There are two types of patios, broadly speaking. There are patios that serve as an extension of one’s home – comforting, exciting places where you’re happy to while away the hours. And then there are patios that feel like an extension of the surrounding streets and wilderness – overgrown, inhospitable areas that “came with the place” but aren’t really incorporated into the home.

Chances are, you want the first patio. You want a sanctuary space optimized for tranquillity, entertainment, hosting, resting, and generally living the good life. The good news is, that patio is well within your reach.

Renovating an outdoor area isn’t just an investment in living well; it can also increase your home’s value should you choose to sell. It’s one of those win-win reno projects ideally suited for springtime in the Six. And with the help of your favourite Toronto real estate agents at Harvey Kalles, you can learn how to pull it off in the sections below!

A Sense of Nature and Abundance: Incorporating Plants in Your Décor

When most people think of an outdoor sanctuary, their minds go straight to nature. They picture forest bathing in a lush green space, with a family of birds chirping in the near distance.

There’s no reason you can’t shrink down that bucolic scene and place it right inside your big-city property. The whole project starts with plants – lots of them. Consider a diversity of big-leaf plants (like monsteras, bird of paradise plants, areca palms, rubber plants, etc.) and daintier flower bushes (hydrangeas, rhododendrons, various flowering grasses, etc.). The larger plants will add height and grandeur, while the smaller plants will provide fullness and colour.

As for the birds, they’ll come in their own time!

Tapping into a Fundamental Source of Tranquility: Water Features

There’s a reason why water features like fountains and human-made ponds have been a part of civic planning and patio design since ancient times. Water makes people feel peaceful.

To prove the point, we turn your attention to this peer-reviewed journal article in Public Health Research. (Don’t worry: you don’t need a degree in medicine/urban sociology to understand its takeaways). Basically, the article states that exposure and proximity to water is linked to “positive mental health wellbeing” and “lower psychological distress.”

What does that mean for patio design? A little water goes a long way toward making a sanctuary. With the help of trusted tradespeople (or some YouTube videos and elbow grease), incorporate seamless water features like waterfalls, fountains, reflecting pools, ecosystem ponds or Japanese water gardens.

Eat Your Heart Out: Adding Cooking and Dining Areas to the Mix

Sanctuaries aren’t just about peace and quiet. These home exterior ideas are also about optimizing for food and entertainment – those day-to-day rituals that make life fun. That said, consider building out your patio with add-ons.

A backyard kitchen is one of the most popular additions (with a potentially high ROI). It may include a grill, a flat-top, outdoor stove elements, a prep station, and – if you really want to live la dolce vita – a wood-fired pizza oven.

For a dining area, consider sectioning off a space, which gives the backyard patio a sense of intricacy and coziness. You can achieve this sectionalization in a few ways. Set up a pergola flush with running vines that add to the lushness we covered above. Create a raised dining area, which adds multilevel intrigue to the backyard space. Or create a natural barrier with potted plants, shrubs, and small trees for that “secret garden” effect.

A patio kitchen in Toronto

Protection from the Elements (and Onlookers): Shade Solutions for Your Patio

When that Toronto sun finally starts to shine, it can be both beautiful and a little overwhelming. Leave the roasting and searing to the BBQ, and add a few shade elements to your outdoor patio area.

As we covered above, a pergola is a lovely way to add definition and structure to a backyard space. It has the added advantage of providing shade – especially when covered in running grape vines, ivy, or native flowering vines like the trumpet honeysuckle or Virginia creeper.

Of course, if your green thumb is out of practice, a tasteful gazebo, tent, or even patio umbrella will do the trick. For these structures, our preference is for neutral earth tones like sand and stone, which seamlessly blend into the natural space.

If you’re like many Torontonians whose backyards remain visible to neighbouring second stories, these shade structures also provide a little privacy. This is a sanctuary, after all!

Lighting and Heating: Creating an All-Day, All-Night, All-Season Sanctuary

Toronto is blessed with a classic four-season year: chilly winters, rainy springs, spicy summers, and crisp falls. This weather diversity keeps things interesting in the Six, but it also adds a hurdle for outdoor area renos. Namely, how do you maximize the usable duration of your patio?

The answer is relatively straightforward: heat your outdoor patio and light it up. For heating, you have a few viable options. You can add a fire pit (a feature that became incredibly popular during the social distancing era of the pandemic), which further reinforces the primal, outdoorsy feel we covered above. Or for a more turnkey solution – perhaps even a more effective solution – simply fit your outdoor lounging and dining areas with floorstanding, propane patio heaters; the best ones run roughly $200-400, an easy investment in an impressive year-round space.

Lastly, let there be light. The sun sets around 5 pm in December here, effectively throttling your outdoor plans for half the day – unless you invest in ample lighting. We prefer a dynamic mixture of lighting sources, including wall lanterns, pathway lights, string bulbs and lampposts. This diverse approach to backyard lighting adds visual panache while helping guests with wayfinding and visibility (when that last bottle of wine runs dry). It also sets the right ambience for an outdoor date night at home!

If you have patio renovations on the docket this spring, consider these ideas. Not only will they improve your living space – and, by extension, your living – but they’re also shrewd investments in increasing your home value.