How To Give Your Urban Backyard A Summer Refresh

Make your space pop this summer.

We’ve spent more time in our own backyards than ever before this year, so here is how we can give our urban backyard a much needed refresh. When we started with this space, it was a bit overgrown with a huge tree that was dying and falling over into the neighbor’s yard – it was kind of a safety hazard

Once the tree was down, there was really nothing of interest in the yard. We had a blank slate.

Where to start? 

We start by overhauling the perimeter. If you can, put in a new fence Or at least re-stain an existing fence it’s like a fresh coat of paint in a room. Paint the back of your house in the same or coordinating colour for a unified perimeter. The board and batten on the back of the house here used to be a pale blue. By painting over any inconsistencies or discolorations, it feels new. I also like the cooling effects of a darker colour in a space that gets a lot of sun.

We used simple horizontal boards on this fence to create the illusion of a longer yard and pressure treated wood, which is more affordable than cedar. I stained it in Benjamin Moore’s opaque deck and fence stain in Wrought Iron – it is a classic deep grey that works with most exteriors

Tip: let the boards sit unfinished for a year before you paint so they can expand and contract first – before staining it. To avoid cracking.

What about plants? 

Plant in tiers along the edges in layers of texture. No fail boxwood trim around the edge of the patio – fail safe – clean edge paired with puffy hydrangea – classic space filling puffy white hydrangea – mine haven’t bloomed yet, but when they do, they provide a nice hit of fresh white that contrasts beautifully against the foliage and furniture.

We added some trees for height in the corners of the perimeter to frame the edges and create a cocooning effect. I like that they help block the electrical box in the alley. It’s always nice to fill in the corners of your patio or deck with large planters in different sizes for a sense of coziness (I chose lavender for the scent too). I also have lots of herbs in smaller pots for cooking. So all in all a super simple plan – all easy to care for.

Mix of patterns and materials

You should always consider using at least two patio materials for visual interest- just because the yard is small, doesn’t mean you can’t mix it up. There was already a perfectly good deck here by the door ( it was already there so we just power washed it) and laid a Herringbone patterned brick for the patio in the back. There is a single step down to the brick patio and this alone helps to create distinct zones – dining on one side and lounging on the other and I like the layered effect.

Is decorating outside different from inside?

Absolutely not! In both settings we’re using ‘zones’

First I have a dining zone:

Put the dining table close to the back doors for easy access to the kitchen. Add a retractable awning for shade. I love how an awning can help with designating functions in an outdoor space and create the sense of a room. This one uses Sunbrella fabric in shades of green stripes also adds a fresh hit of colour and pattern that it’s in sync with the plant life.

I chose a metal dining set because it’s super low maintenance and timeless in black – it goes with everything, but I added colour with striped cushions on faux wicker chairs at the end – love the eclectic feel of different end chairs in a dining room. It’s always fun to break up the set — Indoors and out.

The Living Room 

Then I have a living zone:

In the open area, where the brick patio is, we set up a lounge in a modern campfire style with a cement fire pit as the centerpiece. It seems that the fire pit has become the must-have in garden design to extend our time spent outside well into fall and even winter.

What I like about this fire pit from eir Home is that it’s light weight compared to other fire pits, it’s made from sustainable concrete created with 40% recycled products and it has a beautiful organic texture. I love how fresh and chic it looks in all white. It’s also round, which leaves no corners to bump into! This one can be kitted out with a sleek powder coated top that allows it to do double duty as a coffee table for days when you don’t want to light the fire. I always love spacing-saving double duty features like this for small spaces – indoors and out.

This firepit can either be hooked up to your house’s gas line or, if you don’t have an outside gas line, you can also just connect it to a propane tank that can be cleverly hidden in one of their concrete side And just like in your living room, you always want to provide enough surfaces for every one – so this is another great double duty piece for a small yard.

We have basically done the classic set up of a sofa facing two chairs that you often see indoors – but in the backyard. You could do two sofas too but again I like to mix things up a bit. And chairs are good for people who prefer a bit more personal space. All in long-lasting outdoor specific pieces and fabrics. And of course I love pillows outside just as much as inside for a bit of a pattern hit, these ones are from CB2.

Outdoor Lighting 

It’s very important not to forget lighting and you should light at high, medium, and low levels. I have a few affordable and easy to introduce ways of lighting up a yard.

High: While we were building the fence we installed some simple black lights at the same time – these are on an automatic timer attached to the back of the house and they turn on and off at pre- set times of the day – you can adjust them as the amount of daylight shifts. We’ve also put some sconces near the back door to illuminate the entry

Low: Lanterns on the ground are a great way to highlight your planters so you don’t bump into them

Medium: Think about candles on table tops for for low level ambience. I love a bit of wicker in a backyard for a hit fo tropical flavor -like these wicker covered glass votive holders by Aerin Lauder.