Picnics and pool parties, barbecues and cottages, Victoria Day and Canada Day – the spring and summer months are all about spending time with friends and family. Ontario has no end of great destinations, from Niagara Falls to Algonquin Park and everywhere in between, but more and more people are realizing that the most summer fun is to be had at home, partying on the patio and leaving the car in the garage. Many discover that for the price of a family vacation, they can build their own little back yard resort.
There are two main elements of a great party patio: ambience and amenities. Today's landscape design brings the two together with style, and there's no longer any need for barbecues, hot tubs and the like to be semi-industrial eyesores in a prized garden. Designer products allow almost everything to be matched to or hidden within natural landscape elements for a seamless sensation of escape. A creative landscaper can craft an outdoor space that transports you to backwoods Muskoka while still concealing the full array of modern recreational features.
Swimming pools are a big part of most people's vision of the perfect summer spot, and yet almost everyone knows a homeowner who complains that their pool never sees any use. Most of these forgotten pools are the standard fare: light blue rectangles with dreary concrete patios – something installers are seeing fewer and fewer orders for every year. New pools tend to be parts of more comprehensive projects, as people learn that the joy of swimming isn't just about the water but about the whole experience. There are so many shapes, designs, colours and configurations available from modern pool suppliers that everyone can find something to suit their taste and budget. Even sacrificing a little bit of size is usually worthwhile if it makes the space more personal, welcoming and enjoyable.
Accessories are a big part of pools, especially for families with kids, and today's market is full of entertaining options that go way beyond the basic ladder-and-diving-board setup. Diving rocks are becoming increasingly popular, and are a great way to tie a pool into the surrounding natural landscape while also improving safety for kids in and around the water. Slides are available in more sizes and configurations than ever before, including top-end models that are built directly into pool-side walls and come as high as thirty feet – so with the right budget it's possible to build your own well-equipped water park. Top these accessories off with some of the many new pool toys appearing every year and the kids will have a safe source of unlimited summer fun.
Hot tubs and saunas are great additions as well, and there are lots of terrific new designs available. Hot tubs come in dozens of varieties and can stand alone or be built directly into the pool itself; the industry moves so fast releasing new product lines that it's difficult to keep up. Saunas are also gaining in popularity, and both these features have advantages beyond just socializing: they reduce stress, soothe aches and pains and have numerous potential health benefits.
Of course, it's the patio itself that ties all these things together by providing space for you, your family and your guests to lounge about leisurely – an important part of any summer party. Today's patios are more comfortable than ever thanks to innovations in outdoor furniture. For a little extra money you can kiss the tacky old vinyl goodbye and choose durable designer pieces that offer amazing new levels of comfort and fashion. High quality chairs, love seats, tables, umbrellas – even armchairs and couches – can become part of stunning outdoor rooms that might even rival those inside the house.
The patio serves another important purpose, too: it's a place to cook! No summer spot would be complete without a grill, whether it's a simple propane barbecue or a fully stocked outdoor kitchen. There are all sorts of appliances that can be built directly into the patio for a seamlessly integrated kitchen area, and outdoor cooking no longer needs to be a simple or limiting affair. Ovens, ranges and coolers can be cleverly combined with ample counter and storage space in designs that are sure to please the backyard chef in the family.
Putting all these things together is a lot easier with the help of a skilled landscaper, but sifting through the many options at your disposal is an entertaining activity for everyone. Even a minor patio upgrade can work wonders when done right, and its hard to find a better home investment in terms of family fun and enjoyment. And there's no need to think of the patio as a summer-only thing: year-round gardens, modern patio heaters and outdoor fireplaces all offer ways to extend the season and ensure your outdoor space has something to offer all year round. Next time you're having trouble choosing a home project or a vacation destination, consider turning your attentions on your own back yard: soon you'll be ignoring the weekend traffic reports and spending your time partying on the patio.