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Stressed Out by Your Hectic Lifestyle?

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Escape to the solitude of your own back yard

Instead of spending money on an expensive holiday that may leave only fond memories, consider creating an outdoor living space that exudes the ambience of a year-round holiday in your own back yard.

Your imagination and your time are the keys to creating a retreat that entices you to linger outside. Best of all, you don't have to be a design expert to create a back yard that is functional and stylish. Look at the space of your yard and what you want to do there, and then let it guide you to figuring out what you need from it and what it needs from you.

For example, when you’re thinking of a patio and you have neighbours close to you, think of garden trellises, decorative screens or tall shutters to shield you from unwanted sights and sounds. By adding these elements, you're bringing in interesting patterns and colours. Depending on the material they're made from, you can paint these structures to either complement your home or to contrast it with bold colour. Or, if they're made of wood, you can stain them to enhance the natural grain while protecting them from the sun and weather.

If you entertain frequently, buy outdoor furniture that has many uses. Storage benches, for instance, offer group seating as well as a place to stow your seat cushions and other outdoor accessories, like recreational equipment or even lighting. Backless benches can be pressed into service for extra seating or you can use them as plant stands. Not only can an ottoman be used for storage, it can become more seating or serve as a table.

If you're not one for inviting guests over, you can still create a private little nook for yourself with a small accent table and a couple of airy, open back chairs—just enough to enjoy a morning cup of coffee, a good book or a cool breeze.

If you want to attract nature into your yard, invite the neighbourhood wildlife in with a bird bath, a well-stocked feeder, and houses that you can unleash your creativity on with paint and decorative elements, like stones or twigs. Just sit back in your patio and see who comes in.

Whether you just have a small patio off of your bedroom or a large patio that wraps around your house, you can turn it into an outdoor room of your own. The trick is to make it yours, make it a personal, comfortable, customised space that says, "This is me. This is how I relax." And you can do that by introducing the things you love gradually into the patio to make it your little slice of outdoor heaven.

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