5 ways to make the most of your backyard
Many of us can’t live without our beloved backyards, but are we getting the most from this space? Here are some ideas to make your yard more useful.
The iconic Aussie backyard doesn’t need to be limited to summer BBQs, a game of cricket and kids darting through sprinklers. Here are five ways to maximise your outdoor living potential and make the most of your backyard, in any season.
Add another room
By constructing a pergola or similar structure with ground covering (such as decking or pavers) you can create an outdoor living space. To protect against the elements, add patio blinds or shutters on the sides. Overhead, consider options that allow sunlight in for colder months, such as a retractable roof, louvers or a deciduous-vine covered arbor. Cozy it up with weatherproof lounges and cushions, hanging egg chairs or hammocks, tables and lanterns. If you have power you can include fans or heaters, lighting, a built-in outdoor kitchen, bar fridge, outdoor speakers or even a spa! For a decadent touch incorporate a fire-pit or outdoor fireplace.
Install a pizza oven
If you already love throwing a snag on the barbie, why not introduce a slice of Italy by installing an outdoor pizza oven? Some DIY pizza oven kits allow you to set up your oven how and where you like. “Locate it close to your home or in the alfresco area to utilise year-round,” says Pat Polito of Polito Woodfire Ovens. If you run into trouble with the set-up contact the supplier or a tradie can help. As for the cooking, you can make the dough yourself or your local pizzeria might supply it – just place ingredients in small bowls and get guests to make their own creations. “Once you’ve experienced a pizza day in someone’s backyard, you’ll be hooked!” says Polito.
Create a nature-based play space
Go beyond the standard swing and cubbyhouse set-up by utilising natural elements. Try these ideas from landscape architects Laidlaw & Laidlaw Design: create a screened corner for imaginative play. Create a natural sand or mud pit using flat-topped rocks or logs and build it close to a tap to add a water-play experience. Create tunnels and cubby-like enclosed areas with plants and grasses such as Evergreen Feather Grass (Miscanthus transmorrisonensis). Or introduce balancing elements using logs (make sure they’re securely placed low to the ground, preferably under 400mm), either as a long beam or upright and half buried as stepping stones.
Make a zen zone
Research shows that mindfulness meditation can help reduce stress and boost wellbeing. Setting up a tranquil area – such as a zen garden – in your backyard can inspire meditation or simple relaxation time. Common elements of zen-inspired gardens are rocks, moss, water features, pruned trees and raked sand representing water ripples. “To achieve a vision of zen think about function and the senses,” says Director of Urban Studios Landscapes Sam Lindsay. What’s the purpose (function) of the area – is it for sitting, lying down, walking, meditating or perhaps doing yoga or tai chi? What do you want to look at (sight)? What do you want to feel (touch) when your hands, feet and body come into contact with the benches, walkways and walls? And what do you want to hear (sound) – perhaps wind rustling leaves, bamboo clunking against each other or a soft water trickle? Then put it together to create the space you need to relax.
Create a sports zone
If your kids and you are sports enthusiasts, bring an element of your favourite sport to the backyard. This could be a golf putting green, a place to shoot some hoops, or room for a soccer goal! Or create an outdoor gym using elements you may already have in your backyard – a bench for step-ups, tricep dips and push-ups, a grassy area to place a yoga mat and a weather proof chest makes a great storage facility for your weights and dumbbells.