PEI

Islanders embrace outdoor living: How to create a patio paradise

Warm weather is on its way and Canadians are gearing up, hauling that summer furniture out of their sheds and onto their patios as they embrace outdoor living.

'All the amenities and design you'd see in an indoor room can now be found on the patio'

Landscape designers at earthform in Stratford, P.E.I., executed this Island patio. There's also a hot tub to the left, and several propane fire features. (Len Currie Photography)

Warm weather is on its way and Canadians are gearing up, hauling that summer furniture out of their sheds and onto their patios as they embrace outdoor living.

"I've watched a steady rise in the standard of living people expect from outdoor spaces over the past few years," said Nancy Lopes, owner of Charlottetown boutique retailer Cottage Industry.

"All the amenities and design you'd see in an indoor room can now be found on the patio, from sofas and sectionals to rugs, toss cushions, coffee tables and even table lamps," Lopes notes.

"We're starting to see a big trend, because people are busy," said Darcy MacNeill of earthform landscaping in Stratford. "People want to spend more time in their back yard."

Earthform has seen an increase in demand for larger ground-level patios made from cement pavers, fire pits, hot tubs and pools, as well as pergolas and outdoor kitchens. MacNeill said he sees demand increasing every year.

"More people have larger decks, or are adding onto them to make them larger," said owner-designer Betty Praught of Interiors by Lynette in Charlottetown.

Fire pits like this one built by earthform are increasingly popular, says owner Darcy MacNeill. (Len Currie Photography)

How to start

"The first thing I look at is coordinating the colour scheme with the indoors," said Praught.

Praught suggests the key piece of furniture to invest in is a dining table and chairs, adding they don't necessarily have to match. Then add whatever other furniture your patio or deck can accommodate, including a sofa and chairs or a sectional sofa. 

Since these are "things you will have for a long time," and P.E.I. has a lot of summer wind and rain, Praught suggests customers buy the best they can afford, in metal or faux rattan, but not wood because it won't last.

Lopes's must-have for 2016? Seating with good-quality outdoor fabric.  

"I love the look of white and took the plunge a few years ago," she said. "I've been surprised at how easy it's been to keep clean."

A pergola defines this outdoor space created by earthform in Cornwall, P.E.I., which includes a kitchen — another increasingly popular option. (Len Currie Photography)

Accessories can be fun

"We're doing more accessorizing outside, with indoor-outdoor pillows and rugs," Lopes adds. 

Lighting is also key, said Praught.

"You don't always want your exterior lighting on at night," she said, noting many people are opting for interesting mini-lights, lanterns and solar lighting. 

Look for pieces you can repurpose inside when the leaves start to fall, Lopes suggests. 

"One of my all-time faves from the store are the Dash & Albert indoor-outdoor rugs which look just as good in your living room, dining room, et cetera as they do on the deck," she said. 

Other patio features include outdoor artwork and long-lasting easy-care plastic decking.

One item that Praught loves but suggests Islanders likely avoid?

"Big umbrellas — we can't get them too big, or we'll find them five miles down the road!" she said. 

Dash and Albert indoor-outdoor rugs can be brought inside in the off-season, says Nancy Lopes of Charlottetown's Cottage Industry. (dashandalbert.annieselke.com)

What about the expense? 

Expanding outdoor living spaces "is certainly a trend that people are willing to invest more in, and it's probably because they see the value in it," said MacNeill, adding earthform charges anywhere from a couple thousand dollars for a new walkway, to "the sky's the limit!"

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