09 Apr Design Driven Column: Beautiful Backyards

The original column was Published Saturday April 9th, 2011 here in the Telegraph Journal’s Salon

Notwithstanding the cruel and disheartening lapse back into winter that welcomed April, hope springs eternal, and I’ve been asked by several people of late about well-designed, unique, outdoor decor.


‘Twylight’ by RavenStar, left, Gus* Modern Lightbox, centre, and a Modfire outdoor fire pit.


Locally, of course, there is no shortage of six-piece, powder-coated, neutral patio sets complete with matching umbrella rising through the centre of a glass table, hanging baskets and patio lights. Not to mention lawn gnomes. But for those of us hoping to extend the love of strong design we’ve brought to our interiors to patio, deck and lawn, access to strong design in New Brunswick can prove something of a challenge, but only if you restrict your search to the big-box stores and local nurseries.

* Lighting: Rather than the ubiquitous patio lights or floodlights, why not consider a more dramatic sculptural source for exterior illumination. RavenStar in Upper Vaughan, Nova Scotia, is a small company that manufactures Twylights – warm wood lights. They’re made from industrial waste poplar trees and range from 2-5 feet. Twylights are a marvellous blend of sculpture and lighting. Each hand-sanded sheet of wood is unique; the surface retains individual tool marks, imperfections in the wood and features live edges. These lights are not all-weather, so they need to be brought in or covered when it rains. They run in the $200-260 price range and RavenStar’s shipping costs are very reasonable. www.ravenstar.ca.

Another option for outdoor lighting also functions as a stool, an accent table or even additional seating – the Gus* Modern Lightbox. Several of these low-lit, white roto-molded plastic, clean-lined boxes scattered around your deck or backyard would make for an intimate yet decidedly modern outdoor environment. They’re available from Terra Verde in Moncton or you can order them directly online – with free shipping! – from Modern Karibou at www.modernkaribou.ca.

If you’re drawn to ‘the real deal’ in terms of lighting – i.e. fire – I suggest a beautiful splurge: a ModFire outdoor fireplace. ModFire’s founder, Brandon Williams, is a metal artist based in Phoenix, Arizona, who came up with a truly marvellous design for outdoor fireplaces. These uber-modern sculptural fireplaces come in several colours: natural steel, deep red, blue and orange. Each unit comes complete with a gas burner upgrade. Although these dramatic alternatives to the increasingly common chimineas ship from the United States, the $89 shipping is reasonable. Visit www.modfire.com for more details.

* Furniture: If you are looking for some seriously well-designed patio furniture and you’re willing to pay a certain premium for it, visit Design Within Reach at www.designwithreach.com. I’m a particular fan of Philippe Starck’s new outdoor line, Play, for DEDON. However, if you find these prices a tad out of reach, there are less expensive options.



The hanging ‘Go Porch swing,’ left, designed by Greg Benson and Jeff Taly for Loll Designs, and Alfred Sung’s ‘Barcelona’s Modular’ collection of outdoor furniture.

One piece that stands out for me is the hanging porch swing designed by Greg Benson and Jeff Taly for Loll Designs. This collection is made from recycled plastic reclaimed from post consumer waste and can be recycled again.

However, for the most bang for your designer buck, it would be hard to beat the summer furniture list from Alfred Sung, available at The Bay and Zellers. At the Interior Design Show last January, I had the opportunity to try out Sung’s Blackwatch collection of faux-wicker, plaid outdoor furniture and I can attest to its comfort and style. See www.alfredsung.com/outdoor.>

Judith Mackin is a freelance journalist in Saint John New Brunswick. She also runs her own design, marketing and public relations firm, PUNCH Productions, and punchinside, the interior design branch of PUNCH. You can follow her blog at punchinside.ca, reach her at judith@judithmackin.ca or follow her on twitter: judithmackin.

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As always, thanks for reading.


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