Eyes Set on Summer

With only 12 weeks to go until "season" starts (read: the population in the area spikes by about 200 percent), we're already making spring and summer plans. The workshop schedule is almost complete. Residencies are being set up as you read this. And construction started Monday on some home renovations designed to contain the influx of creative types to this old house.

But I'll admit that even as we think large and pro, my mind keeps wandering back to lazy summer days spent on the deck with some nice lemonade and good company. And so I started doing some research on mui importante items like hot tubs and patio umbrellas.

A hot tub is going to require a little scrimping and saving, unless you're handy and want to have a go at making your own. But a patio umbrella? No problem! Whether you're interested in buying some to complete your deck design or building one custom, there's no shortage of inspiration.

The half umbrella is super cool for its versatility and ability to shade even tiny spaces. Don't have the $200 it takes to buy a beautiful new one? Make your own by cutting a regular patio umbrella in half. Just scour your garage and the local thrift shops, and use a tablecloth or some nice fabric you find as the shade. This is a great way to keep broken umbrellas out of landfills, and a fabulous conversation starter with impressed guests.

Market umbrellas have straight-edged canopies instead of hanging fabric valances. These shade-creators are popular in European cafes and markets. Consider how much ground you're trying to shade, the layout of your patio, deck or yard, and of course how much you can spend. You're only a few months away from summery bliss. And again: If you hunt through some thrift shops, Craigslist, eBay, and garage sales (weather permitting), you'll often find you're only a fabric-swap away from having a good-as-new patio umbrella.


Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.