BY KIM PEMBERTON
Whether you are a city dweller with a small balcony or have a sprawling lakeside retreat, there are always ways to add a touch of luxury to your outdoor space. A top priority? Invest in comfortable seating — much as you would for your main living space.
“In the last eight to 10 years, the world of outdoor furniture and fabric has improved tremendously. We now have fabrics that protect against water and mold and feel like velvet and chenille. Before it was awful, plastic-like fabric,” says designer Iván Meade of Meade Design Group.
“Furniture designers are putting a lot of attention on indoor/outdoor furniture,” he adds. “The patio has become part of our homes and the quality for buyers has improved. Now, you can have almost completely upholstered furniture designed to withstand the weather.”
Meade says if you have the space, think about designing around the primary focal point, like a view, or a secondary focal point, like an outdoor fireplace or sculpture.
For those with small patios, luxury can still happen outdoors by using multi-functional furniture and bringing in lighting behind some planter boxes, he says.
“You can create interesting vignettes through texture and form.”
Ben Brannen of BeSpoke Design says luxury in outdoor design is all about creating an area in which to relax and entertain friends and family. He suggests investing in a sofa and a set of outdoor chairs and advises against getting a sectional, since they have less flexibility.
“You want to get a sofa you can sink into and have a nap,” he says. “We’re going away from the Cabana stripe to upholstery fabric much like you’d use inside your house.”
Luxury can also be added with an outdoor kitchen, complete with a workspace and sink.
“One of my clients has an outdoor pizza oven and uses it constantly,” says Brannen. “That’s luxury to me.”
Any size of outdoor space can benefit from a water feature to add a relaxed, calming vibe, he says. That could be anything from installing a pond or fountain on a large property to creating a water-trickling effect from a small fountain on a patio.
Designer Alexis Solomon says small, simple water features can even be purchased in places like Canadian Tire.
“In our last house, we had a fountain and pond with koi fish,” she says. “It feels like you’re in a resort if you have water running. It’s very relaxing.”
In their new home, Solomon says they added a pergola to their backyard patio and put a corrugated roof on it so they could still enjoy the outdoors even if it’s raining.
“A pergola creates an area where everyone gathers. It’s awesome, especially with our cold weather.”
She says they also added a fire pit that does double duty as a coffee table, since it has a thick edge where you can place drinks and plates.
To keep the party going late into the night, consider outdoor heaters, she says. Solomon likes the overhead infra-red heaters that can be added under roof soffits.
All three designers recommend outdoor rugs, toss cushions and throws to add a deluxe feel to your outdoor space — and plants.
“I like succulents because they add colour and architectural interest,” says Solomon. “They make you feel like you’re in Palm Springs or Mexico.”
And isn’t that what a luxury outdoor space is all about — a getaway in your own backyard?