Now Trending: Backyard Extras You Can’t Do Without

June 20, 2015

By Jennifer Gannon

MNP-BV-RAPANOS-01[1]Every year, we like to start fresh and keep things new and exciting. Fashion and home décor reflect this desire for the latest trends and styles. Likewise for outdoor living. More than ever, there is a need for a peaceful oasis, a reprieve from a hectic pace of life and sense of urgency that leads to stress. Creating an outdoor resort at home makes easy living the goal—a place to relax, recover, rest, and renew. Backyards, patios, porches, and terraces are now the ideal locale for entertaining friends and family with kitchens, dining options, fire features, outdoor lighting, comfortable furniture, and beautiful water features. Here’s a look at current trends in Canada’s outdoor living marketplace.

You light up my life

To extend the use of the backyard well into the night, try adding outdoor lighting with LED products. It is an easy way to shift gears and enjoy warm summer nights poolside or in the hot tub. Besides adding lighting to dining and cooking areas, consider using it to highlight aspects of your backyard’s landscape design or certain trees to add dramatic flair to the garden.

Compared to halogen bulbs, LEDs are a more cost-effective solution. Not only do they use less energy, but they can improve safety on walkways and steps.

Anyone for catching the game under the stars?

Expansion plans

About a decade ago, homeowners really started to embrace the idea of maximizing terrace and deck space to expand their living area. Today, these same spaces are taken to the next level and have the look, feel, and function of an indoor room with amenities such as top-of-the-line furnishings, fire pits, and even televisions equipped with full audio systems. Combine all these amazing features with automated lighting, bar fridges, grills, and built-in sound systems, and you have a private oasis of your own.

Take it outside

Outdoor food preparation is an interest that has escalated over the past few years and there are no signs of it slowing down. Choices can range from the simple barbecue grill to an elaborate built-in cook’s station equipped with refrigerator, sink, storage, and pizza oven. Grill masters can enjoy the next level of luxury with a personalized outdoor kitchen. Featuring outdoor bars, grills ranging in size, and warming drawers, the kitchen is complemented with an expanded dining area, allowing homeowners to spend more time outside entertaining friends and family.

Modular outdoor kitchens come in various sizes to fit specific individual needs. With top-of-the-line equipment and lots of extra storage space, grilling dinner for the entire neighbourhood is a real option.

Bringing the kitchen outdoors is also helping to spark an interest in planting a vegetable garden. All that is needed is healthy soil, a successful drainage system, water, and a little tender loving care. For suggestions in terms of what to plant, look no farther than the items you like to eat and cook. Popular choices are herbs like basil and rosemary, along with vegetables such as tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, and peppers.

Water features

Soothe away stress with the sound of cascading water.

The therapeutic benefits of water don’t just end with buoyancy. Water has a soothing effect, both in terms of sound and appearance. Cascading water over a rock feature, a sheer descent, and/or the sound of a waterfall can mask distracting noise and provide a sense of calm. Seeing a pool or hot tub lit up at night creates a peaceful ambiance. Taking a dip to cool off on a hot summer night or soaking in a hot tub can be a nice way to shift gears and fall asleep easily.

Water features like a water wall or pond can also provide a soothing effect. The elemental nature of water lends itself to a sense of harmony. Fitness and physiotherapy goals can be set and achieved in the water, offering a safe place to stay fit or recover from sports injuries.

Get all fired up

Fire features extend the outdoor season from spring well into fall. And while memories of singsongs and s’mores around the bonfire are fun, in some cities they are not safe or approved. Featuring a controlled flame that runs on propane or natural gas, an appliance such as a fire bowl or linear patio flame is one way to meet the city bylaw safety criteria, while adding ambiance and warmth to your outdoor space.

Fire features create ambiance, extend the outdoor season into fall, and add an interesting focal point.

There are many different types of fire features to enhance your backyard and best suit your space, including:


Softscaping is an important part of creating a backyard ambience that reflects your design taste. For a southern resort esthetic, using tropical plants such as bamboo, ferns, or grasses will create a modern, lush effect. For a structured or formal garden, hedges grown from cedar or boxwood can be sculpted for a more defined space. For a low-maintenance option, artificial grass is a clever solution that saves on water costs and looks attractive year-round.

Softscaping can also be used to add privacy. Planters and urns create an intimate space and help keep noise levels down. Outdoor curtains can also increase privacy and shade, and with fabrics available in a wide range of colours, they can add a touch of romance to the space.

Outdoor furniture is another softscaping option, adding comfort with couches, daybeds, deep seating, chaises, and loungers. A simple update of the colour scheme with new throw pillows is an easy way to keep décor on trend. Don’t forget lighting is another aspect that softens a space. To create an evening outdoor living area, try uplighting larger trees and casting light on walkways and paths.

Time for a nap

Having fun in the sun may also mean incorporating shade for those extra hot days.

Patio furniture is much more durable than it used to be, not to mention more stylish. From daybeds to hammocks, modular lounge settings to expandable dining tables, the choices are endless and so are the fabric colours and patterns. Consider choosing a neutral fabric for the base cushions and updating the colour scheme with a different set of throw pillows every year.

Made in the shade

While many crave the sun, it’s a good idea to incorporate shade for those extra hot days. With various styles and colours to choose from, creating the perfect outdoor space for a peaceful or fun atmosphere is achieved with ease. Whether you need post umbrellas, cantilever, wall mounts, or shade sails, many manufacturers now offer state-of-the-art collections that add shade, privacy, and colour to any space, allowing for a more enjoyable outdoor experience.

Fitness and relaxation 

There are many reasons to create a peaceful oasis in your outdoor space, ranging from holding playful backyard pool parties, exercising, or creating a quiet space to read, nap, and lounge.

Hot tubs offer a welcome escape after a long day or a fresh start in the morning, helping with flexibility and elevating your mood. Add a bit of aromatherapy and the experience is that much more luxurious.

If you’re thinking about installing a pool but don’t have a lot of space, a swim spa may be one option, as it offers a big workout using a small footprint. Weather may also be a consideration. In Canada, swimming is often limited to a few summer months, but now you can swim year-round. In the summer, you can keep the swim spa’s temperature nice and cool, while in the winter, you can heat it up to 40 C (104 F).

A swim spa can be used all year round and doesn’t require a lot of space.

Imagine a place where you can exercise and the kids can play. A swim spa can create the perfect backyard retreat by combining fun, hydrotherapy, and aquatic training.

Swim spas can be installed either above-ground or inground, catering to all designs and esthetic aspirations, as well as adapting to changes in grade. With a smaller volume of water to treat and heat compared to a pool, they can be cost-effective to own and operate year-round.

Swimming is an amazing form of low-impact exercise, as the body is free from the harsh impact put on joints, ligaments, and connective tissues that is often associated with typical land-based movement. The pool or swim spa can also be used for deep-water walking or running, yoga, dynamic movement exercises, stretching, and much more.

Remote convenience 

Extending home décor beyond the walls of the interior can add value to the home and offer more room to relax and entertain.

These days, automation is more affordable, which is why it has grown in popularity. With a few taps on your smart device, it is possible to turn on your pool’s cleaner while at work, adjust water temperature, and control waterfalls, jets, lights, pumps, and more. Spa owners can turn on the hot tub from the comfort of their home—no dashing out in the snow is necessary. They can also set lighting and heat from say, the road or office, so a warm hot tub awaits them after a long day.

Automatic cleaners are a great accessory to save time and make pool maintenance easier. With robotic cleaners, you can program the vacuum to clean the pool in a few hours. These robotic cleaners work separately from your pool system and operate on a low-voltage transformer plugged into a regular outlet.

Extending home décor beyond the walls of the interior can add value to the home and offer more room to relax and entertain. Planning the space to include comfortable seating, a dining area, barbecue or outdoor kitchen, fire feature, privacy, shade, and water feature, such as a pool, swim spa, or hot tub, can maximize year-round enjoyment.

Jennifer Gannon is a second-generation business owner who operates BonaVista LeisureScapes, an outdoor living store in Toronto. She studied English at the University of Western Ontario and has been with BonaVista for more than 15 years before and after a career as an account director at two Canadian advertising agencies. Gannon can be reached via e-mail at[8].


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