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8 steps to a cool retreat from the summer heat

Architecture

Chicago gloriously plunged into summer, which not only means outdoor play and festivities, but heat. To ensure unabridged fun, it is essential to carve out some space in your yard designated as a refuge from the rays of the sun. Sure, a pool is a nice way to cool off, but not everyone has room for a pool. Chicago Shopping sought out local outdoor design and garden experts on how to create shade in your yard amid the hot Midwest sun. 

#1 Pull up a seat and take note of what you already have.

You’ve got the deck or patio but you are lacking in shade. Make sure you take the whole picture into account when making permanent shading decisions. You can kill two birds with one stone if you sit back and think your project through.

Kathy Richardson, Senior Landscape Designer at RYCO Landscaping in Lake in the Hills, IL suggests pulling up a chair and taking inventory of your space. “Take a good look around (your yard). See what you would want to screen (neighbor’s garbage cans), what you would want to view (a neighborhood pond) and what kind of furniture you would want in the space (that will help determine size and shape to a certain extent).”

You see? Shade and the elimination of neighborhood eyesores!

#2 Take in the elements of your house.

Debra Phillips, landscape designer at Scentimental Gardens in west suburban Geneva, IL suggests getting a full comprehension of your garden and taking a moment to study the architecture, style and color of your existing home and outdoor structures. “If you have a formal red brick Georgian home with white trim, take the color ways of your home and bring those elements to your garden space by repeating the elements you like on your patio.” Complimenting the ingredients that already work takes the stress of selecting a new palette out of the equation and brings harmony to every aspect of your yard.

#3 Figure your function.

What do you want from this space besides a cool retreat from the heat? An additional place to entertain? A private getaway to read? An intimate nook to chat with a friend? Defining how you want your space to be used before you purchase your supplies can mean a change in budget and possibly the overall intent of your project.

#4 Step away from the house.

Don’t be afraid to tiptoe to the back of your yard and look at the property from the back. Taking in the view from a different perspective (and at different times of the day) can direct your eye to possible solutions you never knew were available. Creating a shaded patch in the middle of your garden will give you a chance to appreciate the fresh blooms and nature firsthand instead of being a shy onlooker.

#5 Choose your shading structure.

The opportunities for outdoor overhead structures are endless. “Pergolas, arbors, gazebos and shade trees all have a great place in a garden,” comments Kathy Richardson. “I tend to use them in combination, for example, a pergola over a patio space with a nice tree in the planting bed next to it. This will help create the outdoor room feel by softening the strong lines of the pergola with some green and life.”

Outdoor canopies, such as the one below (click the image for details) can be extremely versatile and give you the option of instant shade on your overhead structure.

Contemporary Patio by Austin Interior Designers & Decorators Paula Ables Interiors

Fabric shade sails are not only another way to provide immediate cover, but are conscious protection from the sun’s UV rays.

Contemporary Patio

Need shade on the cheap? Umbrellas from Pier 1 like the bright Floral Pagoda Umbrella, the tasseled and ornamental Balinese Umbrella, and the Catalina Cove patio umbrellas (pictured below) are an easy (and portable) way to cast a cool shadow over your glistening self. And don't forget that clustering multiple umbrellas can provide several feet of shade.

#6 Plant for the future and be patient.

If you are lacking foliage in your yard, this is the perfect time to plant for the future. “You can’t add shade overnight, but there are some lovely fast-growing options like wisteria, grapes, climbing roses like the Canadian Explorer William Baffin rose or the Sweet Autumn Clematis for a pergola,” said Carolyn Ulrich, Editor at Chicagoland Gardening.

Ulrich also recommended fast-growing trees like the Honey Locust Tree, which is a hardy, low maintenance ornamental variety that does not require a lot of leaf raking in the fall. One of Carolyn’s favorites, the Seven-sons tree (Heptacodium miconioides), encloses spaces beautifully and happily blooms with clusters of white flowers from late summer to autumn.

#7 DIY

If your budget does not allow you to hire a designer and landscaper, Debra Phillips insists that it is still possible to achieve your outdoor living dream. “There is always a way,” Debra assured readers during Chicago Shopping’s chat session with the landscape designer. Debra also revealed an ingenious idea of installing four wooden uprights crowned with a wooden square and then, fastening simple wire to the overhead structure. Next, visit your local paint store to pick up some lovely flax-colored painting drop cloths for your “custom” canopy. Cut the fabric to size, trim as desired and drape on the wire. Voila! Shade! (Don’t forget to pin pictures on Pinterest and brag to your friends…)

#8 Take advantage of the night.

Capitalize on the natural shade that comes with the setting of the sun and the drop in temperature by adding some lighting. “Lighting enhances our outdoor spaces so that we can enjoy them well after the sun goes down,” says Kathy Richardson. “It helps illuminate the areas softly to continue being able to entertain no matter what time it is. It also gives a nice view from inside the home and can help draw people outside to spend more time out there.”

No matter what your budget or the architectural style of your home, it is reasonably simple to find a permanent or portable structure to provide shade in your yard. By considering these suggestions, it should be a cinch to enjoy the warmth of summer and stay cool at the same time.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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