Terra Firma  - Home and Terrace
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Canadian Living 2007

Canadian Living

Lisa Aiken added an extension to her home but not with conventional bricks and mortar. As a professional garden designer and stylist and owner of Terra Firma Design in Toronto, Lisa set to work to expand her interior space beyond the brick walls of her Toronto home, built in 1840.

Coupled with the building skills of husband Andrew Smith of Andrew Smith Contracting and her own passion for garden design and decorating, the once barren patch of earth in the backyard evolved into a natural extension of their home.

Fencing, pergolas and lattice screens define the space and create airy, purposeful "rooms," which are decorated with garden-inspired furnishings and accessories. Flowerbeds, hanging baskets and potted plants add interest, colour, texture and definition along the red brick floor that leads from one end of the garden to the other.

Each summer nature takes its course and, with a little styling help from Lisa, the backyard sanctuary will once again provide months of outdoor pleasure. "Our garden now offers all the amenities of our home," says Lisa. "We live, cook, eat and entertain in our garden all summer long."

When buying and potting plants, Lisa suggests her clients avoid the cookie-cutter look by mixing it up. "Use fibreglass, iron, plain or glazed terra-cotta and stone, and use columns, pedestals and footed iron stands to create interest and height variations in groupings and throughout the garden," says Lisa. Here she created a striking vignette to naturalize a dark corner featuring large broad-leaf potted tropicals contrasted by bright white begonias and a brilliant pink hibiscus.

Click here to view photos "behind the scenes" for this story.

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Lisa's tips for Creating Livable Outdoor Spaces

  • When decorating your outdoor living space, treat your garden in the same way that you would approach your interior-by considering light, colour, texture, pattern and comfort.
  • Creating an outdoor living space can be as simple as placing a group of chairs facing each other in an open area where you gather with friends to relax over a cool drink or stargaze on a warm summer night.
  • Physically connect your home to your garden with French doors or sliding glass doors for a clear view of your garden.
  • Choose a colour scheme of no more than three colours. Mirror interior colours for a natural transition from house to garden.
  • Furnish with pieces that suit the purpose of the space. Use weather- resistant fabrics and furnishings.
  • Build garden structures for protection from the elements.
  • Lighting in the garden is just as important as it is indoors and adds function and esthetics to the space. Burn candles safely and protect them from the wind by placing them inside glass-paned lanterns and hurricanes. Install low-voltage lighting to accent the garden and provide task lighting in dining and cooking areas.
  • No garden is complete without the soothing sounds of water. Even the smallest water feature will enhance the setting of any garden room.
  • Mix it up and fill pots with annuals, tropicals and perennials.