Design Time: Getting ready for patio time this summer

By Merola Tahamtan

Summer is upon us. The evenings have been nice and pleasant for enjoying the outside, if you don’t mind the mosquitos. If you’re like me, I love the hot weather and I’m outside as much as I can. The patio is a summer hub of fun and leisure and many of us make the mistake of treating it as an afterthought.

The patio deserves to be a highlight of summer and to be considered another room of your home. It is a transitional space where you can enjoy the outdoors while having access to indoor comfort. When I think of patios, I think of garden living rooms, in a cozy place to relax, paved with natural stone and surrounded by marvelous flowers and greenery.

Possibly you have a totally different vision of a patio, but whatever that vision is, it is most likely of an outdoor private garden spot, where you can relax on a gorgeous day and take time to appreciate life and nature. Patio decoration is an important part of any home landscaping project, and if approached with the whole garden in mind will create a patio that lives in harmony with the rest of the garden rather than one that conflicts with it.

When planning your patio design, the first thing to do is analyze what you now have, think about what you want, and decide how you are going to get there from here. You don’t need to accomplish everything at once; you can take steps in your design and complete the project over time to the ultimate goal. Financial restrictions or convincing your spouse of additions to your patio can make it a multiphase project. This is the case at my home; I would love to put up a pergola over our patio to finish off my vision of the perfect patio, but trying to convince my husband is a task in itself. Whatever your situation, you can work around these obstacles and create an appealing outdoor living space.

Style your patio so it’s complimentary to the style of the home. Colours, patterns and styles should reflect what’s inside. When guest walk outside it should be a seamless transition from the indoors out. Also use the same principles as you would for indoor design. Spend money on classic pieces that will last, and have a little more fun on accessories that can be replaced easily. Natural and natural-looking materials always work well in outdoor rooms. Bamboo, rattan and wicker will blend with the natural surroundings.

Each material has their own unique look and can be selected based on what your personal style is. Wood gives a more traditional look and can usually be selected between weather proof materials such as redwood, cedar and teak. Wicker also has a wide selection of materials made from and has the benefit of being lightweight, sturdy and durable. However it does not do too well with excessive heat, so it should be best under shade and requires re-varnish every so often. Metal is usually the most common material and aluminum would be the best choice to resist corrosion. And finally resin is good for being resistant to heat and cold, plus the paint is molded into the material so it won’t chip or fade in the future.

Select comfortable furniture that people will want to relax in. Treat your furniture properly and it will last for many years to come.

Consider laying an area rug made of a weather resistant material. It will help define the seating area, offer a comfy element outdoors, and if you so choose add an bold colour and pattern.

No matter what size your patio is, everyone would appreciate a patio umbrella as it helps provide some much needed shade from the hot sun. It serves its function as well as providing a stylish look for your patio with the colour you end up choosing. Don’t be afraid to use some colour in your patio umbrella as it helps bring the space to life. Or consider a ceiling. A pergola draped with hanging vines is romantic, a retractable awning is practical, and even four posts with a sheet of canvas is very budget-friendly. No matter what the budget, there is a solution for everyone. With a roof over your garden room, even the rain won’t stop you from entertaining.

Lighting is important in any outdoor entertaining area if it’s going to be used in the evenings. Use plenty of lanterns and candles. Flameless candles are widely available if the traditional style isn’t for you. If used properly, strings of tiny white lights also add a magical element to any backyard room.

Block wind and create privacy with a lattice covered in vines, or if space allows, a large hedge. Sheer curtains and blinds can also add privacy while filtering out sunlight. Old tall wooden shutters make a great windbreaker and decorative screen. Attach three or four of them together accordion style and spray paint them to coordinate with your patio scheme.

Consider a water feature, such as a fountain or waterfall to your design. The sound of running water is always very relaxing and creates a pleasing, natural sound.

Lastly, and the most impressive is to fill your patio with plants and flowers. Use various mediums: ceramic pots, tiered plant stands or hanging planters. Get creative with your plant holders. Look for unusual items that you can use either to hold a potted plant or to actually plant something in, such as an old boot. Choose luscious green plants and vibrant flowers that are appropriate for the amount of sunlight or shade they will receive.

Whether your patio is large or small, your budget huge or nonexistent, there are plenty of things you can do to create a beautiful space that will last for seasons to come. Start with a few quick changes or additions to your patio before the hot weather gets here to enjoy all summer long.  Being on your patio to enjoy the outdoors is the best way to relax with the fresh air and warm sunshine.

Merola Tahamtan is an Interior Stylist in Home & Business Design, Home Staging, Painting, Colour Consultation, Organization and Window Treatments. You can reach her at 613-561-0244 or

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