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Creating Privacy in Your Backyard - Part I

How to achieve a secluded oasis

By Jason Jayne

Photo courtesy Tumber & Associates

When you arrive home after work, exhausted and in need of being cloistered away with your family, privacy takes on a whole new importance. In the modern world, where there is very little 'down time,' there are two main reasons to create it at home.

The importance of a retreat

First, the urban reality is houses are often built a lot closer together than in the past; as a result, physical privacy is often scarce. Many lots are left wide open after construction, allowing neighbours to see your backyard activities on all four sides. Other handicaps may include the prevailing winds or perhaps highway or pedestrian noise, which can certainly spoil the mood. Addressing these issues and creating physical privacy allows you to create an emotional retreat.
Second, our favourite locale often provide something intangible; a feeling of 'place.' It may be a sense of coziness or engagement, but it goes beyond just the quiet or beauty of a space. It is part of the reason we can't wait to get back to our preferred vacation spot. An emotional connection to our environment is part of what makes us human; it is also an important element in a great backyard installation. When properly designed, your backyard should have a noticeable effect on you, your family and the way you spend your time at home.

Even the most beautiful jewel needs the right setting in which to flourish; likewise, every pool needs the right environment to elevate it from a 'new pool' to a private, personal oasis.

Planning your private hideaway

When planning your own private hideaway, start by identifying your specific site and lifestyle needs. Do you need a nightly retreat from stress or facilities for a full-on 'staycation?' When it comes to privacy, do you need selective screening or an entire wall to create a visual barrier? Also, families often need more in their backyards than just a place to swim, so consider all aspects of outdoor living, from entertaining and kitchen requirements to various types of recreation.

At first, you may be a bit baffled about how to accomplish these goals on your own. Ideally, you want to address all the issues at the same time and create a site plan for your entire property. This not only saves time and money, but also prevents you from creating handicaps you regret later. Your construction efforts and hard-earned money should be well spent the first time, in a way that continues to build on your eventual conceptual goals. By selecting a good designer with a proven track record, you will be forced to consider the long term and not just current budget constraints or be corralled into using a trendy idea or product being pushed by a manufacturer or sponsored builder.

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