Backyard privacy comes in many forms. You can go as light as lattice or build a full-blown outdoor kitchen with stone walls. The options are many and your backyard retreat can be as unique as you. The following questions will give you some guidance as you plan your outdoor escape.
Do you want to A: not be seen…or B: not see other people? This can make a difference on where you position things like a privacy screen, lattice, or fence. If you really want to stay under the radar, consider a sided gazebo with a roof or an under-the-balcony room. (The latter option assumes that you have or will build a second-story balcony.) If your home has a second level with a bump-out you could also build a three-walled room under that space. A third option for enhanced privacy is to build three walls in an open area and complete the space with a lean-to roof.
Determine a budget and itemize each known expense before you get started. Leave a buffer of 10-20% in case inflation or a widespread shortage on materials drives up prices (which has happened recently). There is no one-size-fits-all budget for a backyard upgrade. The options span from sweet and simple to all-out luxury.
Designing an outdoor space is similar to designing an indoor space. Continuity of palette and theme will result in a more polished result. Keep your theme in mind from beginning to end. Even outdoor spaces can be embellished with modern art, décor, and water features. (But garden gnomes are still allowed.)
High and low temperatures and seasonal changes will cause natural weathering and erosion. Humidity and salinity are also factors to consider before you invest. Things like wood fencing, stone fireplaces, foliage, and exterior paints and stains should be chosen for durability as much as for looks. For example, SouthernLiving.com recommends acrylic paint for exterior applications in coastal climates. This is because salt can be power-washed from acrylic more effectively than from common oil-based paints.
Does your area experience inclement weather? Have a plan for outdoor furniture, umbrellas, plants, etc. Potential projectiles should be secured or brought inside in cases of high wind. Make sure you or your landscape architect grade the area for proper drainage during the rainy season and post-winter thaw.
Outdoor fireplaces complete with a stone or brick chimney are a popular design trend. The back wall and chimney provide visual privacy while keeping your outdoor space warm and enjoyable into the Autumn months.
How much square footage do you have available to work with? More isn’t always better since increasing the scope of the job will increase the cost. You can create a lovely retreat in a small and cozy space. Do you already have a privacy fence or walls that you could augment? Adding lattice to the top of a fence creates a nice effect that can be filled-in with creeping ivy or hanging plants. For a live and natural wall, plant a row of evergreens like fir or cypress. Most evergreen trees and shrubs grow at a rate of two feet per year. Prefabricated options called “living walls” are also an option for those wanting a natural wall without the wait.
Screening your porch and/or adding outdoor blinds to your existing porch or patio will create an instant room that you can enjoy for 6-9 months out of the year. Decks are also fair game for framing and/or privacy screens and lattice work.
Homeowners are often amazed at how an expert can size-up a space. Landscape architects and interior/exterior designers have experience and vision that can help you to see things before they materialize. Consider hiring one or both of these professionals for a consultation before you begin your project. Even if you plan to do the physical labor yourself, expert vision is a big help.
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