By HGTV STAR, Paul Lafrance

Something I talk about a lot when I’m doing design workshops is that I don’t really like to follow trends or adhere to them when I’m designing a space. The problem with trends is that they, by definition, change. If someone is planning to spend a significant amount of money on, say, their outdoor living space, they’re not going to want to make a huge investment, only to have to redo the whole thing in a few years when the trends change.

     When I’m meeting a client to talk about a new project, whether it’s for an outdoor living space or an interior renovation, the first thing I like to do, after the preliminaries, is to talk about them as human beings. What sorts of things do they enjoy doing? What activities or pastimes make them come alive? Are there any special memories that make them who they are? If I can discover something personal about my client, then I can incorporate it into their design, and those things don’t change with the constantly shifting tides of fashion and design.

     A few years ago, I designed a backyard oasis for a couple whose project was featured on Decked Out. To say it was an oasis is not an exaggeration. This couple had a normal suburban home with a pool in the backyard that was surrounded by an old pressure treated fence and a yard that was covered by aging interlocking stone. They loved the outdoors and truly wanted to be able to enjoy their pool and backyard—but it was dated, overgrown, and generally uninviting.

     I discovered that this couple had opted for an elaborate outdoor living space rather than finding and purchasing a cottage up north. This is becoming more and more common these days, with so many of us spending most of our time working and trying to keep up with our fast-paced culture. We simply don’t have the time to travel to a cottage or vacation spot to relax. Creating something inviting, personal, and relaxing that’s only steps out the back door is an ideal alternative.

     My clients in this case not only loved the outdoors, but also enjoyed entertaining regularly. Whether it be a few friends or a full-blown party, they wanted their outdoor space to work for both. They also loved the idea of having their backyard feel like a real escape from the everyday while encapsulating the feeling of being at a cottage retreat.

     We covered over the old patio stones with Trex composite decking in colours reminiscent of earth and sand, and built a raised lounge area that stretched out and overhung the edge of the pool. We also created a waterfall that ran out from under the raised deck and cascaded into the pool. 

     We installed a retractable awning for shade over the lounge area and a large dining area with a custom, slate-inlayed table for entertaining. Fire features, a custom built-in bar, a grilling station with back-lit onyx panels, and even custom built composite loungers completed this luxurious space.

     When it was finished, my clients couldn’t believe their eyes (or ears!) when they walked outside. We had truly created a place of rest for them right outside their door. Now, when they arrive home from a long day at work, they look outside their kitchen window and see a reprieve that is no longer out of reach!

     This is such a huge joy for me…to be able to exceed a client’s imagination and create an outdoor living space that is truly built to align not just with what they want, but with who they ARE! To me that is the key to creating a space that is truly timeless, and not affected by constantly changing trends. 

     We aren’t meant to be sheep following the flock…we are human beings, and no two are alike!