May 11, 2011

House Extension

Whether you have a large patio and garden or a small balcony, expand your home and take advantage of your outdoor space.

BY CHANTAL EUSTACE

Some of the most beautiful living spaces around have to be mowed, weeded, and from time to time, even shovelled. Thanks to smart design and modern comforts, more and more people are kicking aside their garden gnomes and turning once-drab outdoor spaces into patches of paradise.

This indoor pool and spa combination by Alka Pool Construction is both elegant and inviting. www.alkapools.com.

“People are saying, ‘I want my outdoor living space to be an extension of my house,’” says Jeremy Miller, owner of Houston Landscapes in Vancouver. “I’d definitely say it’s a growing trend.” Landscape architect and University of B.C. professor Terry Harrison says that’s exactly how people should view their outdoor spaces. “Design doesn’t stop at the exterior wall,” says Harrison. “It’s an outdoor room or a series of rooms. It’s there for the taking.”

Harrison adds that with the cost of homes in and around Vancouver, it makes sense to make the most of what you have – from apartment patios to front walkways or yards. He recommends reading up a little – he’s a fan of the book, Home Outside: Creating the Landscape You Love, by Julie Moir Messervy – and says people should follow a few key principles, such as lighting a space well. “Make the outdoor space interesting to look at but also interesting to move through,” he says.

It doesn’t have to cost much to improve a space, says landscape designer Rob Spytz, of Arcon Rock and Waterscapes in Langley. “We can work with any budget,” says Spytz. “If you do something as minor as adding a patio, you increase the value of your home.” Make it comfortable, he says, through the addition of multi-purpose seating, a heat source, or a water feature and some shelter, such as overhead beams. “It should feel like your indoor space.”

If you add heat, Spytz says, you can be comfortable outside all year round – “So why wouldn’t you?” Especially if you can soak away your day in a hot tub, or swim against a current in an infinity pool, overlooking the city or a nicely-designed back yard or patio.

“Water is so important to our lives,” says Carla Sovernigo, president of Alka Pools in Burnaby, adding that swimming pools are more multi-functional than ever before  For instance, a small pool with swim jets – a source of fitness and fun – could also have an attractive vanishing edge and be a water feature in its own right. “They’re really just becoming integrated into the outdoor living space,” says Sovernigo.

A little planning makes a big difference in the flow of an outdoor space. Miller says people should create a master plan before they start to make changes – even if they can’t afford to do everything on the plan right away. “Landscaping can happen in phases. But design the entire yard first and then pick away at it,” he says, adding this helps with what he calls “breathability,” or the feel and function of a space. “Design for it all and then pick what components you can afford and when,” says Miller. And always remember your outdoor living space will look different as time goes by and from season to season. Grass grows. Leaves turn colour. Flowers lose petals. Moss becomes mossier.

“Every space is unique and different. It’s constantly changing,” says Spytz. “It’s going to evolve. It’s going to change as it matures. The garden always grows and expands.” If you’re outside, you’ll get to be part of it. Even if you’re just sitting back with a glass of wine, feet in your warm pool, watching your garden bloom.

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