7 FEATURES OF A ROMANTIC YARD (Kudzu.com)

    In general, we don’t think of the words “romance” and “backyard” as being synonymous. Quite the opposite. People usually have to venture away from their homes to find that intimate, relaxing escape from life’s hectic schedule. But thanks to a growing new trend in outdoor living design, homeowners can now find the most romantic place on earth steps outside their back door — without need for a reservation, valet parking, or even a babysitter.

    Here are seven simple ways to transform your backyard into the ultimate oasis:

    A Room With a View

    The focal point of the backyard hideaway is a covered enclosure that facilitates perennial enjoyment of the outdoors, regardless of rain, snow, cold or heat wave. Popular warm season structures include wood or metal gazebos, pergolas, pavilions, and cupolas. These units are stand-alone, open-air buildings that resemble the wall-less skeleton frame of a house. Depending on your budget or aptitude, any of these structures can be kit-assembled or built by hand.

    The roof is where the real romantic tone can be set. A rugged, rustic retreat is capped with canvas canopy, latticed teak, or exposed bamboo beams. For a more dreamy, elegant setting, consider a stargazing-friendly glass roof, corrugated metal, or even thatched brush with shade-bearing flora like vibrant bougainvillea or leafy wisteria.

    An easy addition of diaphanous, tie-back curtains or colorful fabric panels sets the stage for a truly intimate experience.

    For cooler seasons, pergolas can be insulated with retractable, all-weather window screens, while patios and deck-top pavilions can be screened-in. A permanent option would be a fully-furnished garage-turned-casita with large-scale windows, and skylights — ensuring those inside can fully experience the beauty of fall’s changing leaves and winter’s deep purple sunsets.

    Courtyard

    Nothing says courtship like a beautiful courtyard. These run the gamut from elaborate open air atriums to cozy alcoves carved out of unused parts of a driveway, patio, deck or retaining wall. Today’s courtyard can be fenced, gated, hedged, or even screened-in with beautiful, antique dividers adorned with climbing roses or trailing vines. And they usually contain a large dining area or covered enclosure (pergola, pavilion or gazebo) to facilitate socializing.

    Mood Lighting

    The courtyard easily channels romance with Tiki-torches, hanging lanterns, rope lights, outdoor votives, no-wire antique sconces which eliminate need for wall-busting electrical work, candle chandeliers, rust-proof resin lamps, or simply the light of the full moon.

    Bring the Heat

    The piece-de-resistance of the romantic yard is a fire pit. This is where individual style and intention come into play, as the market for residential fire pits knows no bounds. They can be portable or permanent, above or below ground, gas or log fueled, and made out of any fire-resistant material on earth, from cinder blocks to corrugated metal, natural stone to reclaimed wood. But whatever design you choose, fire pits bring the heat and ambiance to any occasion.

    Comfortable Seating

    Thanks to cutting-edge technology in exterior home decor, being outside no longer means suffering from hard, uncomfortable surfaces. Outdoor sofas now sport tush-friendly cushions and pillows in all-weather, mildew-resistant fabrics. Mix match antique, salvaged pieces that already wear the patina of time and age with grace with more modern fixtures or even hammocks.

    No “Buzz” Kills

    As the weather warms up, nothing kills the mood faster than blood-sucking insects. Unfortunately, the smell of toxic pesticides is equally unappealing. One solution is to use non-toxic insecticides, like those made from pyrethrum — the organic extract of chrysanthemum flowers. This way, the only thing being repelled are Zika-carrying mosquitos, while the beneficial insects like bees and butterflies get to stick around.

    Outdoor Dining

    A home-cooked meal, made from fresh herbs and produce from the garden, as you relax in a courtyard gazebo is about as romantic as it gets. If you think you don’t have the skill or space to make that happen, a simple, no-till, no-frill single raised bed from cinder blocks or wood pallets can yield hearty perennials and herbs.

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