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Why a Garden Sail is Summer’s Most Useful Quick Fix

If it’s privacy, shade or colour you’re after for your garden, look no further than a stylish sail

Houzz Contributor. Editor in Chief of RealHomes.com. I am an editor, journalist,… More

Whatever your garden’s size and orientation, it can always be improved upon with a garden sail. Perfect for making a colourful focal feature of a dining or seating area, these fabric shades, pulled taut and generally fixed to three or four support points, will protect you from the elements, prying eyes, and the sun, too.

Extend the definition beyond the traditional sail idea (there’s a little helpful artistic licence in the selection below) and you’ll have even more ideas to play with. Here’s where to put yours (and why).

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Zone your garden
If your garden is divided into separate, defined areas for dining, lounging and planting, you can enhance this neat design trick with a sail (using it to shade the dining space makes most sense).

In this compact plot, added interest is created with different levels – an effect that’s exaggerated by the height of the garden sail, too.

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Crown a dining area
This garden dining area is reminiscent of a cosy restaurant cubicle, with the sail its fabulous finishing touch.

Which shape to pick for your space? Taut and triangular looks highly contemporary; floaty and square or rectangular is a little more country.

Dreamy garden dining spots to lure you outside all year round

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Carve out a shady spot
A white garden sail can provide just as much shade as a dark-coloured one –it’s really just a case of ensuring the material is dense rather than transparent. If you’d like your sail to keep a seating area dry, ensure the fabric is waterproofed, and that it’s taut and slightly angled, otherwise pockets of water will collect (then spill on you when the breeze picks up).

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Make yours adjustable
Sometimes you want shade, sometimes you want to lie in the sun. So rather than opting for a fixed garden sail or parasol (let’s face it, there’s always a bit of you poking out of that circular shade pool and the big ones are a pain to heft), why not invest in sails that you can draw backwards and forwards, just like you would a blind at a window indoors?

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Create a stand-in for trees
It’s not always possible to put trees in an exposed garden. Maybe yours is a tiny plot with little room for shade-providing plants; or a roof terrace with nowhere for their roots to go; or perhaps your neighbours are sensitive to losing light. Whatever, a sail will provide all the shade you need –exactly where you need it.

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Shade a sunny interior
If you’ve built a south-facing glass extension only to regret the odd sunny day we enjoy because it makes the room too bright for TV viewing, strategically placed garden sails will give you much-needed shade.

The impact on the garden and patio can be minimised by copying this sail’s cleverly designed, subtle frame.

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Merge indoors and out
If you’ve invested in sliding doors that fold right back to open your interior out to the garden, you can extend your liveable space – both visually and practically – with a sail. Put yours over a dining area, outdoor kitchen or seating space, but (note to self) not a barbecue.

Find decking, patio and shed specialists on Houzz

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Fill vertical space
A garden sail is a handy design trick that creates pace within a garden. Here, its height is adding interest to an otherwise low-level planting plan, while its boxy frame’s shape reflects that of the raised beds either side, creating pleasing symmetry.

On a practical level, it provides shade and shelter in a garden that’s otherwise free of trees.

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Provide privacy
Even the best planting layouts in the most mature of gardens can’t always provide privacy from a neighbour’s upstairs windows. Garden sails can, though. Putting one on poles is a good solution if there’s nowhere to attach yours – but a subtler solution is to combine your sail’s posts with the boundary fencing or walls, or to fix attachments to the house.

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Dress a pergola
If training climbing plants over a pergola is taking way too long for your liking, why not fill the gaps with a garden sail? A made-for-purpose fabric is great for year-round use, but you can easily swap it for a pretty print if it’s just a temporary splash of colour you’re after.

Shop for pergolas and arbours on Houzz

Tell us…
Shelter, shade, privacy? How would a garden sail improve your outdoor space (and if not a sail, what would you use instead)? Share your thoughts or photos in the Comments section.
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