Picture it. It’s a balmy summer evening. You pour yourself a cold drink, go out in your garden, sit down and just stare into space. You feel at peace. No thoughts wait to cross the zebra crossing of your mind. Your body relaxes and you feel pleasantly alive.
Such quiet moments have long been appreciated. In fact, a structure was purposefully invented for relaxing and gazing: the gazebo.
The gazebo is a Western interpretation of Japanese teahouses and Chinese garden shelters. Structurally, the gazebo is also inspired by small buildings the Dutch used to build next to canals. Even the gazebo’s etymology has diverse interpretations. Some say that the term – which was already in use in 1750 when British architects John and William Halfpenny published their book Rural Architecture in the Chinese Taste – is a linguistic joke in which the word “gaze” was given a Latin twist to make it sound more sophisticated. Others claim that the word is derived from “casbah” while others say that the origins of the word lie in the French phrase “Que c’est beau” (how beautiful).
Despite such diverse roots, the main function of a gazebo is simple and straightforward: a sheltered outdoors space for attracting cool breezes and encouraging calmness of spirit, contemplation of the present, and simply gazing.
If you can afford the space, building a gazebo is the best thing you can do to transform your garden into a serene and calm context. There are plenty of guides and plans online: however, don’t harbour any illusions that building a gazebo is a quick, 10-step easy process that you can complete in one weekend. Rather, a gazebo is a tricky structure to build. The best option would be to get a carpenter to build you one. However, if you have average carpentry skills, can handle tools and have plenty of patience, build it yourself: your investment of time and elbow grease will give you plenty of returns, including the pleasure of workmanship.
The main function of a gazebo is simple and straightforward: a sheltered outdoors space for attracting cool breezes and encouraging calmness of spirit
So, first things first: choose your preferred style. There are plenty of gazebo styles, from square and rectangular to hexagonal and octagonal. There are also endless variations when it comes to the pitch of the roof: you can build a flat, steep or latticed roof. Also, whereas gazebos were intended to be placed at the end of a garden, nowadays, it is accepted to place a gazebo near your garden door so that you can enjoy some al fresco dining. It all depends on the space you have and your taste. However, if you are a classicist, the traditional gazebo is octagonal and made of wood.
On paper, the structure of a classic gazebo looks simple: you have a freestanding, open-sided structure with a raised floor and a solid roof. However, this simplicity is deceiving and it’s best to invest a good number of hours into planning the structure. Do your research, consult guides and sketch your design. Decide on the size and choose your site: for the latter consideration, choose a level or elevated spot and avoid a low-lying area of your garden where water collects. Make a list of what materials and tools you need. Only then start building your gazebo.
Start by building the foundation and setting up the hub, which is the centre pile against which the tops of the rafters will rest. Then set up the other posts, spaced equidistantly. This stage is critical, especially if you are setting the poles in concrete, which means that it will be very difficult to correct any mistakes. Then allow the poles to set in the foundations.
This stage requires plenty of measuring and hard work. But once you’re ready, start setting up the horizontal poles and bracing everything together. This stage depends on the style of gazebo that you have chosen. However, if you have opted for a classic gazebo, the fact that it is an open structure makes it a bit easier.
For decking, you can either opt for tiles or else go for treated wood. While the former is easier to lay, wood is more traditional and befitting for a gazebo. The finishing also depends on the chosen style. You can put in benches and even lattices to enclose the gazebo on some of the sides. If you want to complicate matters, you can also install lighting, which is necessary if you are going to use your gazebo as a dining, reading or entertaining space.
For added luxury, you can install an overhead ceiling fan, a hot tub and even a mounted television. However, remember that a gazebo’s charm lies in its simplicity. If you want to watch your favourite programme or hang out with your friends, there is always the living room and the rest of the garden. But if you want to spend some quiet me-time, then keep your gazebo simple.
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