Terra Firma  - Home and Terrace
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Style at Home
May 2008

Style at Home

Patio Revival

Garden designer Lisa Aiken breathes new life into a Toronto condo terrace with lots of perennials. When terrace and garden designer Lisa Aiken of Terra Firma Design was asked to make over a little-used, nearly neglected condo patio in Toronto's upscale Yorkville area; her aim was to create an outdoor living space that offered her client maximum relaxation and minimal upkeep.

"Because the condominium is quite small, it was important to expand the living area outside." says Toronto-based terrace and garden designer Lisa Aiken of Terra Firma Design about her client's 830-square-foot interior. Before she could make the most of the 18- by 24-foot exterior space, she needed to clear the deck. First, old evergreen trees and soil-filled planters were hauled away.

Then the dilapidated wood decking was replaced with ipe, a Brazilian hardwood that requires no sanding or staining, just an annual oiling. Wooden picket fencing was exchanged for custom iron railings.

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

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  • Perennials were high on the homeowner's wish list. "A lot of people don't realize you can keep perennials in containers," says Lisa. On this terrace, a new birch tree, hostas and hydrangeas are permanent fixtures year-round. More delicate plants, like ferns, geraniums and some herbs, "won't last outside but could be brought in for the winter," she says. Aside from creating a stunning year-after-year display, the assortment of greenery also answers the desire to keep maintenance to a minimum. "Other than needing water, these plants are completely self-sufficient," she says.
  • Lisa designed the terrace to be enjoyed from the inside and out. "Outside the bedroom, I added a stone foun- tain to create a spalike sound, which also helps drown out the traffic noise at night," she says. She also positioned a birch tree and other greenery just beyond the glass: "I wanted my client to feel like she was waking up outside."