It doesn’t get any better than summer evenings on a patio! Between friends and good food, sunsets and conversation, memories are made. And when it happens at your place, it’s even better. Here are four ways to turn your patio into the place to be.
1. Copy your favourites
Some of my favourite patios have been at hotels. The Hotel MacDonald in Edmonton, The Jasper Park Lodge in Jasper and two new favourites include the patio at Haro’s in The Pier Hotel in Sidney and Fetch in the Black Rock Lodge in Ucluelet. All four of these places have great views that keep me coming back.
When I designed my patio in Edmonton I made sure that I had a view - even in my postage stamp size yard. We put in a water feature next to our patio so that we could sit there and listen to the waterfall and watch the fish swim around the pond. Add a glass of wine to the equation and it was like free therapy every night.
Next time you’re out on a patio, notice the details that appeal to you. Is it a particular style to which you’re drawn, is it a view, is it the pretty flower pots and containers? A good landscape designer can incorporate the elements you love while still creating a space that is uniquely you.
2. Consider your guest list
Will it be close friends and family for barbecues and smores? Or will it be larger groups of people milling around? The best design for your patio depends on your answer.
Larger groups of people require more space for moving about, multiple seating spots for tete-a-tetes, smaller, more portable furniture and excellent lighting. Cocktail parties also work best when there is space for caterers to move around and place food trays, and when the patio material is smooth and even and high heel friendly.
Friends and family entertaining lends itself to bigger pieces of comfy furniture, and kid friendly design. Lighting needs are different from group entertaining as the guest are stationary and don’t require lit paths to various areas.
3. Know your budget
As with anything, you can have a low key and laid back patio or the Versailles of patios. It all comes down to personal taste and budget. Here are the big ticket items:
Patio material: pavers, cut stone, flagstone are the usual contenders. Pavers are more generic and a little cheaper, but the labour time can be greater than random pieces flagstone.
Fire: guaranteed to draw you outside and extend your time there. Fire places, fire pits, fire bowls, we’ve done them all and they are always a client favourite.
Pergola: Structure defines space like nothing else. Pergolas, walls and arbours can shelter you from sun and wind, as well as neighbours should the need arise.
Built ins: Outdoor kitchens are wonderful things, but they don’t come cheap. They can be a great investment, especially if you entertain a lot or are a grilling guru.
Lighting: This is one of the best things you can do for your patio. Soft inviting lighting will encourage lingering as well as see you safely back inside at the end of the night.
Water: It's been scinetifically proven that water features help you unwind. The sights and sounds of moving water significantly assist humans in this relaxation process through the release of endorphins, according to Dr. Sanje Ghosh in his study published in the August 2008 Journal of the American Medical Association.
4. Don’t neglect the technical details.
Did you know that for 6 people to sit and move comfortably around a rectangular dining table the space needs to be roughly 11’ x 14’? Barbecues need to be a minimum 2’ away from exterior walls, the cook needs 2’ feet to comfortably flip burgers, and the person passing behind usually needs 2.5’ of space
If you are using a natural gas barbecue or fire pit, the gas line will need to be properly installed and inspected, prior to any final landscaping. Additionally, lighting needs to be well thought out with power and conduit available. Handy storage areas will save the day during a surprise shower by allowing you to quickly put away your seat cushions.
Use these four steps to make your patio Victoria’s next best thing!