How long have you been bookmarking online galleries, pinning Pinterest pics and filling idea books on houzz.com? If it’s been longer than you care to remember, then it may be time to stop sourcing inspiration and start making that dream outdoor space a Real Cedar reality. Which brings us to the all-important design process. However, with only a virtual wish list to go by, sitting down and actually plotting out an aesthetically pleasing sanctuary that is both financially and functionally realistic may be challenging for some. That’s where renowned North Carolina outdoor designer, Ted Clearly, comes in. As a card-carrying member of the American Society of Landscape Architects and principal at Studio Cleary Landscape Architecture, he’s got a pretty good handle on how to get people started and keep them on track without compromising their vision for backyard bliss. Here, then, are a few of Cleary’s top design tips to help you get started:
The first thing you want to do is focus on function. For this, Cleary suggests doing some real soul searching. So ask yourself, what will be the primary purpose of this space? And be honest with yourself – like are you really going to be hosting big elaborate dinner parties every night… or is this space simply going to be a nice little slice of outdoor paradise for you and your family to enjoy summer meals?
If it’s the latter, then maybe you don’t need a ton of guest seating. Maybe your landscaping budget would be better spent on a super fun, eco-friendly Real Cedar playhouse that’s within plain view of the dining area. That way if the kids finish supper early, for example, you and your partner can still enjoy some al fresco dining on your beautiful Real Cedar deck while keeping a watchful eye on the young ones. Sounds pretty dreamy, doesn’t it? Plus, it’s a lot more cost–effective than investing in a bunch of designer furniture you may only use once a year – at best.
As Cleary points out, one of the best ways to create some visual interest is juxtaposing straight lines with ambiguous shapes. So, for example, if you have a classically rectangular yard, a curvy Real Cedar deck will add some beautiful tension to the overall aesthetic of your outdoor space. Or if you have a square Real Cedar pergola, you may want to contrast that with a winding stone path that leads from the covered seating area to the garden. If you have a row of boxy raised Real Cedar gardens beds, you may want to offset all those 90-degree angles with an arched Real Cedar arbor.
Another way to add visual texture is by mixing materials, which is easy with Real Cedar because it goes with everything. For example, if you’ve got a stainless steel outdoor kitchen, you can instantly warm that space up with a richly toned Real Cedar trellis – perhaps one that doubles as a yard partition, but still allows streams of gorgeous sunlight to shine through on your cooking space? Conversely, you can add some contemporary edge to a traditional backyard with some crisp clean, Real Cedar decking. Basically, any way you slice it, wood is good.
Depending where you live, chances are you’re not going to get as much use of your outdoor sanctuary during the winter months. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the view from your kitchen window, as you wistfully wait for the lazy days of summer to return. With that in mind, if you’ve got plans to build a beautiful Real Cedar gazebo, for example, make sure you place it in an area of the yard that’s visible from your house. Being able to admire your handy work – even on frost bitten mornings – will make owning that sacred garden retreat just that much more rewarding. Also, it helps keep your eye on the prize: Summer!
Another technique for maximizing your outdoor view from inside is what Cleary calls, “judicious landscape lighting” – simply put, opt for subtle, frosty lighting to highlight features of pride such as a customized Real Cedar bench. Also, if you have a mudroom connecting the house to your backyard, you might want to install a dimmer switch to cast a warm and flattering light on your beloved backyard. As well, Cleary recommends going easy on the garden path lighting – too much and your walkway starts to look like an airport runway… just saying.