There are many ways to enjoy a shady retreat on a warm day. Apartment dwellers and homeowners: Transform your outdoor space no matter your budget or lifestyle. Creative possibilities abound!
To create a comfy nook on your patio or balcony, buy a patio table and chairs with a large umbrella. Fix a retractable awning to adjust for every weather condition. An intimate outdoor nook is the perfect place to entertain your friends or curl up and read a good book. Convert your barren garage into an indoor-outdoor oasis just steps from your front door -- buy patio furniture or even a TV.
Bring some shade to your backyard with canopies, tents or elaborately constructed gazebos, pergolas and other garden structures. This ambience is perfect for entertaining guests, whether an intimate gathering for two or a backyard party. The choice is yours.
Many home supply stores sell do-it-yourself gazebo kits for the industrious homeowner; contractors offer fully assembled units. While traditionally round or octagonal, gazebos can also be rectangular or square, customized to the homeowner's individual taste. Choose whether you prefer the open-air design or prefer closed walls and ceiling. Pavilions are also hard structures that provide cover over picnic tables, seating groups or open shaded space; pavilions often have hard concrete or wooden floors as well.
And what's more, the latticework of gazebos and pergolas is the perfect place to grow climbing vines, bougainvillea and flowers -- a beautiful aesthetic that also shades from the sun. Or, weave fabrics into the latticework for a romantic touch. Manicure your lawn with a ground cover or patio bricks for a finished touch.
Temporary shelters, such as plastic or fabric tents, provide shade from the sun and protection from the elements. They're available with or without sidewalls and windows. Larger tents are usually open floor, but rental companies offer party dance floors. Buy a smaller tent to store in your garage; rent a larger tent for a special occasion. Tents are an easy way to create a venue right in your own backyard.
A shady retreat isn't always a man-made structure; sometimes a thick trove of trees is an excellent cover from the hot sun, and an ideal place for a bench. Build a bench around the trunk of a shady tree. Hedges or fences around the seating area will conceal you from the outside world for tranquil solitude.
A word of advice: Before building, renting or buying any structures, check with your local municipality for any restrictions and regulations on materials, height, plumbing or electricity, yard setbacks and permits. Even if you are replacing an existing structure, check with the building department to make sure your new structures will be permitted. Ordinances vary by location, so it's wise, and certainly more relaxing, to know that your retreat won't bring any headache.
Start planning your backyard oasis by studying the lay of the land. Whether you have a small balcony or a few acres, design your project to fit your space and budget. The purpose of this haven will also inform your designs. If you have the means, hire a contractor to take the workload. And don't forget to select flowers and foliage fit for your soil and climate.
Visit your local hardware store or landscaping company and look at printed guides for inspiration.