February 9, 2018

BC Home + Garden Show: HGTV’s Brian McCourt and Sarah Keenleyside are all about outdoor space

Better backyards

By Claudia Kwan

Ask Brian McCourt and Sarah Keenleyside what’s catching their attention right now, and they rattle off details about three-millimetre outdoor tiles, deliberately clashing patterns and the return of “California cool.”
It’s clear the two live, eat and breathe design even when the cameras for their show, HGTV’s Backyard Builds, aren’t running; after all, their off-screen contracting and design work at their respective businesses goes year-round.
They are delighted to address backyard-related issues at their inaugural appearance at the BC Home + Garden Show.
Their first tip: Unused outdoor space is wasted space.
“When you reclaim that space, that’s where the best value is,” explains McCourt. “You have a lot longer of an outdoor season in B.C. than we do (in Ontario), and that opens all kinds of possibilities with covered areas.”
They both believe the backyard is an opportunity to explore more adventurous design choices, such as brighter colours or bolder patterns. Since you’re not committing to that aesthetic over an entire home, it’s a relatively small risk that can pay off in a big way.
Much as one would with an interior renovation, they note that it’s important to define the budget and the purpose of the backyard early on in the revamp process. They often ask clients to think about what they would have inside their homes if they had more space available.
“In a perfect world, that might be a pottery studio, a place to play drums, or a kitchen with a wood-burning pizza oven,” says Keenleyside. “We look at the backyard as its own room. The grass is the floor, and you’ll have some kind of cover as the ceiling. If you change your perspective, you can really re-envision your space.”
While many clients are looking for spaces where they can entertain and hang out together with the whole family, others are looking for home offices or individual getaways. That can range from his-and-hers mini-cabins, to a home business set up in a shipping container.
Another tip: Build in storage, and lots of it. Cushions, even ones made from outdoor materials, will need to be packed away from cold and wet weather. Unbreakable cups, bowls and plates also need to be put somewhere when not in use.
“A lot of our presentation is about taking advantage of the untapped potential of a backyard,” says Keenleyside. “The housing market across the country is so insane—the reason we got into this in the first place is because so many clients can’t afford a second property like a cottage. This way you don’t have to, you can create a little oasis right at home. Your eco footprint is smaller, too, because you don’t have to travel very far to get there!”

For tickets and information, visit bchomeandgardenshow.com

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