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Shady solutions to staying outdoors in the summer heat

From canopy beds to DIY awnings, we consider the options.

As the heat and humidity climb steadily higher, it would be miserably tempting to think that your garden or terrace is now off-limits. But why give up your outdoor living space when you don't have to? Clever shade solutions will extend its life into - and beyond - any long summer of discontent. From large pergolas and awnings to DIY shade alternatives and canopied furniture, there are many ways to both keep your deck cooler and screen out sunlight. Fixed canopy awnings can be great, while retractable awnings offer the most versatility, allowing you to create shade as you need it.

Of course, a simple way to quickly but effectively create shade is to choose pieces of furniture that include an umbrella or their own awning, and there are many attractive pieces that go beyond the old swing-seat: among them, B&B Italia's Canasta sofas have an optional sun canopy, and Dedon's quirkily elegant Summer Cloud is more like a swooping canopy with a languid sofa attached than the other way around. Dedon's Daydream bed is indeed dreamy - an outdoor cocoon that is comfortable as well as chic and would look equally good in pairs or displayed on its own.

At Pottery Barn the umbrellas are a far cry from the boring parasols of old: made from durable, fade-resistant Sunbrella fabrics (awarded a Seal of Recommendation by the Skin Cancer Foundation), they're rectangular or round and come in vivid stripes. Gandia Blasco's Ensombra parasol and Dedon's Parasol line both boast simple umbrellas that are oversized enough to shade more than just a table. The simple use of large pieces of fabric or cloth to provide shade dates back to ancient Egypt and it's still one of the easiest and most stylish ways to create a respite from the heat. Always go for pale shades, which deflect the heat.

Going a step further you could create a romantic pavilion or vintage-style gazebo to offer not just shade but a comfortable place in which to dine, relax and entertain. The old marquee or portable tent as gazebo finds a fresh new look in Karma Deco's beautiful Edwardian colonial-style canopy. It's perfectly simple - a swathe of sheer but tough undyed ecru canvas anchored by four branch-style poles, high enough and wide enough to cover even the biggest outdoor dining table, or to shelter a play area or a lounging area strewn with large cushions. In Karma's store they've hung shells around the edge to pretty effect; you could also try hanging coral from the beach on string or ribbon clipped to wooden clothespegs.

Or plant your own shade. Do as they do at Ladera resort in St Lucia, West Indies, or at any number of hotels in the Greek islands - use nature's own canopy to create a dappled, cool shade using trees, plants and all kinds of greenery, and conduct everything you do outdoors beneath it. In many ways, trees and plants are the best shade system of all, at once shading large areas, providing privacy and giving your garden or a terrace a leafy edge. Bougainvillea and jasmine are the prettiest options among the plants that are tolerant of the UAE climate, although anything floral will never provide as much opaque cover as foliage. If you don't want to dig, provide movable shade and an enticing element of greenery with trees or palms in large planters. Or set planters along the edge of the deck to serve as a screen. Aim for a layered effect by grouping planters of different sizes, either in two parallel lines or in clusters.

Choose terracotta, ceramic, wooden, fibreglass or concrete pots to protect roots from the heat of the sun - and avoid black plastic pots because they cause the roots to overheat. And remember to repot every year or two (but only in cooler weather) to allow room for growing roots.

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