By Kieran Juska
As summer approaches, so too comes a natural yearning to spend more time out of the house. Even if you don't have -- or can't afford -- a traditional deck or porch, you can create cozy, cordoned-off areas even in the most modest backyards that invite informal gatherings of friends and family.
Choose the most secluded spot in your yard -- say, under a tree or in a natural nook -- and furnish it with a few chairs and a table. Enhance the intimacy by adding lower, flowering bushes or even just a few tall potted plants around your seating area. To establish a more distinct border, you can use gravel, flagstone, or brick, depending on your taste and budget. With a little more effort, you can even create an outdoor "room" of sorts by mimicking the look and feel of indoor walls or ceilings with basic garden structures, such as wooden pergolas or lattice fencing.
When weighing your options, consider how your family will use the outdoor space. If it's mainly for dining and entertaining, it makes more sense to choose a spot closer to the house for easy access to the kitchen. If the goal is to create a relaxing spot to read, lounge, and nap, position it farther away from the house (with its ringing phones and everyday hustle and bustle). Here, a few more ideas for creating a garden getaway all your own.
Weathered teak chairs and a bench, aged naturally to a classic gray, are set on a beautifully landscaped stone patio in the shade of several trees. Lush white hydrangea bushes help define the space and create a dramatic backdrop.