Spare No Expanse

Don't let the bare exterior wall of a garage or shed dominate your yard. Give it a job to do.

By Shirley Remes

Photography by Bob Stefko


When designing an outdoor space, be sure to utilize any walls.Add function.

Build an overhead structure—a pergola or awning—adjacent to the wall to serve as a "ceiling" for an outdoor living space. Add a paved floor and furnish the space with colorful plants, lighting, and benches or other furniture. When set against the backdrop of a wall, a garden room gains a cozy sense of enclosure.

For a garden room that is as handy as it is beautiful, think of building an attractive potting table with shelves for storage. Equip it with a stylish array of tools and pots.

Scott Freres, landscape architect for The Lakota Group in Chicago, installed a French door on the bare wall of a garage that faced his clients' tiny downtown back yard. The homeowners fling open the doors during a party, installing a serving bar in the open garage where guests can mingle and enjoy refreshments.

Establish mood.

Staab hung a spectacular round mirror on the side wall of a shed at a client's home. Framed by an Asian-style trellis and awning, the mirrored wall sets the tone for the meditative, Zen-like space, which the homeowners can see from inside the house. "The mirror is like a mysterious portal," he says. "It reflects not only what is in front of it, but views from other spaces."

Color influences mood, as well. Bold, dramatic colors can be energizing and vibrant. Color schemes that emphasize green, on the other hand, are more subdued and restful, allowing architectural plant forms and textures to take center stage.

Fountains are perfect for building mood in a garden because the sound of running water is so soothing. A gurgling wall fountain beneath a pergola or a mossy statue in a reflecting pool captures the air of an old-world courtyard.

"View the wall as an extension of your indoor rooms," says Staab. "Just because it's outside, that doesn't make it any less important."