What should you know about privacy options?
By Alica Dusil
Many homeowners are well aware of the rising value of real estate. Today, homes are worth far more than they were a decade ago and, as a result, many consider their primary dwelling to be much more than a busy day-to-day hub of activity. In fact, they are multi-purpose centres where you can throw a dinner party for friends, host a small business meeting, and get in your daily exercise.
By extension, backyards have evolved into a personalized vacation destination. The design possibilities for your outdoor space are endless, from secluded relaxation spots to hot tubs and pools—you can even install fully equipped kitchens and living rooms. Quality landscape architecture can add to your home and increase its resale value, which makes it a sound investment for your future. As you spend more time entertaining and socializing outdoors, the aspect of personal privacy has become increasingly important; however, this can be a challenging feat if your space is limited. For this reason, proper landscape design is crucial to achieving a successful and secure outdoor environment.
When planning the design of your outdoor retreat, decorative screens can satisfy your privacy concerns. These come in a variety of styles, offering subtle and adaptable options to put your mind at ease. When considering privacy screens, many picture fences, shrubbery, and dense hedges, but how do you determine which is best for your yard?
Getting sturdy with wood fences
A classic, go-to option, wood fences are functional and provide you with durable, long-lasting safety and protection. They can also be esthetically pleasing in design. Current trends include horizontal slats in cedar, composite materials, wood mixture, and even painted wood. Staggered spacing and varying board thickness can add vertical interest to wood fences. Additionally, the ‘tongue and groove’ option creates a solid fence, but can also restrict airflow, which can create an uncomfortably hot backyard in the summer. Incorporating lattice insets or full lattice panels can increase air circulation while also providing additional interest to your fence.
When selecting a fence for privacy, you should research potential height restrictions mandated in your municipality. Most city bylaws state a fence cannot be higher than 2 m (6.6 ft) and any fence surrounding your pool cannot be climbable by a child or closer than 1.5 m (5 ft) to the water’s edge.
Your neighbours are another factor to contend with, especially if you share property lines. Agreeing on the style, colour, and material of a shared fence can be difficult—even contentious—and cause friction between neighbours. If this is a concern, you may want to consider installing a separate, stand-alone privacy screen in lieu of a fence. These installations can usually be built taller than traditional wooden fences and offer more design options and different finishes.
Planting living walls
When it comes to privacy, you cannot find a more natural option than trees and shrubs. Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages when using materials provided by Mother Nature.
While trees can offer you warmth and protection, they do not always produce the effect you desire in regards to privacy and appearance. For one, these plants take years to mature and are unlikely to provide you with suitable privacy protection. You should also consider the tree’s potential size as it reaches maturity. In the past few decades, nurseries have been modifying large trees so they grow smaller in landscape designs to prevent them from overwhelming smaller spaces. Narrow-growing maples, Oaks, and Hornbeams are among the most popular deciduous trees used for the purpose of privacy. For the first 10 years, these trees look great; however, even the narrowest tree can widen to an unexpected size and cause undue problems. These plants can potentially grow to 6 m (20 ft) tall and more than 1.8 m (6 ft) wide. If you find the lateral branches of your tree are infringing on your space, trimming them from the bottom will help reduce the amount of overhang above your pool or spa.
Pruning, however, does not solve the larger problem at hand, which is the fact deciduous plants lose their leaves in the winter and open up views of your yard to adjacent properties—nullifying the very notion of your privacy screen. As such, many homeowners opt for evergreens in place of deciduous plants. These trees are a more costly option, but provide year-round privacy and greenery. You should, however, factor in the size of your garden when selecting an evergreen specimen. A 1.5-m (5-ft) evergreen plant, for example, comes with a hefty root ball, which could require a 0.8-m (2.5-ft) hole (at minimum). As a result, you may find the size of your garden will dictate how large of a specimen you are able to plant. For instance, if your backyard’s interlocking deck is complete or your pool is already installed, you may realize you do not have enough space for the machinery required to dig the hole—or bring the specimen into your yard for that matter. When it comes to using trees, shrubbery, or other plants as a privacy screen, you need to determine your budget first, as well as your overall level of patience for the plant.
Getting funky with metal screens
Using sheet metal as decorative privacy screens that double as art installations is a growing trend in the world of landscape design. This option is highly customizable; you can tailor these screens to suit your size requirements, colour preferences, patterns, and overall level of privacy. Metal coated with patina can contribute to your winter value, with the beauty of the rust popping when contrasted against white snow, or installations can be lit up at night to add dimension and depth. Placing a metal piece in front of a stark wall or within a darkened corner can create a conversation piece. In addition to its versatility, metal privacy screens are incredibly durable. These installations can last more than 30 years in your backyard landscape—you can even pack them up and take them with you if you move.
Unlike wood, metal does not need to be kept flat; it can be bent, curved, rolled, welded, and hammered, making way for light columns, blacksmith-style features, and globes. The material can be manipulated and incorporated to be more than simply a functional aspect of your yard. You can also use metal art installations to control sight lines or to allow light into a basement when the installation is set inside a deck.
If you are not a fan of rusty patina, consider aluminum or stainless steel. These shiny surfaces will reflect light and play with shadows. Additionally, metal can be painted any colour. If you like a raw metal look with an industrial-appearance, you can clear-coat the grey surface to prevent it from rusting. Alternatively, if you would like the piece to match a wrought-iron fence, you can paint it black. If you would rather it match the off-white trim of your home, you can paint it beige. The choice of contrasting or blending the installation is up to you. Metal screening provides you with endless options in regards to versatility. If you are interested in creating a softer style, you could consider blending metal with wood and framing the installation with posts or beams. Framing metal-on-metal can also give you a unique, customized look.
What option is right for you?
Budget, quality, and creativity all play major roles when designing your backyard oasis. While you should always plan ahead when installing a fence or plants for privacy, metal screens allow for more flexibility. These types of installations can easily be incorporated into your landscape design after construction is complete, so there is no need to rush the decision. When it comes to selecting your choice for outdoor privacy, a professional, creative designer who is well-versed in the available options can help you find the solution that is right for you. Whether you select wood, plants, metal, or a combination of these materials, be sure the design evokes a sense of peace and beauty and reflects your personality.
Dusil Design Bio
photos courtesy Dusil Design
[CAPTION] This bonsai tree design shows how a plain wall can be used as a canvas. The art is displayed on three panels, set 55 mm (2 in.) off the white wall to let the design play with shadow effects.
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[CAPTION] This metal screen consists of a modern, simple design to offer privacy for spa-goers. Set between existing plants, the installation has more circles cut near the top to increase airflow.
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[CAPTION] Positioned in a front courtyard, this decorative steel screen allows air to circulate while also creating visual separation from neighbours and traffic.
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[CAPTION] At 4.3 x 2.1 m (14 x 7 ft), this ‘Horse-in-Tree’ screen provides privacy, as well as contrasting winter interest with shadows cast on the snow.
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[CAPTION] Deck insets offer an interesting option for metal installations. Set in weathering steel that is 6.4 mm (0.25 in.) thick, this leaf pattern breaks up a monotonous deck.
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[CAPTION] A versatile material, metal can add interest in the garden in a variety of ways. Whether lit up at night or reflecting afternoon sunlight, this mild steel globe is an impressive sculpture, capable of brightening dark corners.
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