Monthly Archives: June 2015

The best Father’s Day gifts for the backyard

Father's Day is right around the corner, and you know what that means – it's time to pick out a stellar present. This task is easier said than done, though, and you can only buy so many golf balls and ties before dad gets bored. This special day is positioned right at the beginning of summer, meaning that gifts he can use outside in the backyard are downright perfect. Need a little inspiration? Look no further. 

A high-tech bug trapper 

Bugs are attracted to three things: florescent lights, carbon dioxide and humans. You can't do much to distract them from the last of those, but special bug traps address the first two. One, called the Dynatrap, sits right on your patio dining table, draws pesky mosquitos in with light, then sucks them right in. No citronella needed. 

A new grill

No explanation necessary. Every man loves a grill. If you're feeling ambitious, you might get dad a charcoal grill or a smoker egg instead. 

New headphones 

Headphones only become more and more relevant as media are accessed from phones and tablets, and quality certainly impacts your listening experience. One example? Cutting the grass. Dad would probably enjoy the activity more with AC/DC blasting. Pick a pair that are renowned for their noise-canceling capabilities. The only thing louder than hard rock is a lawn mower. 

A remote-controlled lawn mower 

Or maybe he doesn't want to mow that lawn at all. It's OK – there's a remote-controlled mower for that. 

A hammock

Did someone say nap time?

Surround sound for the patio

You may not have imagined MMA-watching parties happening in the backyard, but dad probably has. Why not make his dream (begrudgingly) come true with surround sound and a big TV? 

Whiskey for the outdoor bar 

No man will turn down a bottle of Maker's Mark, and it's even better sipped on the rocks while seated in a chaise lounge than it is in the kitchen. If the outdoor bar is looking a little sparse, buy dad a few cocktail ingredients he can appreciate. 

A barbecue-of-the-month membership

It's hard to get tired of cheeseburgers, but it happens to the best of us if we grill frequently enough. To spice things up (literally), opt for a barbecue of the month club membership, which will deliver a totally new cut of meat and accompanying ingredients each month. *Drool*

A waterslide 

We all have a little kid inside of us. Trust us – he'll love the slide more than any children.

A floating cooler 

After dad's done splashing around, he probably wants to kick back with a cold one. Make this even easier with a floating cooler, which he'll be able to tether to his raft. And hey – you'll probably get some use out of it, too! 

See? Backyard gifts are great for dad on his special day. What's even better: He can use many of them right on Father's Day. 

7 Ways to Fight Boredom with Backyard Feng Shui

This year, I pulled out my backyard furniture and set it up the same way I always do. I’ve had the same patio furniture for a few years, and have grown comfortable with my arrangement.

Comfortable, and bored.

I began to wonder if there was a better way to organize my backyard furnishings. A way that would not only spice up my tired design, but improve my standard of living, since I spend a good amount of time in this space during the summer.

The art of Feng Shui came to mind. This historic practice has helped me rearrange my outdoor furniture in a way that wows visitors and revitalizes my entire home. Feng Shui is the ancient Chinese practice of harmonizing a person with his or her surroundings. The organization of a home, office, or garden can help direct the energy of the space, according to the philosophy, to develop positive energy that can affect a person’s emotions, relationships, and overall well-being. Using Feng Shui principles to organize your backyard can help you feel relaxed in your space and make the most of your time outdoors.

If you’re looking to enlighten your backyard experience, here are a few Feng Shui backyard design and patio ideas to get you started.

1. The mountain is behind and water is in front

This is the No. 1 rule in Feng Shui for outdoor spaces, and it can be interpreted in many different ways. Feng means “breeze” and Shui means “water”, so many of the design tips that originate from Feng Shui are designed to improve the flow of these two elements.

If possible, design your yard with the larger pieces–trees, fences, large fixtures–away from the house, and fill in the space with smaller items, like shrubs, flowers, and fountains. Keep this in mind with furniture items as well, placing a large hammock or umbrella behind potted plants or chairs.

Helpful tip: Plan your backyard with flow in mind. Using a Bagua Map, plan out the pathways from the entrances fanning out toward the back edges of your Feng Shui backyard. This includes from the house and from other entrances like gates. You want to imagine moving from the entrance to the back with ease, including clear lines of sight and winding paths that emphasize flow and relaxation.

2. Clear barriers from your doorway

Chi, sometimes spelled qi, is the life force energy in Feng Shui that dictates much of the design rules. Chi should be allowed to flow freely, throughout the yard as well as between indoor and outdoor spaces.

To maximize the flow of positive energy through and around your home, keep the door to the backyard free and clear of barriers. If you are doing some landscaping, avoid planting large bushes or trees near the door. Move your outdoor sofa away from the door and open up the space to the whole yard, instead of dividing the patio and the lawn with a physical barrier.

Helpful tip: Think of your Feng Shui backyard like you would a room. You want it to be inviting and welcoming when people, including yourself, enter the area. Obstructions and clutter can cause stress and interfere with the chi. Think of air or water flowing from the entrance through your space with ease.

3. Improve your wealth with water

Feng Shui expert and co-founder of the Feng Shui Institute of the Midwest, Carole Hyder, says on her blog, “One of the features that is almost a requirement in a Feng Shui garden is the element of water.”

She says that water represents flow, movement, and eternity, and is the place from which all life arises and returns.

Water in Feng Shui is said to bring wealth to a home, as well as improve your yard’s chi. Try to add a water fixture or two to your backyard. A small fountain or pond is desirable, but a bird-bath is another smaller option. Hyder also says, “Japanese gardens use rocks to give the illusion of water. If having water of any kind is out of the question, then a dry bed may be the right answer.”

Helpful tip: An important element of Feng Shui involves locating important elements in key parts of your space. This includes water. The southeast, east, and north parts of your Feng Shui backyard are great places to locate water features. This puts the water in a positive place in relation to other elements of your yard.

4. Build a tranquility fortress

Your backyard should be protected from the elements. Air, wind, and noise pollutants should be reduced as much as possible using natural barriers. In ancient times the Chinese built their villages in the valleys of mountains, which provided protection from natural elements and enemies. Today, trees and rocks are commonly used to secure backyard sanctuaries.

Rocks are a popular barrier building material as rock is said to deflect negative energy and provide a sense of stability and security. Stone walls around pathways, stone steps, and rock gardens are some suggested ways to protect and privatize your outdoor space.

Helpful tip: Blocking outside noises from your backyard will help enhance the energy of your space. Planting trees and building walls also help to make your Feng Shui garden, backyard, and home more comfortable and energy efficient. When building natural barriers, consider planting trees in the direction of the afternoon sun and the direction from which the strongest winds tend to blow. This will help cool your home in the summer and warm it in the winter while also serving as a calming sound barrier.

5. Don’t let the dextral tiger dominate

In Feng Shui, the dragon resides on the left of your property while the tiger lives on the right. The rule is that the tiger should never be higher than the dragon, or else the tiger can invade your home and cause mayhem.

Although it isn’t possible to elevate the left side of your house above the right, you can practice this principle in your design. Move taller items, such as your outdoor sofa or end table, to the left side and leave smaller items like the coffee table on the right when arranging your patio furniture. Left and right are determined from your position looking out from the doorway entering the yard.

Helpful tip: If you want to add greater dimension to your Feng Shui backyard, building up part of your yard using stone steps is a great way to elevate the left side, even if only by a few inches. You can also utilize garden boxes and other elements to add height to the left side of your space.

6. Allow energy to wander

Another principle in Feng Shui is that a pathway to your home or garden should be like a meandering stream, not a straight road. If the path is too straight, the chi can pass by too quickly, missing your home. But a curvy path forces the chi to slow down and enter your home, bringing positive change.

Hyder also cautions, “If there are parts of your garden or yard you can’t get to or don’t access, something is going to be dormant in your own life.” Use pathways to access even the more hidden or hard-to-get-to corners of your backyard to help open up your own life.

Helpful tip: Paving pathways is a great way to add energy and positive elements to your Feng Shui backyard. Flagstone and other similar materials help to add stone to your space and are also helpful in building meandering paths to help the energy flow through your space. Combining clear lines of sight with lower features in front of taller features in the rear and meandering paths help create an open space with a relaxed flow.

7. Utilize bagua to choose colors

Bagua color theory is a tool that associates colors with the five elements–Earth, Fire, Metal, Water, and Wood–to create nine zones. When the zones are balanced, one will find well being, but over- or under-emphasis on any zone can create dysfunction.

With Bagua, each color correlates to characteristics that you can bring to a space. For health, invite warm yellows and light browns. Blues are connected to one’s life path and career. To ignite your relationship, introduce fiery reds and passionate pinks. Bagua color theory is used to create harmony and beauty, and can break up any color monotony settling into your outdoor space.

Helpful tip: Going back to the first tip, the best thing you can do when designing your backyard using Feng Shui principles is to first map out your space. You can use Bagua essentially as a map of your space with the elements lined up in specific areas.

There are two ways to orient your Bagua map. The more traditional way is to use compass directions, like having elements that affect your career in the north portion of your space, for example. The other way to orient your space is to organize it from the entry of the space. You can start with the entry to your backyard, or you can start with the entry of your home and include your backyard as an extension of the design beginning at your front door and running throughout your home and yard.

Summary

The basics of quality design apply to more than the interior of a home. Outdoor spaces are becoming active living areas, and a boring design can stop conversation and inspiration in its tracks. Try experimenting with different outdoor furniture arrangements or introducing new items into your backyard design; perhaps you’ll find yourself experiencing a more balanced, positive life as a result.

There are different ways you can get started. You can start small with a new arrangement of your outdoor furniture using Feng Shui principles, which is a great way to experiment. When you are ready, you can design your entire space with these principles in mind to help put every element of your Feng Shui backyard in harmony. Either approach will help make your space more interesting and enjoyable.

Spring cleaning, backyard edition

You clean the living room, you clean your bathroom and you clean your closet, but have you ever thought about cleaning your … backyard? It might sound a little ridiculous, but sprucing up your backyard can go a long way when you're trying to set up shop for the summer. Think of it this way: Your patio builds up more grime than any other part of your house, so it needs the most TLC. Before you put that spring cleaning list away for the season, make sure you add a couple of these items to your agenda. You'll be glad you did at your next pool party – trust us. 

Whack the weeds

Sprucing up the backyard starts with a little landscaping TLC, and that includes getting rid of any weeds that have crept up over the winter. Don't limit your "weeding" to rogue plants, either – many times, stray twigs, branches and trash accumulate in backyards too, so make sure to pick those up as well.

Start with plastic

Even if you have a great selection of outdoor sofas, you probably still have a few plastic lawn chairs hanging around for big parties. After being cooped up inside all winter, they tend to get a little gross. Use a power hose to get all that gunk off and start summer fresh.

Hit the deck

Next up, it's time to clean off your deck. Spray a cleaning solution (one that is wood-friendly or made specifically for decks) on the slats, then hit it with your hose. This gets rid of existing grime and helps ensure more won't build up over time. 

Perfect your patio umbrella 

You probably had your outdoor sofa cushions and umbrella stashed inside during the winter months, so make sure they're clean when you bring them out. The same goes for your hammock – especially if you left that outside, then it definitely needs to be washed. Simply lay it flat and hose it down with gentle soap and water.

Fire up the grill 

Now that grilling season is back, make sure yours is nice and clean before cooking that first round of burgers. Start by wiping the exterior off with a little soap and water, then fire it up to let any extra char burn up. That's it! 

Freshen the pool 

Last but not least is the swimming pool. The most important part of this process is cleaning the filtration system and baskets. Fill up any water that's evaporated and have the chemicals rebalanced by a professional. (Trust us on this one.)