The Top 4 Secrets to Great Outdoor Living

It’s full on summer here in Toronto, and it got me thinking about summer in the city and outdoor spaces. We are fortunate to work on many of our client’s vacation and cottage properties, but we also love to work on our client’s gardens and patios at home. There is nothing like having a beautiful spot to have your morning cup of tea or to share with friends and family.

I totally favour making the most of your property 12 months of the year and making your back garden into more of a room really helps extend the size of your home for a good 6 months in the spring / summer / fall.

The Top 4 Secrets to Great Outdoor Living
The Top 4 Secrets to Great Outdoor Living

Privacy – If you’re lucky you’ll love your neighbours, but that probably doesn’t mean that either you or they want to have to engage in conversation every time you step out your back door. Whether it be a gorgeous fence, trees or an outdoor structure – ensure you have privacy. This way you (and they) can relax outside in your pj’s on a Saturday morning whilst you linger over the newspapers.


Own comfortable seating that doesn’t require oodles of pillows – I’m a total pillow girl at heart until it comes to my garden and gardens of my clients.

Q – Who has the space to store big bulky seat & back cushions out of season and who wants to wait for them to dry after a rain shower so they can use their furniture?

A – No one!

Select, or have us select for you, comfortable seating that only requires toss pillows for accents if you choose to add them. Honestly, this decision alone can make or break your summer / marriage / happiness. Life is too short for high-maintenance exterior furnishings.


Be honest about how you will use the space – I always ask my clients how they live in their homes – do they watch TV, do they read books, do they want to entertain, do they want overnight guests (most people when polled prefer a large walk-in closet over a guest bedroom) – it’s their home, they are adults, they are paying the bills therefore they get to call the shots, not their friends / family / society. The same question relates to your exterior space. Do you want an outdoor entertaining room – large table & chairs or do you want comfortable arm chairs with side tables for cocktails / books / snacks. You are the boss of you, unless you hire us and then we become the boss but in a nice, supportive, giving you totally what you want (but never knew it) kind of way!

The Top 4 Secrets to Great Outdoor Living

Seek advice prior to going to the garden nursery –  Trees and shrubs are an investment. Pick carefully and always seek advice from a trained professional prior to any purchase. Invest in irrigation and lighting – things will only really flourish with consistent watering. Lighting, when done properly can make a space softly glow and extends your time outdoors. When we first moved into our home (15 years ago) there were a lot of dead things in the garden, I was new to Canada, had never had a garden before and so off I went to the local nursery full of enthusiasm and a healthy dose of naivety and purchased pretty looking replacements and those, (of course), died too.

What I’ve learned is to walk your neighbourhood and see what is growing in your neighbours yards. If something looks perky and happy in their garden, it will probably look perky and happy in yours. My garden loves Hosta’s and Hydrangeas so that is what the majority of my space is filled with, oh and lots of Astilbe, well if it’s god enough for Harry to pick for Megan’s bouquet……. It’s low maintenance, and it gives me a gorgeous white and green garden.


Happy Summer Living!

The Top 4 Secrets to Great Outdoor Living

Photos Credits.

Gillian Gillies Interiors, Virginia Macdonald Photography.

Sydney Baumgartner Landscape Design.

Janus et Cie.

Harrison Green Landscape Designer, Architectural Digest.

Eckersley Garden Architecture

Studio Collection

Shop our latest, small-batch findings – perfect for you, your home or for unique gifts.