Shade Sail

May 13th, 2010

Now that the house is getting painted and the exterior is slowly coming together I’ve started to think (once again) about shade sails. While the above installation is not the most glamorous example of a shade sail, the structure and design is pretty similar to what I’m considering installing in our side yard.

Residential applications are a little less industrial and hazardous looking…

Our side yard takes a beating during the long summer days and could use a bit of relief from the desert sun. If we create a little outdoor dining / ping pong recreation area I’d like to alleviate some of that intense heat with a pair of rectangular gray sun shades that are attached to the eaves of the house and then strung out and fastened to three large metal poles cemented into the ground.

Instant shade.

Here is a mock-up in Sketchup of what I’m sort of thinking :

I’ve been looking around at shade sail manufacturers and found Tenshon whose 9′ x 14′ shade might just work perfectly in grey. At $169.00 each they are not totally unreasonably priced.

Here are some examples of Tenshon shade sails :

I haven’t been as impressed with the quality, pricing and color options (as well as size customization) at other manufacturers, but I’m still looking around.

It’s probably premature to start really planing this project (but I just love to plan and then get depressed waiting to do it for real) so my question for you is:

Has anyone installed a sun shade? Any tips or things to be weary of? Is this look dated or is it awesome?


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  1. Tonia on 05/13/2010:

    I think that it’s awesome, if you fear of it being dated at some point, you can always take it down with you tire of it, and put it back up when needed. But guess what? It’s your home, and looking fabulous no doubt. Side note: I’m going to have to get a little better at using Google Sketchup

  2. ugylgirl on 05/13/2010:

    These are pretty popular in Australia because they also help reduce your air con requirements in summer.

  3. Jason on 05/13/2010:

    Love it.

    I thought I had more to say.

  4. Alex on 05/13/2010:

    Hey there! I have been following you for a couple months. I think your house KICKS some SERIOUS BUTT! You have truly inspired me!
    I have purchased a triangular shade sail to install here this summer and think they are pretty cool. I agree that there isn’t much choice in color or sizes. I chose tan/cream because there is a lot of color happening already out there. I, too have been stressing about how to install it, mostly because I don’t want to kill the garden and I want to be able to retract it. I will keep you updated!

    Good luck with everything! Looks FANTASTIC so far!


  5. Brismod on 05/13/2010:

    We had shade sails at our last house. You just have to be mindful of the durability/UV rating. Ours was light-coloured and was prone to mould (we have a humid climate) but it was super-strong even though it was about 20 years old. It could withstand the cyclonic winds and hailstorms for which our climate is notorious. Cheap sails deteriorate very quickly and it only takes one bad storm to tear it to shreds. As for the look – it’s kind of timeless if it serves a much needed purpose and they are removable…

  6. Amanda on 05/13/2010:

    Hello!! I can’t vouch for durability, but IKEA has shades like this – they’re called DYNING and come in a rectangular and triangular shape for only $25. Might be a cheap way to try it out!

  7. Suzy8track on 05/13/2010:

    Looks awesome not dated.

  8. LaShaune on 05/13/2010:

    I think Brismod answered my concern about durability in hot-as-hades Houston weather (always humid) and this seems like the most awesome and cost effective option to my ghetto-ass patio cover that’s up now.

  9. Catherine on 05/13/2010:

    I love it. I wish we lived somewhere warm enough to have one.

  10. S@sha on 05/13/2010:

    The triangular sails are becoming pretty common around here, but I can’t think of an application that’s rectangular like you are proposing. I think it looks great. The only problems I’ve seen was an inadequately sized support post that couldn’t withstand high winds and bent from the tension the sail put on it.

  11. kevin on 05/13/2010:

    You might try a local source: Shademaker 859 9th st. in San Jacinto 951-654-0841. Been in the valley for over 35 years, same owner. They make everything in-house, custom…Support your local businesses!

  12. erin@designcrisis on 05/13/2010:

    Karly just installed some in her yard — she posted about it here.

  13. tracy on 05/13/2010:

    we have two – only installed one so far – and we’re very happy with it. the hardest part was putting up the pole.

  14. Jenny on 05/13/2010:

    My 69-year-old dad made some for their home almost 10 years ago. He told me he found the fabric by the yard at Home Depot and used my mom’s old sewing machine. He ties them up wherever he sees fit–sometimes to a tree, sometimes to fence posts, always moving them to his whims–and takes them down in late autumn, and they are still in pretty good shape.

  15. April on 05/13/2010:

    We got interested in this idea when we saw some similar material making shade at our local nursery. Only it’s black and you can see through it…
    Here’s a kind that is “knitted” and would allow for air movement as well as provide shade. And it comes in a few colors…

  16. Angela on 05/13/2010:

    Overstock: Good price to test it out. And they have grey.

  17. Alaina on 05/13/2010:

    Yes, that would make a very lovely outside area for you. I don’t like the triangular ones, but the rectangular ones you have on sketchup look awesome. I would just be concerned about securing them really well because I know how the wind can get out there.

  18. JJ on 05/13/2010:

    There you go taunting me with your sketchupertise.

    The sails would be awesome. Brilliant idea.

  19. Maya on 05/13/2010:

    Shade sails rule, and I think rectangles will look awesome. Maybe with unobtrusive lights underneath? I know your abiding hatred of fairy lights, but think how nice dinner would be under these:

  20. Erin on 05/13/2010:

    Very very cool idea.
    Careful how you anchor them to the building. If you get any wind it could do some major damage if they are just anchored to the masonry or fascia. I am not a structural engineer but get enough grief at work about windload whenever we talk about canopies. No big deal…just make sure you get it into something sturdy…or take them down if any wind storms come up 😉

    But great idea. Can you get them translucent like you have in your model. Be cool to see them overlapping each other if they can be translucent…

  21. stefanie on 05/13/2010:

    Totally stinkin’ awesome. I’ve been considering some for my place as well.

  22. karly / design crisis on 05/13/2010:

    we just installed 2 sunshades a couple of weeks ago and I love them. I ordered online and accidentally got 2 different materials (my fault) but I didn’t really care because I figured I could see how well each wore then re-order the one I liked best. 2 weeks in and I already have a clear winner: the one with the looser weave. One has a tighter weave and is more of a nylon so rain can’t get through and it pools in the center weighing the sail down. it doesn’t rain here often so it’s not a huge deal, I’m not rushing to replace it. Anyway, just look for one that rain gets through evenly.

    Also, don’t stress about it, they’re cheap enough that it’s not that big of a deal.

  23. ryansmith on 05/14/2010:

    In my experience, Tenshon shades are unreliable and break easy. We had so many issues with ours – after a while in the sun, the material became cracked and eventually once winter and a big storm came, it snapped in the wind and suddenly you have one corner (including the steel fastner) flapping uncontrolably around the yard smashing windows and stuff.

    I think your option A looks SO much better anyway – the black, the squared angles. That’s my vote

  24. Suzanne on 05/14/2010:

    Re-iterate what someone said before – common in australia. Check the UV rating on anything you put up, and dark colors are a must. pales get filthy way easy.

  25. amy t on 05/14/2010:

    i don’t know much about them but i’m thinking that one thing to consider which several posters have mentioned is the wind load and stability. I imagine that the sails need to be strung with very high tension cables (thus the name tenshun?) to keep them taught. so installation is probably tricky. Also, the sails take their shape from the tension cables, therefore they are not straight rectangular shapes. certainly worth the research for some awesome summer shade!

  26. THE BRICK HOUSE on 05/14/2010:

    Yeah, my rendering is not perfect. I’m having trouble with curved shapes! There you have it. Everyone has outed me.

    I know they won’t be true rectangles…it was more for the visualization.

  27. krista on 05/15/2010:

    I’ve never installed one but we’ve been thinking about them for our yard. (the more to fend off some light portland rain then to protect from the sun). I think they can look great and with the design you have come up with I think they will look fabulous in your landscaping.
    Please keep us posted on what more you find out, especially if you implement them.

  28. Timothy on 05/15/2010:

    Some of them look like G Strings. That is all I have to say, which is kind of perverted.

  29. April on 05/16/2010:

    Ok, after spending the last 45 minutes making a very simple version of our house in SketchUp, I am totally blown away by your renderings…

  30. susie on 05/16/2010:

    Shades would be great…go for it. Bigger question: How does the inside of your house relate to this outdoor space? Looks to me like you need to walk around from the back of the house (out the utility room?) Have you thought about opening up that side of the house, maybe via the dining room, to connect inside & out?

  31. THE BRICK HOUSE on 05/16/2010:

    You do have to go all the way around. Putting a new door in would be a complete nightmare. The masonry is bull nosed at each opening and we can’t match it and there is a pretty big step down since we are on a raised foundation. I think it would be a huge investment and wouldn’t ever really look right.

  32. Ms. Meadowbroke on 05/18/2010:

    love the idea! we have been thinking about this as well, i’ve seen some images where the fabric continues and hangs down to the ground. So in your case they would hang down in front of part of your fence, I love this look its so dramatic.

  33. FROM THE RIGHT BANK on 05/18/2010:

    I think it’s a great solution for you and they are surprisingly reasonable in price. And damn, your sketchup skills are insane!

  34. Peggy on 05/24/2010:

    You are awesome! And I do *so* apologize! I should never have tried to make corrections! My sincerest apologies to you. It has been a long time but I wanted to apologize none the less.

    Your style and your execution is spot on mid-century! Thank you for maintaining. Good on you for sharing your talents with the blogosphere.

  35. Jen on 05/24/2010:

    We got ours from Overstock, and in our crazy sun-filled Arizona summer, it’s super durable. Good quality, good price.

  36. Shaun Ken on 09/10/2010:

    You should check out the sails at this site: The products are more expensive than what is talked about in this blog, but they do a lot of commercial and residential work. Their custom shade sails are of the highest quality. They’ll even assist with design and specifications for attachment points and poles. Great Company!

  37. Arizona Shade Sails on 03/08/2017:

    Thank you for sharing, lots of great information you have.

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