As we spend more time at home the line between work and relaxation can feel blurry. Our spaces which once accommodated our busy lives now feel small and crowded as we spend full days at home. Getting outside has given us a sense of purpose and freedom but as the dark, cold days of winter drag on, our desire to get outside can dwindle.
Creating an outdoor space to use in the Canadian winter may seem impossible but with the right blend of elements your backyard can be that winter escape we never got to go on. Use these tips to get the most out of the winter season this year:
1. Establish a Heat Source
One of the biggest deterients from getting outside in the winter is the temperature. Therefore designing a space with a heat source is crucial. Fire pits can provide a great source of heat as well as create ambiance. Not only do they help keep you warm in the winter but they also extend your evening use on those chilly nights during other seasons. There are a few different types of fire pits such as gas, propane and wood burning. Be sure to check your city bylaws to see which kind of pit you are able to have.
2. Protect Yourself From the Elements
Prevailing winds can make a cold day even more bitter. Understanding where the wind is the strongest on your property is important when setting up your winter hangout. Once you establish wind direction, you can select an option to block it. There are a few ways to establish a good wind barrier. Trees and planting are a great option to block the brunt of the wind. Focus on planting in layers. If you have the space, you may want to set up a few layers. If you have a smaller yard focus on density of plant material. Screens are another good option for blocking prevailing winds. If you are going for a wood option, look for something with tight joints to cut the wind as much as possible.
3. Create Shelter
Having a space you can duck under when it starts to snow or just to sit under in general allows you to get more out of your outdoor space. Structures create a sense of refuge and contribute to a comfortable atmosphere. If you have the space, a fully enclosed structure or fully insulated shed can provide the extra room you may be needing with everyone at home. Structure add ons such as built in fireplaces, screens and heat lamps can add to the comfort during the winter season.
4. Unwind with Heated Water Features
Hot tubs and swim spas can add a lot of enjoyment to the winter season. They are great for small backyards as they don’t take up a lot of space. Swim spas are great for those who like to swim for exercise and are a great choice for those who don’t have the space for a full sized pool.
The key for enjoying hot tubs and swim spas through the winter months is location. Consider where you are placing the feature in relation to your back door. You want to make sure you are in close proximity to the warmth of the inside.
Running through the snow while wet gets old quickly and may limit your desire to use your feature in the winter. Having a structure over top of your feature also makes the experience more enjoyable.
5. Set the Scenery
Once you have your space set up so that it is functional, you’ll want to make sure it is also aesthetically pleasing to be in. Planting is an easy way to do this. When creating your planting plan, you’ll want to ensure you have plants with winter interest. Some plants you may consider are evergreen shrubs and trees, shrubs with a pretty berry and/ or plants with an interesting branch colour and structure. A garden with 4 season interest will make your space feel intentional in the winter months rather than a barren eye sore that deters its use. Another thing to consider is adding texture to your space with boulders or bubbling rocks. These elements increase winter interest by adding depth to your property and even a bit of ambiance if you add a water feature that can run through the cold.
Finally, with the limited amounts of daylight, lighting can really add to your space in the winter months. Without lighting, a dark cold backyard feels unappealing in the winter. Try adding some path lights to guide your step and a few uplights to highlight pretty tree structure. A few string lights will go a long way to creating a cozy atmosphere in your seating area as well.
While we have focused a lot on winter, any of these tips can be applied to chilly fall afternoons, damp springs days or cool summer evenings. Extending your outdoor season is about getting the most out of your space no matter what the weather. Our team of designers are experts at creating spaces with four season interest. If you’d like to start getting more out of your space, get started with one of our professionals.