(BPT) - In the midst of the winter we love to think of the summer as this idyllic time when we live barefoot under the sky and everything is perfect and beautiful. Then when the summertime comes, we find ourselves complaining about too much sun, being too hot or bugs - and stay inside in the cool AC to avoid them. The good news is you can create a cool, shady and even bug-free spot for yourself, no matter the size of your outdoor space or your wallet.
Natural tree shade
Before building a patio or deck canopies, take another look at your yard. Perhaps nature has a solution. If you don't have a nice tree already, consider planting one. Trees provide natural canopy, especially during the summer when they have the most leaves.
If that is not an option or you want to enjoy shade while your newly planted tree is growing, take a good look at your backyard and think of how and when you want to use the space, which will help you pick the right solution.
A freestanding umbrella, grouped with a table or a chair, will provide shade for alfresco dining or a morning coffee. Also, a bright umbrella can add a splash of color to your home's exterior. Most umbrellas can be easily moved, so you can block the hot sun from any direction or stow it away when not in use.
For a more traditional and permanent option consider a custom-made pergola. They can provide a real sense of having a room outside that is either open to the sky, air and nature, or fitted with a Somfy automated system of fabric or slats. You can also screen the sides of your pergola for added privacy or insect protection.
Think low maintenance materials such as acrylic trim boards, fiberglass columns and woods such as ipe and redwood. This way you can enjoy your pergola rather than spending time cleaning, scraping and painting it.
For a tropical option at a fraction of the cost, go with a cabana that you can pick up at most outdoor furniture stores. Customize your piece with outdoor fabrics in colors or patterns that match the style of your home. Pack it up and store it when the weather turns cold or if you're expecting a storm.
Motorized retractable awnings powered by Somfy are a great adaptable option, which allow you to enjoy the sun or shade, whenever you choose, at a press of a button. Maximize energy savings by having your awning react to the weather or a schedule set by you. Automatic sensors will also protect your awning during high winds or rain by retracting it.
Tension fabric shade sails can be ready-made or custom designed. Select durable material and make sure that the cloth is pitched to allow rainwater to fall off of it. Water that collects in the middle of the cloth sail can stretch the fabric or damage the system. Design it so you can easily take down the fabric canopy and store it for the winter, especially in climates that get ice and snow.
If you already have a covered patio or are adding one to your home, consider integrated, automated screens to keep the bugs out, and/or to provide additional sun protection. This option gives you a useful space no matter the weather, year round.