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Living Space: Simple changes can add pizzazz to your backyard

By By Kathryn Weber
April 11, 2013 at midnight
Updated April 10, 2013 at 11:11 p.m.

A gazebo adds visual interest, shade and extra seating - not to mention a touch of romance.

With all those seed catalogs piled on the coffee table and local home centers crammed to the gills with trays of blooming plants, it's hard to resist the urge to start working outside. But first, take a quick tour around your yard with an eye toward improvements that will make your outdoor living space more enjoyable in the months ahead.

Here are some tips:

Create your own dog park. If you've thought about a dog kennel, but those chain link kennels look more like prisons than places for your furry family members, why not create your own dog park? Fence off a corner of the yard, build a structure to keep your pet out of the elements, then fill with gravel or mulch. Your yard will be free of dog bombs, the dog will have room to roam and pet cleanup will be easier.

Go locavore. The local food movement is popular and growing, but you can't get much more local than your own vegetable and herb patch. If space is lacking, try an African keyhole garden. They're productive, take up little space and water, and use compost from the kitchen. Learn more about keyhole gardens.

Add structure. A backyard is much more inviting with a few places to sit and relax in the shade. A gazebo or an arbor with seating is ideal. Home centers offer arbor kits, or if you're crafty, you can build one yourself. It makes a great spot for dining and entertaining - and adds visual punch to the yard.

Dine al fresco. Eating outdoors is a lovely way to experience nature and a meal at the same time. Consider adding a deck or arbor in the yard for dining outdoors in al fresco fashion - and don't be afraid to place it in the middle of the yard.

Create a view. Whether it's an arbor draped in climbing roses or a blooming vine or a simple urn on a pedestal, creating a view elevates your back yard from a dull grass patch to an outdoor room. Visual appeal creates overall enjoyment and more interest in your yard.

  1. Take in a view. Once you create a view, you open up the opportunity for a seating element, such as a swing or stone or concrete bench. Carve out a niche in the garden, add mulch or gravel and you have a quiet spot that invites conversation and lingering over a glass of wine.

  2. Add water. Without a doubt, adding water is one of the most pleasurable ways to create movement, sound and cool enjoyment in your yard. Whether it's a fountain, waterfall or small koi pond, water adds a natural element and feel to your yard.

  3. Light things up. One of the best investments you can make in your yard is to add lighting. But think in layers. Use pathway lights, tree lighting, or lights on the exterior walls of the house for the base. Follow up with additional layers, such as a chandelier in an arbor or gazebo, string lights in a tree, or candles along an outdoor fireplace. Each layer adds another layer of romance.

Kathryn Weber is a home and decorating columnist and publishes the Red Lotus Letter feng shui ezine. For more information, contact Weber through her website.

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