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Tackling a backyard build

HGTV Canada's Backyard Builds transforms a backyard into an entertainer's oasis.
HGTV Canada's Backyard Builds transforms a backyard into an entertainer's oasis.

Think outside the box when planning structures

Pergolas, gazebos, garden sheds, cabanas and playhouses are some of the structures you might consider building as you set your sights on a backyard transformation this spring. But what about a cake decorating studio or an outdoor sports pub?

Those think-outside-the-box projects are among designer Sarah Keenleyside’s favourites to date. The co-host of HGTV Canada’s Backyard Builds is also especially proud of a farm-to-table dining room, an outdoor kitchen and lounge built out of twin structures and the conversion of a grungy garage into a peaceful mom retreat that she tackled with contractor/designer Brian McCourt.

Not so long ago, outdoor structures were built primarily to store tools, furniture, equipment and other odds and ends needed to survive four distinct seasons. But homeowners are realizing those spaces can also double as an outdoor room, especially when their house is bursting at the seams.

“ It’s a great opportunity to create that perfect kids’ clubhouse or a place that you can dedicate to a hobby,” Keenleyside says. “ Outdoor structures bridge the gap of interior and exterior spaces and really allow homeowners to make the most of their yards and the seasons.”

If you’re a fan of Backyard Builds , you know the options are endless. Keenleyside and McCourt have converted a 150-year-old barn into an ultimate hangout space for a family of five, added a pool house and outdoor shower to a neglected backyard, transformed an urban backyard into a cottage-like retreat and created a home office from a shipping container.

So, what should you consider when contemplating an outdoor structure? For starters, decide what your home is lacking and what would benefit your lifestyle, Keenleyside advises. Then, consider your budget. A four-season retreat, for example, is typically more costly than a three-season structure.

“ If you need plumbing in your outdoor space, make sure you look at all the options,” she says. “There are some fantastic self-plumed sinks that are available that work with a water reserve and a grey water catch. These will cost quite a bit less than tapping into your home’s pipelines.”

Don’t overlook storage. “If you have a nice set of outdoor furniture, set aside an area in your new space that can become winter storage. If you take good care of your outdoor furniture, it will last you for more years and you can justify investing in better quality pieces.”

Lastly, don’t design in a bubble. “Outdoor structures should compliment the home but don’t need to be finished the exact same way. Exterior finishes should also be considered to ensure you are designing from every angle,” says Keenleyside. If you have a red brick house, for instance, she suggests using dark navy siding on an outdoor structure. Not only are the colours complementary, they’ll also make the surrounding greenery pop.

Will an outdoor structure add value to your property? “When thinking long term, a well-designed outdoor structure will add value to your property. Homebuyers tend to be so focused on the interiors of homes that a beautifully-designed yard and surprise outdoor structure could be what sets your property apart from comparable properties,” Keenleyside says.

“ Especially in denser urban areas, an outdoor structure can drastically increase the usable square footage of a home, even though it’s outside.”

She-shed offers tranquil escape

The charming shed in Sandy Scott’s backyard was originally built as a potting shed but eventually became a place to get away from it all. “We began to think of it as an oasis that was a substitute for a cabin, even sleeping in there in the summer and into the fall,” says the Brooklin resident.

In retrospect, Scott realizes her late husband, Doug Flaherty, began transforming the shed while he was sick so she’d have a welcoming place to escape to without ever having to leave the comfort of the lush garden and tranquil waterfall they created together.

The shed has a 12-foot-pitch roof and features reclaimed windows and a comfy makeshift couch that transforms into a bed. It’s decorated with ‘welcome to the cottage’ and ‘potting shed’ signs and mementos. It’s Scott’s haven – a place where she can take a break from her home office and do some work on her laptop, catch up with her BFFs over a bottle of wine or curl up with a book on a rainy afternoon. With screened windows and a heater, she uses it year-round.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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