Sunshine filters through flickering leaves overhead. Barbecue smoke hangs in the air. The side dishes are ready, hungry guests have gathered outside. If only the dining room, kitchen and living room were out there, too.
There's no reason why they can't be, says Canadian Janette Ewan, a Los Angeles-based interior decor stylist and former co-host of Inside the Box with Ty Pennington. According to her, the backyard shouldn't just be for the kids' trampoline and the dog.
"Honestly, your backyard should be your sanctuary. I'm all about multiple outdoor spaces. It's really about looking at your outdoor space as an extension of your home."
Once you've cleared away the detritus of winter, Ewan says spring is the perfect time to set up an outdoor space that, if done right, can essentially double your living area.
"Consider the space you have," says Ewan, who is currently filming a new lifestyle TV series in Los Angeles and Canada. "Even if it's small, you can arrange things so that you have a living and dining room, a kitchen and R and R area.
"In the great outdoors, more is more, so you can take risks and have a little whimsy. For years, you were told you couldn't do your own interior or exterior design," she adds. "I want people to realize that they make their own best decorators."
But, just as with interior decorating, there are a few rules to follow.
Don't crowd your outdoor spaces
Even if you have a small space, there are ways to ensure a certain amount of flow between them. Consider separating the "living room" and "dining room" with outdoor rugs and sculptures, for example.
"But trust your eye. If it looks right, it is right. If it's getting a bit too much, take something away."
If your yard is a little small, recast the living room as a bistro setting.
"Bring out an outdoor coffee table and throw pillows and eat Moroccan style," she says. "Put a five-by-six feet (1.5-by-1.8 metres) area rug underneath, as well. These days, you can find small sectionals, which fit into smaller spaces. They take up less room than traditional outdoor furniture, like Muskoka chairs, and they're every bit as functional."
Separate the kitchen
Although the barbecue/kitchen area is the heart of the outdoor space, it still needs to be accessible to the house.
"You want your kitchen-area closest to the gas hookup and the house. The next-closest thing is the dining room, then the living room a little further away with the bed or hammock area down a garden path or in an area where it's a little separate and private," Ewan says.
A bed in the backyard? Why not?
Whether it's a hammock, a low platform with a mattress or a Mexican palapa, an outdoor bed evokes lazy summer afternoons of staring at the clouds or relaxing under the stars. Just ensure the bedding is durable and washable, with terry cloth being a good choice. If those options aren't feasible, says Ewan, hit HomeSense or Home Outfitters for cheap grass mats and cushions that can be pulled out for guests to lounge on.
Throw up some shade and light, too
If you don't have a canopy of trees or have hot spots in your yard, invest in free-standing umbrellas with an off-centre stem that can be moved from one spot to the other or rotated when necessary. It's also a good idea to place solar-charged lights along pathways for nighttime safety.
Consider some colour
Sure, you have flowers, but furniture and decor can also provide a colour focus. "Off-white is a great neutral base to have in your garden," she says. "If your furniture needs a bit more life, I'm a big fan of Rustoleum paint. Key lime green, burnt orange and faded teal are the colours this year. If you look back at design historically, from the 1920s onward, we took risks with colour. By the late 1980s, beige was it. We'll see a lot of coloured furniture this year, so grab the paint and have fun."
Keep the mosquitoes at bay
The first line of attack should be to remove any standing water and heavy vegetation where they breed and avoid the sun until they pounce at dusk. Ewan suggests keeping a decorative basket for guests, filled with bug spray, sunscreen and Clip-Ons, the latest bug-battling innovation from Off! (they protect without the spray). For kids, Off! also has a good range of repellents formulated for children aged six months and up.
And now that citronella in repellent is banned, there is a healthy alternative. Calgary native Erin Bosch has developed a chewable, kid-friendly homeopathic tablet called Mozi-Q that repels mosquitoes, fleas, ticks and black flies within 30 minutes of ingesting it.
"It's a homeopathic form of delphinium, which is the vermin exterminator in ancient Greece," says Bosch. "So it turns you into a flower and the bugs don't like you."
-- Postmedia News