We are holding our breath for spring! Even in those parts of the nation that still have snow; minds are drifting towards warmer weather and outdoor fun. Small yards sometimes have to work extra hard to entertain multiple ages. Relaxing in your own yard is not only delightful, but also very cost effective.
Jane Austen, the renowned English writer, said that there is nothing like staying at home for real comfort. To make you want to stay home, pay serious attention to your outdoor spaces, both practically and aesthetically. A front porch might provide a lovely place to sit as the hot day turns into a cool night. Be safe and consider mosquito netting. There are kits that enable one to enclose a balcony, porch or deck. Burning citronella candles or torches might work, but I have always found that the breeze blows mine out too quickly to render any efficiency.
Consider how to control the temperature. You might install a ceiling fan in a solid backyard overhang to move the hot air. In extreme heat, misters are commonly used to create more tolerable conditions. Sometimes summer evenings can be chilly, so propane heaters or surface-mounted electric heaters are used. Portable fire rings abound on the Internet and are an inexpensive way to create warmth.
When a yard must be shared with kids, think of ways to focus the play area. This compact playhouse is made of 100 percent durable recycled plastic. Loki playhouses will not fade or warp, and they are hefty enough to not blow away. By offering little ones a place of their own, you can encourage them to spent time with you in the yard. Blow up pools are also popular with toddlers. Parents can fill the pool with balls when it is not appropriate to swim. If you are on a tight budget, consider what many parents did back in the 1950s: Moms would hang old blankets or sheets over free standing clothes lines to make a "fort" that offered shade and created a temporary playhouse. Another nice aspect to a portable playhouse is that once your kids grow up, you are not stuck with the structure in your yard forever!
Portable garden stakes are another way to decorate even the most basic yard. Generally about 60-inches high, hang colorful birdhouses from the hooks, or flowering baskets. You might create a path of blooming baskets or line the edge of a cement patio. Even if you don't have a lush lawn, flower baskets offer a colorful focus. Garden trellises are another clever way to create a focal point. These come in styles ranging from sturdy wire models to redwood or wrought iron. When a trellis is more architectural, you have the option of hanging masses of pots from the crossbeams.
Finally, review how you will light your outdoor living area. Clear light bulbs that are common in Europe and create a magical feel might be strung from the house to the garage or another structure. Restaurants often use cheap, tiny twinkle lights that are easy to install. I keep mine strung through my pine trees year-round. You can also put these lights on a timer. Path lights are popular to light the way. Look for solar lights that are sold at nearly all home improvement or hardware stores.
Photo Credit: Room + Board
Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by email at [email protected] To find out more about Christine Brun and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.