pool and loungers, a bathroom accessible directly from the patio makes changing and bathroom-breaks easy without trailing water across the cabana’s interior spaces. A large wall of floor-to-ceiling windows, offer unobstructed views while the retractability blends the cabana’s inside rooms with outdoor spaces on warmer days.
On the inside, comfortable lounge seating and a large television make for easy movie nights or catching the game. Adjacent, a fully equipped kitchenette makes outdoor cooking and entertaining effortless with serving space and all the appliances to keep the ice cream and refreshments chilled and easy to grab.
The right kind of kitchen
Do you like to cook, or perhaps grill? If you do, consider the location and proximity of an outdoor kitchen. How easy it is to access the outdoor spaces? An outdoor kitchen can make it easier to prepare and serve food while expanding your tools for food prep. We always like to consider strategic placement. You want to ensure the location of the grill or oven is near enough to maintain a connection with guests but with the protection of your guests from being ‘smoked-out’. An adjoining yet separated kitchen and dining space allow for more formal seating away from the smoke but open to the outdoor living area and views of the backyard as in our Fairfield Cabana design. In this instance, client feedback allowed us to create an ideal layout that catered to the way they like to live and entertain in their home & outdoor spaces.
Taking the plunge . . .
If your budget & backyard space allows, pools can be an elemental feature when hosting family and friends for barbecue’s and parties. Pools come in an array of shapes, sizes & styles, and typically your pool installer & design professional will advise you on selections to achieve the look and function you want. Before that can occur, and during the permit/planning phase, some considerations and tools used to create the best pool possible.
Size, Depth & General Location
Understanding how large of a pool you wish to maintain and how large your local by-laws allow for is a crucial first step. Your pool will have setback requirements from your property lines and a necessary enclosure for safety. Additionally, you want to capitalize on maximum sun exposure to get the most use out of your pool. A sun-study will quickly allow your architect to understand the optimal locations for pool placement and compare them with the boundaries set by your municipal by-laws to find the perfect option.
Depth can be determined by considering you or your family’s needs. If you have small children or you like to lounge in water, you may like an extended shallow end or the feature of a baja shelf (see picture). Others may have avid swimmers and divers and want a deep end that can accommodate those more adventurous.
Lounge Seating, Perimeters & Access
It’s often just as enjoyable and important to plunge into the pool as it is to sit poolside. Whether you’re a parent supervising kids on the sidelines or working on your tan, planning for the appropriate circulation around the pool and seating is of the utmost importance. Consider the kind of seating you’d like to see, daybeds, loungers, outdoor sectional seating. By having a general idea of the kind of seating, the surrounding hardscape can include paths and set back zones to ensure a close but splash free lounge area.
Stairs and general access will also a be an important aspect to consider. Do you want the deeper end closer towards the house so you can step out, walk up to the pool edge and dive right in? Conversely, a home with children may want to situate the shallow end facing the home for safety and peace of mind.
From the Water’s Edge to Fireside
After a day of swimming or as the evening hours roll around, the addition of a fire pit can keep the party going well into the later hours of the evening. Fire pits are a great place for both adults and families with children. Perfect for making smores or to just sit back and enjoy a glass of wine. Some options we like to consider first is type and placement. Is this a wood burning fire pit or gas fuelled? Will it be smaller and more intimate, seating four people or less, or is this a more prominent feature in the backyard plan and accommodating more guests? Once those parameters are decided we can begin to focus on overall design. In our Sinatra Cabana, the fireplace design was approached more like a traditional fireplace found indoors. A lengthy span and cantilevered, stone-clad, hearth situated under the cabana’s cover allows the owner’s and their guests to enjoy the comfort and ambiance while sheltered from less-than-ideal weather conditions. In addition, the proximity of the outdoor dining space means meals can also be enjoyed under the cabana’s protection while capitalizing on the fire’s warmth for those cooler evenings.