image via Contemporist
It's happening! Green things are growing. The sun feels warm. It's light long past dinner and way before breakfast (as my four-year old, ever vigilant about the amount of time one spends in bed, has alerted me to). Oh summer, I love you so.
This is the year we get serious about our backyard. To date, all of our attention and money has gone into renovating and making functional every square foot of our 1960s bungalow. We have taken out walls, replaced floors, added a fourth bedroom, expanded the basement bathroom, renovated the kitchen, replaced all the windows, soffits, roof and eaves. It's been a lot of work and damn expensive. But it's Toronto, so what are you going to do? Buy something bigger and already renovated? Uh, no. We love and live hard in our little place, but come the first stretch of nice weather, the front door is flung open and we are outside until October. So it makes sense to give some design love to our overworked and totally neglected backyard.
image via Houzz
It's tempting to jump right in and start collecting inspiration images - but don't. First thing first: wish list and budget. What's wrong with the space now? It's helpful to think about how the space functions rather than just how it looks. Maybe your patio surface is too hot underfoot, or awkwardly placed stairs make it a hassle to get to the BBQ. Is anything in poor repair? Unsafe? What would you like to change? What are the "nice-to-do" items Vs the "must-do" items?
We established these priorities for the backyard:
* improve curb appeal at the front by replacing the traditional curved walkway and planting beds with something more contemporary that suits the mid-century look of the house.
* create zones in the backyard for sunning by pool, BBQing, dining and seating/lounging for 12 - 15 people
* replace vinyl pool coping with stone, add a safety cover
* re-grade side of house and replace pavers, which are tilting toward foundation (very bad!)
* create new, low maintenance planting beds with winter interest at front of house (not important in backyard, since we don't use it in winter and have no direct views into backyard)
* new fence
* a firepit would be nice
* built-in seating along the fence would also be nice
How much money do you have to spend? Does this amount include design fees and HST? Communicate your absolute budget to your designer. Our backyard budget is $50 - $60K. The first question I asked the landscape designer was whether our wish list was realistic considering the budget. The second question, was whether she could design a plan to my budget. I don't want to pay for a design that I can't afford. Money is often an uncomfortable subject for clients, but it's in your best interests to be up front and really clear in your own mind before embarking on designs and quotes.