Guest post by CHRISTIANE HOMQUIST on FEBRUARY 18, 2013

Whenever I see the shade sails in this garden, I have the sensation of floating through the landscape, as though the patio was a ship sailing past islands of colorful plants and fun activities.  I also think of comfort; activities beneath these sails are protected from drizzle, fog and sunshine without being weighed down by heavy beams.

sail shades protect from UV rays and unwanted viewsCASE STUDY IN LA JOLLA

In the above backyard landscape design, the installer designed a combination of 2 super-imposed sails made to specs from sun-rated HDPE (high density polyethylene) fire rated shade fabric, sage green, both in a triangle shape. After determining the specific angle that was needed to block out the noon sun, one sail tip was attached with a strong stainless steel cable to the 1st story façade of the L-shaped house; a second point of attachment is on the roof of the lower arm of the L, where the actual anchoring was achieved by attaching to the roof beams.  The 3rd sail tip is attached to a steel post with a 4’-6” foot-deep base set in concrete that is hidden among the bamboo culms. Together both shade sails are very efficient at blocking the sun of the dining area, and their swooping outlines impart motion and energy to the landscape.

These sails can also be mounted vertically to block out a bad view; in this project the sails served to screen out the neighbor’s house that was looming behind the fence.

In cases where there is no house or roof to attach the sails to, free-standing posts are planted to which the sails are attached.


The shade sails above were tested in a mock-up prior to installation. Other methods include “shade auditing” and  shadow mapping .


  • Protection from UV rays (some fabrics offer up to 97 % UV protection);
  • Custom designed to fit the project’s requirements, in triangle, or trapezoid/square shapes (some standard sizes are available);
  • They represent cool landscape ideas that add value to the home and attractiveness to the landscape;
  • They can serve as vertical screen to increase privacy or block out a bad view;
  • They can be designed and installed to withstand high wind ratings.
  • Low maintenance: Yearly washing is recommended (some installers offer this service).

Every component of a shade sail is designed to stand up to the rigors of day in–day out exposure to the sun.  Many shade sails also have an up to 10 year manufacturer’s warranty against UV degradation.


As landscape designer San Diego, I love the contemporary character of these structures, their playful and even elegant forms and subtle colors. They make for an artistic statement, be it in a Mediterranean landscape, an eclectic “California mix”, or the landscape design adorning a modern home.

Since the sails can be mounted on roofs, façades or free-standing posts not planted in a fixed square or rectangle, I enjoy the artistic freedom that this allows myresidential landscape design; these free-form shapes can totally transform a bland landscape into an architectural showpiece.