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How to Enjoy Your Outdoor Living Space Into the Fall

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Summer might be over, but Jess Zavaglia, co-principal of Larchmont-based landscape development and design firm Zavaglia Associates, shares how to enjoy your outdoor living space well into the fall. 

“I always design so that you have the opportunity to enjoy your space at any given time. A way to do that is to create visual interest hotspots in your garden,” she says. Incorporate colorful plants in the fall for a pop of color, Zavaglia advises, adding, “Certain plants have beautiful bark and have different architectural features.”

A recent project by Zavaglia Associates featuring a fireplace, pergola, and versatile seating elements.
Photo by Fotos by Failla

With everyone craving extend time outdoors this year due to the COVID pandemic, Zavaglia says she has been creating spaces for clients with portable firepits and portable furniture. “People are moving their spaces around all the time,” she notes.

Zavaglia will incorporate an ottoman outside, using it as a seating area, or as a place to put a tray with s’mores. For privacy, she suggests purchasing a pergola: “They give you some shade but they also give you an opportunity to create an outdoor living space with awnings and lighting features.” She has also been installing heat lamps in pergolas, lanterns in trees and in sitting areas, and adding café lights. “We create these little vignettes,” she explains.

Jess and Tony Zavaglia, principals of Larchmont-based landscape development and design firm Zavaglia Associates. Photo by Gigi Gatewood

Zavaglia says that lighting plays a big part of extending your indoor/outdoor spaces since the backyard gets darker earlier in the fall and winter. Choose a heating lamp that will provide a lot of heat, or pick one for visual interest, with minimal heat, she says, noting that, “You have to look at how much heat it conducts.”

The mom of four shares, “When I’m outside enjoying my space and my kids are happy, nothing makes me happier — and that they’re off the electronics.” As families have been spending a lot of time together lately, Zavaglia recognizes that kids want their individual space. She suggests adding an old swing to a large tree or creating an interest-based area. “We’ve been doing a lot of basketball courts. We built a hockey rink [for a client] that he could use all year round. [For] a kid that loves science and nature, you can [create] a science exploratory garden,” she suggests. Zavaglia says spaces like these and family-friendly activities, like s’mores night around the portable firepit, can keep everyone entertained outdoors in the seasons ahead.