If you can’t make it to a cottage each summer, your next best bet is to bring cottage vibes to your backyard by creating a relaxing oasis. All it takes is a few simple improvements and a trip to your nearest TIMBER MART to make you feel as zen as you do after a day on the dock, simply by stepping out your back door.
Install a water feature
Nothing says serenity quite like a water feature, which is likely why you often find them in spas. But that sense of calm conks out pretty quickly when you’ve got a clogged pump in your backyard pond. Backyard water features can range in complexity from simple solar-powered cascade fountains to elaborate, stone-lined ponds with waterfalls, so assess your tolerance for routine maintenance before you commit. If a relaxing trickle of water is all you need, look for a simple fountain. But if you like to tinker—and you don’t mind creating a winter home in your garage for all those koi you purchased—an elaborate pond can transform a backyard space and become the envy of every neighbour you entertain.
Create a canopy of string lights
Ambient lighting—along a pathway, around the tool shed or boathouse, or highlighting a specific focal point like a rock or a tree—can work wonders, making even the shabbiest of backyards look stylish and sophisticated. For something truly magical, try stringing some lights overhead, criss-crossing them along a pathway, or dangling them above your patio table.
Keep things natural
This one should be a given, but the more landscaping you do, the easier it is to introduce materials like concrete or composite decking. Those materials have their place, but natural materials like wood and stone are more likely to mimic your landscape and create a more cohesive look. Aim to incorporate plants as well. Whether you decide to plant vines that snake their way up the shed or pots that line the edge of the deck, research has shown that time among plants can leave you feeling more relaxed, both psychologically and physiologically.
Hang a hammock in a quiet place
Nothing is quite as relaxing as an afternoon spent in a hammock, swaying with a gentle breeze. When deciding where to place your hammock, you may be constrained to wherever you can find a couple of good trees to support it. But if your property is full of them, opt for a location with a view and—perhaps most importantly—somewhere away from areas that tend to attract a lot of commotion, like the barbecue or patio table.
Account for Mother Nature
As Canadians, we endure all kinds of weather, from heat waves to cold extremes. And in cottage country, there’s also a season dedicated to blackflies. That’s why, when you’re thinking about what to include in your oasis, you should also consider how to incorporate things like retractable awnings on your patio, insect screens on your gazebo, and even storage for additional insect candles, blankets, cushions and anything else that needs to be put away when the weather turns.
Incorporate curved lines
People are far more likely to consider a room aesthetically pleasing when it’s filled with curved lines rather than straight ones, because it appears less threatening—it’s actually hardwired into our brains. So if you’re trying to create a relaxing outdoor space, consider applying the same principle, using curved paths and edges, along with rounded patio furniture.
Don’t forget the pit
Some might associate a firepit with larger, more rowdy gatherings on long weekends, but a firepit is an equally important piece in creating a backyard oasis. The fireplace channel was created for a reason, after all. Studies have shown that sitting next to a fire can have a positive impact on blood pressure, and the reason we find fire so comforting can actually be traced back to our evolutionary roots. Opt for something circular, which is easier to gather around with family and friends and will create better flow in your yard.