More than ever, we Canadians are making the most of the time spent in our own backyards – which is why now is the perfect opportunity to transform your outdoor space into something as amazing as possible. From fun perks to stylish extras, there are plenty of ways to treat yourself (and your space) to an upgrade this year – and I’ve rounded up a few ideas for inspiration.
Brian McCourt is a contractor, design expert and co-host of HGTV Canada’s Backyard Builds.
A fiery detail – like a fire pit – brings elemental relaxation to your outdoor space, while also extending the time you can enjoy outdoors (with a fire pit, there’s no need to rush indoors when the first chill hits). Once set up, most modern fire pits don’t require a lot of work to get going (many run off of the same type of tank as your barbecue) and there are more fire pit styles than you may think: For example, you can go for a classic, cozy feel with a wood-burning fire pit or opt for a stone fire pit for a more contemporary look.
Bring the Heat
If an outdoor fire pit feels too rustic for your taste, there are other ways to add some warmth to nights spent relaxing under the stars. An outdoor fireplace (like this distinctive design we showcased on Backyard Builds) adds unexpected warmth and sophistication to your outdoor space.
Make It a Movie Night
There’s no need to go out when the entertainment is right in your backyard. If you’ve got the space (and ambition) to build an epic amphitheatre (like the design we made for these Backyard Builds homeowners), go for it! If not, use the idea as inspiration to make your own custom home outdoor movie setup. For less than $200, you can purchase a screen and projector to set up at home for outdoor movie nights to enjoy all summer long.
Get in the Game
Who says board games are just for rainy days? Amp up the fun factor by adding games and group activities outside. While this life-size backyard chess and checkers board (that doubles as seating, for a practical touch) that we created for Backyard Builds is a cool big-impact idea, you can also create an inexpensive outdoor play zone with some DIY outdoor games like ladder ball, ring toss and a giant tic-tac-toe board (I’ll show you how).
Space for Sports
Growing up, I played pretty much every sport and now, so do my sons – so having an outdoor zone to play and practice sports (like the court we made for this family-friendly Backyard Builds reno) would be a dream come true for the kid and adult versions of me. Whether it’s a sports court, a kick wall or just a hoop and backboard, room to play outside is an instant win for a house full of kids.
Treehouse of Their Dreams
Childhood should be a time of adventure and imagination – and there’s nothing like a treehouse to spark creative play for kids. Even a simple structure in the trees is sure to win you Parent of the Year award. Speaking of which, these parents hit a home run by calling us in to build this epic treehouse village on Backyard Builds.
Swings aren’t just for kids. While we probably don’t jump off from the highest radial, most dangerous point – we might be inclined to sit down, read a book and sway the day away. An outdoor swing is the perfect place to hang out outdoors – and it doesn’t have to be child-like: Sarah created this sophisticated swing out of repurposed materials to upgrade a family lounge area for Backyard Builds.
Is there anything more energizing on a sweltering summer day than a dip in the pool? Whether you go above or below ground, a quality swimming pool is absolutely an investment, but the dividends are incredibly refreshing. Just don’t forget the fun pool float!
No space (or budget) for a full-on swimming pool? I say work with what you’ve got and create a water feature in your outdoor space. A soothing water feature allows you to enjoy the calming benefits of having water in your backyard – without the pool level of maintenance.
Whether you’ve been swimming or just out enjoying nature, having your own outdoor shower is a little luxury that doesn’t have to cost a lot.
Get Your Thumbs Green
When it comes to hobbies, gardening is a great one – you put in the hard work and nature rewards you with tasty veggies, fragrant herbs or uplifting florals. If you’re serious about gardening, build a backyard garden like this tiered design we gave a Backyard Builds family. Don’t have the space? Try a balcony or container garden for a smaller-space solution.
Go for a Greenhouse
If you really love gardening, why not do it for as long as possible? A simple backyard greenhouse helps protect plants so you can prolong your gardening season. A greenhouse is totally DIY-able – here’s a guide to get you started.
A Pergola to Dine For
A Twist on a Classic
What’s better than a pergola? How about a pergola with options? A retractable awning, like this striped design from Scott’s Vacation House Rules, lets the sun shine through when you want it, but adds extra shade when you need it.
If you’re doing a lot of dining outside, why not bring the kitchen out there with you? An outdoor kitchen area like this unique one Sarah and I created for Backyard Builds makes outdoor meals an experience (while also giving your home more livable space during the warmer months).
Refreshments at the Ready
When you’re really relaxing outside, you don’t want to be constantly running in and out for cold refreshments. A DIY bar cart (like this fun design we made for Backyard Builds) is perfect for setting you and your family up with all the drinks and snacks you’ll need for a quality afternoon spent out in the open air.
A Zen Spot
You deserve a little rest and relaxation. An open-air R&R spot (like this outdoor meditation area we created for Backyard Builds) adds both value and function to your space. If you don’t have room for a dedicated area, an outdoor hammock is a comforting compromise.