Carson Arthur’s top ideas for improving your outdoor space on a shoestring budget.

Carson Arthur knows a few tricks when it comes to decorating on a dime. The outdoor design and lifestyle expert has helped countless homeowners get more enjoyment from their homes on the shows Room to Grow and Green Force. “Our outdoor spaces are part of our homes and need to be treated as living spaces, not just areas for plants and flowers,” says Arthur, whose latest show, Home to Win, launched this April on HGTV Canada

We asked the landscape design guru for tips on creating a welcoming outdoor space on a lean, first-time-homebuyer budget. Here’s what he said.
Use your outdoor space to address indoor needs

“I always ask homeowners to first list all the things they wish they could have for the inside,” says Arthur. “Adding living spaces that you will actually use in the backyard is paramount.”

Maybe your cramped dining room is a tight fit for the large Saturday-night dinners you dream of hosting. An alfresco dining area would truly enhance your enjoyment of your home!

Design around a deck or patio

“Start with the biggest deck or patio you can afford,” suggests Arthur. “You’ll always find ways to use it.” Decks and patios define backyard zones and are the obvious spot to set up your dining or conversation area, as well as a backyard grill station.

Consider privacy

“Rarely are urban backyards completely hidden from the neighbours,” says Arthur. “Sit in your outdoor living spaces. Look around to see who can see you, and then decide where you need privacy panels and screens.” You can find wallet-friendly lattice, trellises and screens at your local home improvement centre. Or if you’ve got a pergola or gazebo, hang outdoor curtains. Even tall planters can block sightlines into a lounge area.

Choose accessory upgrades as your budget allows

If you can’t afford a complete outdoor-room overhaul, prioritize purchases based on your budget. Birthday money from Mom and Dad? Treat yourself to an outdoor carpet. “You can define any space by adding a carpet,” Arthur says. Saved a few hundred dollars by cutting back on your restaurant habit? “A large umbrella makes a sunny space more bearable and acts as the roof of your outdoor room, drawing the eye down, into the space,” explains Arthur. Finally, if you’ve saved $2,000 or more, upgrade to a quality outdoor furniture set. Ensure the longevity of your investment by choosing one designed for our climate. “Look for aluminum frames,” says Arthur. “They withstand the Canadian elements better than iron-based pieces. Take a magnet with you to check the frames: aluminum isn’t magnetic.”

Think vertically on condo balconies

“Condo balconies are all about multi-functional furniture and vertical spaces,” says Arthur. “Choose storage benches that you can add pillows to. Go for inexpensive built-ins that maximize the floor space. Consider planting on the walls, instead of putting pots on the ground! Make the most of the small footprint by keeping everything off the floor.”

Try these quick and easy ideas to inspire your inner landscaper

Mulch under a large shade tree,covering the bare ground. Add a bench for a fantastic spot to escape this summer heat.

Install solar spotlights. Position them so they highlight the best features at the front of your house. Illuminate the backyard, setting the mood further with a combination of decorative string lights and lanterns.

Plant vegetables in containers on your patio for an all-summer salad bar. If veggies aren’t your thing, fill various sizes of containers with colourful annuals for a show-stopping insta-garden.

Add a simple water feature. It will bring soothing sounds and a sense of calm to your outdoor oasis.

Connect your outdoor spaces with a path,which can also draw attention to plantings.

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