Arbors to Aboritums

Need some relief from the Summer Sun? Adding shade can cool areas down by ten degrees and cut down on your air conditioning usage. Wait! Before you run out and grab an army of umbrellas lets look at some more permanent options: Shade Trees and Arbors.

Both of these options will cool your yard and house for years to come. When is it right to plant a tree and when should you build an arbor? Often we face the challenge of needing shade and having to choose between planting trees or using their wood.

It is all about location and time; if you have space and the time, trees are an incredibly long lived addition to your property. Choosing the right species and size is important. In other cases, arbors are much better suited to the house or the time limits.


Decks and Arbors

In our project Relaxed Entertaining, we faced the dilemma of “arbor versus tree.” The property has an incredible Meadow Oak in front that shades the driveway. However,  in the back, there was a diseased pine and a tall redwood at the very edges of the yard. The house temperature even in early summer was too hot, and we wanted to solve the problem without having to use air conditioning most of the year.

Which Wood?

When I lived in the Pacific Northwest, lumber is varied and locally sourced. Here in Sonoma County, we have readily available redwood and pine. Which material is right for your project? Well, it depends on the maintenance you want to do and the budget for the project.

In this project, we were lucky enough to source our wood from Oregon. The red and yellow cedar boards are just exquisite. This natural wood will last a long time and can be stained and sealed to prolong it is life.

Julio the carpenter and his team did a great job building the deck and adding in details that highlighted the materials. This is where “design build” really has an advantage; allowing for the skill of the carpenters to add to the original design resulted in a far superior product.



Choosing the size of the deck is another consideration. First, decide what you will be using the deck for entertaining, BBQ, hot tub, or all of the above? Then, design the space accordingly.

In this project, we wanted to use the arbor had a dual purpose: to shade the house and to allow for large family dinners with a dozen people or more. Overall the final design and product worked well.


Where is your favorite tree or arbor? Ours is at our local winery Gundlach Bundschu, it's next to the insectary gardens and offers a great spot to drink a glass of wine!