1. How important is shade in an outdoor area, particularly when discussing Maltese summers?
Since in Malta we enjoy long months of warm weather it would be wise to implement some careful planning to reap the full benefits.
Providing options for closed and open spaces will create both sunny and shaded zones. This will not only give you a more usable all year round outdoor space but will add interest to what otherwise could turn out to be an unstructured one dimensional area.
Sun orientation is essential to establish which areas will most need a shaded area. Is your garden north or south facing? Being in the northern hemisphere then southern exposure of the house is crucial to get maximum solar benefits. Do not forget that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west and is higher in the summer sky and lower in winter.
Locally we need shade from the hot summer sun so if your garden faces south be sure to implement efficient shading devices in this area.
2. Many people just use an umbrella or make use of a few trees to give shade and stick to these limited shady areas in summer. How can people maximize the use of their outdoor space by using other types of shade?
Shade can be achieved through various methods primarily either natural, trees, shrubs and climbers or manmade materials and such as incorporating concrete, wood, metal and glass structures.
Perhaps the most interesting solution is a combination of both, hard and soft landscaping. Consider all materials such as glass block, metal or wire mesh or more traditional ones like brick cladding, plastered coloured walls or hedges.
Plan to avoid any solid structure from being an isore, use them in conjunction with plants such as climbers on a trellis or softer shrubs on concrete.
3. I need to discuss terraces, roof gardens, gardens and pool areas. Could you identify the best shading for each area and how this kind of shade enhances these areas?
Terraces: If your space is mid size and only allows for either a covered or open area at one given time the ideal solution is a retractable canopy or rotating louver system which gives the option to let in as much sunlight as required.
Gardens & Roof Gardens & Pool areas: Creating shade that fuses into the existing architecture of the house can be a challenge. As a general rule I would say that if a shading structure is being preplanned or was an afterthought the result should read as an extension of the interior space. Variations of a simple post and beam wood structure can be easily designed to meet your needs. For example it can be divided into two parts solid and therefore opaque and partly slatted to allow partial sunlight filtration. The addition of a few hooks will provide the opportunity to attach fabric panels when the heat is at its most potent.
4. Are there are new devices or items that provide shade? If so, what are they and how do they work?
Apart from custom made items which provide the opportunity to have a product that is most suited to your space there are also many ready made alternatives available today. The standard awning now comes in most shapes and sizes and is available either fixed or retractable both manual and automatic. The most interesting I have come across on the market is a canopy with an inbuilt orientation mechanism which allows you to adjust it both vertically and horizontally thus providing shade from sunrise to sunset. Recent years have also seen the umbrella stand located on the side rather than in the middle leaving unobstructed space for loungers and dining in the center.
Davina Preca Interior Architect & Designer (BA) Hons UK
Images: Homefront in the Garden by Dairmuind Gavin