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Made for Shade

Sunny summer days are just around the corner, which means it's time to think about staying cool. A good shade over your lounge area or dining table can make all difference as the temperatures rise. Here's a rundown of three smart ways to block the sun so you can actually enjoy your outdoor space.

Cantilevered Umbrella

I find cantilevered umbrellas to be more versatile and flexible than center-post styles. And I love they way they make outdoor seating arrangements feel more open. There is an enormous range of sizes, colors, quality levels, and prices out there. I chose this 11' Aluminum Cantilever Round Outdoor Patio Umbrella by Hampton Bay from Home Depot in midnight blue for our deck at Greenleaf. I like it's size (it easily covers our rectangular dining table and seating for six), its stellar reviews, and the bonus of built-in LED solar-powered lights for a bit of ambient lighting after sunset.

Shade Sail

If you're looking for something a bit more permanent than an umbrella but less involved or expensive than a pergola, a sail shade like this one from Love Story via Amazon is a great solution. Available in triangular, square, and rectangular shapes in a variety of sizes and colors, these stay-in-place canopies are minimalistic and easy to set up or remove. Most block UV rays, but note that not all are waterproof. Keep in mind that you'll need sturdy supports to clip each corner into. Whether you're aiming to attach the shade to the side of your home, a fence, or a stand-alone post, use fasteners that are designed for the wood, stone, brick, etc., where you plan to place them.


A cedar pergola provides shade in this Brooklyn backyard garden. Image courtesy Staghorn.
A cedar pergola provides shade in this Brooklyn backyard garden. Image courtesy Staghorn.

A custom-built pergola not only provides ample shade, it also functions as a focal point and gathering place for your outdoor space. Pergolas can be simple and minimal or they can be dressed up with latticework and climbing vines. To let some light through, opt for smaller slats along the top or wider-spaced planks. For full overhead protection from the elements, choose a closed top with a slight slant for drainage, like the one pictured above. Cedar, ipe, and metal are my preferred materials for these structures for their longevity.


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