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(ARA) - Amidst the stress of the modern world, nostalgic gazebos are an increasingly popular addition to a deck, garden or backyard setting. A gazebo is a delightful place to retreat from the world, enjoy your garden, read a book or entertain friends. The sensation of being in an open, but sheltering structure is soothing and relaxing.

By definition, a gazebo is meant to be a "gazing room," an isolated structure intended to offer a panoramic view of the surrounding area. Gazebos were at their most popular in the Victorian and Edwardian ages. Some of the first to appreciate the luxury of a small structure in the midst of their gardens however, were the ancient Egyptian pharaohs. In China as far back as 4000 B.C. the Taoist religion revered beauty, and garden structures were natural and essential components. By the start of the Renaissance, no proper garden could be complete without its own outdoor structure.

When creating a modern-day gazebo, there are three ways to approach the project. Talented do-it-yourselfers can build their own structures. There are a variety of plans available in how-to books, magazines and from building material suppliers. Another option is to assemble a pre-fabricated gazebo from a kit. Many manufacturers offer these kits. The third choice is to find a designer/builder to come up with a custom structure tailored to your tastes and needs.

Whichever method you choose, be sure to use quality materials. Redwood is popular for gazebos because of its natural, built-in beauty, durability and decay- and insect-resistance. Do-it-yourselfers and building professionals enjoy using it because it is lightweight and easy to saw, shape and nail.

When building redwood outdoor structures, always use stainless steel, aluminum or top-quality, hot-dipped galvanized nails, fasteners and hardware. Redwood weathers more gracefully than most woods. Left unfinished it will weather to a driftwood gray color. Exterior finishes such water repellents, semitransparent stains and weathering stains enhance redwood's natural beauty and provide other color options.

The site you choose for your outdoor structure is perhaps the most important decision you'll make. You can show off the redwood gazebo, making it the focal point in the overall plan of your grounds. Perhaps you'll want to plan your garden around the gazebo, planting shrubs and flowers to enhance and highlight the beauty of the site. Or you can position your gazebo so that it is a secluded retreat.

Do you plan to eat and perhaps cook in your redwood gazebo? If so, you'll want to consider placing the structure near your kitchen. And you'll want to make the gazebo big enough to comfortably accommodate tables and chairs.

If you want climbing plants or vines to eventually envelop your project, you must position the structure on a site that provides at least four hours of direct sunlight daily. Southern and eastern exposures are the most desirable. Including lattice on the sides of your project and encouraging plants to climb up is an excellent way to create a shady spot. Lattice and slat style roofing are also effective ways of diffusing heat while still letting you enjoy the sun.

To get you started on your redwood gazebo project, the California Redwood Association offers detailed plans for a classic eight-sided gazebo featuring lattice inserts. Send $1 to California Redwood Association, Dept. GBA-05, 405 Enfrente Drive, Suite 200, Novato, California 94949. For general redwood information, visit their Web site at

Courtesy of ARA Content