Everyone is trying to make the most of their outdoor spaces this Spring, and sometimes that means you need a little shade! Designer Tamara Robbins Griffiths, using her own south-facing backyard, shows practical and stylish options to keep cool and covered in a small space.
Options for shade:
If you have a big outdoor dining table that lacks shade, an umbrella might not be the best option for this small space, and retractable awnings can be prohibitively expensive because of the more complex mechanisms required. It’s also important to find something that offers enough shade from the sun to help protect and prolong backyard deck finishes.
A great option would be to use a professionally installed shade sail. This is a huge trend in Australia where they call it tensile fabric architecture, and the trend was driven by the importance of sun safety and UV protection. Shade sails are created by spanning tensioned fabric – it’s super taut – between posts. Use anchor points around the back yard to install; you can use house itself, or if you don’t have a sturdy fence, you can install posts into a lawn, but they need to have a concrete footing. This shade can withstand almost all wind and weather conditions, and only needs to be taken down for the winter, so it doesn’t hold the weight of snow and ice.
It’s really important that the anchor points or posts are strong enough to withstand the tension and that they are installed at varying heights. This helps with water run-off, which you wouldn’t want dripping directly towards your house. The shade is made of high-density polyethylene yarns and it’s not actually waterproof, so a fine mist will come through the top while most rainwater will run over the edge.
The other thing I love is that there is a zero-waste component from this family-owned business, where they take the leftover fabric from the shade sails and make tote bags and grow bags for plants!
DIY Overhead shade sail for under $150!
There are other ways to achieve a similar type of temporary overhead shade. With some outdoor fabric and a few simple tools, you can create a shade cover for under $150. You can even use it as an outdoor screen for projecting movies, but the same principles will apply if you want to hang it overhead.
- Hem a piece of outdoor fabric. If you don’t have a sewing machine, use hemming tape. However, stitching it would be more durable in the long run.
- Fold over the corners and attach grommets to each corner, using a grommet kit, which you can find online for about $15.
- Tie marine grade rope to each corner (at whatever length you need).
- On the loose ends, tie a Bowline or Figure 8 knot to attach a carabiner. If you’re using nylon rope, you can melt the loose ends so they don’t fray.
- Install eye hooks where you want to clip up the shade. Because we’re not relying on tension in the same way, and because this is simply outdoor fabric, I would use a shade like this for a sunny afternoon and then take it down afterwards to keep it in good condition!
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