Imagine yourself sitting on the deck of an old mansion in a rocking chair, iced tea in hand, and big bunches of purple wisteria climbing the porch columns. Now, you are outside an ocean beach house quietly watching waves and sand flow over your toes. And now, you are at your own back door about to step into your yard. Which one do you want to pick as your next weekend get-away?
It’s hard to imagine a regular everyday backyard as an oasis for relaxation. But, a place of peace and beauty doesn’t have to be exotic, or expensive. A simple change in perspective and a little ingenuity can transform your ordinary landscape into an extraordinary personal retreat.
1. Take a Walk
Sometimes the most dramatic renovations start with a simple change of perspective. In order to discover relaxing space in an ordinary place, take a slow walk and a long look at your yard. Give the entire landscape a discerning evaluation. Try to look at the overall layout like a realtor or guest would see it. What assets or liabilities do you see?
2. Create Rooms
Make a list of how you want to use your space. Start simple. Think of creating ‘rooms’ of activity around your yard. Even the smallest of yards can be maximized in a way that allows personal relaxation. Yards that are low on space simply force designing homeowners to decide what matters most in life. How do you want to live? If pets have overrun the lawn, consider how to best ‘share’ the space and relegate messes to one place. If you enjoy grilling out with friends, set aside some grill, deck, or table area. Your lifestyle will determine if you need rooms for dining, playing, sitting, gardens, or pets. Your list of rooms should reflect your lifestyle.
3. Know Yourself
Examine your preferences and habits. If you enjoy a yard full of flowers because gardening is your lifestyle, then choose to add blooming space and lawn. If weeding means de-stressing, and you have the time, go for the gardens!
However, if the thought of weeds or mowing keeps you out of the yard, design your space for minimal work. Skip the perennial bed and go for self-sufficient shrubs. Choose xeriscape alternatives for low watering and resource efficiency. Consult a local do-it-yourself store for low-maintenance ideas.
4. Design your Dream
One important aspect of outdoor space is balance. Work with your tastes and budget to integrate your ‘rooms’ into one flowing overall environment.
Think creatively. Create the illusion of space by installing gently curved pathways. Or design a winding walk to a private, tucked away oasis. A simple bench or patio rocking chair can provide a personal get-away when placed strategically. Whatever you choose, pull it all together by following the balance of your overall plan.
5. Bring the Sound
Certain sounds add a sense of calm. Wind chimes or trickling fountains bring soft ambient noise. A birdbath also adds a splash of wildlife sound. And, if an iPod is always in your pocket, go high tech and install stereo speakers throughout the yard. Whether for private down time on the patio or entertaining around the pool, music adds ambiance and enhances the mood.
6. Play in the Space
If friends and family bring joy, design your yard with them in mind. Use square footage wisely in order to create areas for eating or play. And, if kids are a priority at your house, make sure their space is open for safe, fun playtimes. Swing sets, enclosed trampolines, slides or covered sand boxes are classic and timeless favorites that earn their keep in kid-time spent outdoors instead of in front of the television.
Outdoor fun can also include a barbeque patio, or grill on the deck. If grilling is your game, make sure you leave space for good eats.
7. Light the Fire
Big flames captivate and invite a gathering. Bring magic to an evening and distract thoughts from everyday worries with a popular clay chiminea or brass fire pit on the lawn. Fireplaces bring people together but always use caution. Pay close attention to child safety and local fire codes.
8. Inhale Aromas
Let fragrance set a soothing mood. Intentionally plant herbs and flowers for their aroma. Sage, basil, thyme, and mint bring their own sweet smells. Also consider adding the heavier scents of lavender, chamomile or sandalwood in your garden or even across the grass. Or, if the garden isn’t your thing, light scented candles or essential oils to fill the air.
9. Put up your Feet
Backyard furniture is a must for your relaxation space. It means the difference between sitting or standing, engaging or observing. Look for a comfortable, quality table and chairs. Consider a hammock for sleeping in the sunshine. Benches and swings work well on decks and between trees. A patio glider or rocker can be placed beside the garden for a rest spot or tucked in an alcove for reading, napping or meditating.
10. Come Back Again
The next time an expensive retreat beckons, open your back door. Spend the money for travel and airline tickets on a different dream and find a personal retreat to return to, right in your own backyard, every day of the week.