By Chris Palmer
After a long winter, I cannot wait to get outside and spend as much time there as possible. While I’m not that guy wearing shorts in 10 degree weather, a part of me completely understands his enthusiasm. As Canadians, we have a built-in appreciation for our summers and look forward to every ounce of sunshine. But as we open the doors to let fresh air in, many of us come to the ugly realization that we haven’t given our balconies, backyards or decks a second glance since the fall.
To maximize the time you can spend sipping iced tea and absorbing vitamin D, now is the time to whip your outdoor space into shape. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your outdoor space:
- Stick to one surface material for your deck/porch/fence
Holes? Loose boards? Maybe thinking it’s time to overhaul your outdoor space? As you browse the aisles of your local hardware store, consider sticking to just one surface material.
While you may have some fear about having too much of one colour or texture, using one material (like a wood, metal or stone) will help create a cohesive space. This is especially helpful if you’re trying to create a versatile space that can fluidly transform from a lounge space to a dining area to a play area for kids. Decks, porches or fences are foundational and simplifying your palette by using one surface material will ease many future DIY headaches.
When you’re shopping for materials, take affordability, durability and sustainability into consideration. Do a little research, ask your neighbours what they used, go onto Instagram or Pinterest and find materials that work with your style. If you crave a natural wood deck but it’s a little out of price range, here’s an industry secret: MicroPro Sienna. It’s an eco-friendly pressure treated wood that’s half the price of cedar and comes ready-to-build with a beautiful brown tone. It’s only been available in Ontario for a couple of years, but it’s a favourite of contractors across the province because of its versatility.
Unify your space: Sticking to one surface material gives your backyard a cohesive look.
MicroPro Sienna Images by Bob Gundu
- Choose multipurpose outdoor furniture
If you’re working with a smaller space, you can maximize your space by picking pieces that are more than meets the eye. Hidden storage, secret compartments and changeable features make your furniture work double (or triple) duty.
If you’re handy, you can also try to build your own multi-purpose pieces. My favourite outdoor furniture DIY is a raised planter box that can also be transformed into a bench or a storage box. Planters are wonderful, especially if you’re limited to just a balcony space. But the best part of having a multi-functional planter is that it transforms into a bench with storage, which is extremely convenient post-harvest. You can find my 3-in-1 planter how-to guide and more project inspiration on handcraftedbychrispalmer.com.
3-in-1: This multi-function raised planter storage box (built with MicroPro Sienna) is an great option, especially for smaller spaces.
- Keep it simple and know what you can tackle
It’s easy to get sucked into an Internet vortex and pile more onto your to-do list. It started off so innocent: you logged onto Pinterest or Instagram for some inspiration and all of a sudden you have ten projects you want to tackle next weekend. Whether you’re a DIY expert or a beginner, make sure you give yourself a break by simplifying your project list. Consider where you’re going to store everything, the cost for materials and whether you really want to be spending every spare moment building something.
Instead, take a hard look at your list and invest your money and time in pieces that will anchor your space and make the biggest impact. It’s often the simplest pieces that are also the most versatile. A classic well-crafted table makes the perfect spot to enjoy your morning coffee alone or share a meal with friends.
If you’re not confident that you can tackle some of your ambitious DIYs alone, build with a friend to help you stay safe. Don’t have a handy friend? Come to the Hamilton DIY Show this Saturday, April 30 at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. I’ll be there sharing tips on how to spruce up your outdoor space and elevate your DIY projects to handcrafted status.
No matter the size or shape of outdoor space that you have to work with, take advantage of every glorious warm weather moment. Follow my DIY adventures on Instagram @handcraftedbychrispalmer.