I've been playing with google sketch-up and trying to come up with a design for a shade structure in our backyard that is cheap to build, strong enough to withstand the winds we encounter up on the hill, complimentary of the house, and retractable in some way - a LOT to ask I know. Anyway, here are a few samples of what I've come up with thus far:
Here's the area that needs shade:
This design incorporates I-beans and metal square tubes or angle iron which would look cool, but makes it really heavy and expensive. Also not sure the cantilevered I-beams would work.
I like this one a lot as it's minimal in appearance but may not be up to holding off the wind - unless we drilled holes in the existing patio and sunk the steel posts well below grade - that makes this MUCH more expensive :-(
Obviously similar to the one above but more stable (but less minimal). The difficult aspect of this is how to attach the fabric and make it retractable. I've also seen my neighbors shade sail blow around in the wind like crazy which makes me shy away from fabric at all - which led me to move on.
To something along these lines! This design uses 1" square metal tubing for the uprights and angle iron for the upper "track" system. There are four (4) "trellis" portions on top, each designed using 2x2 red cedar (would love to use ipe, but too expensive) in 8' lengths that slide on the metal "tracks" (i.e angle iron) via stainless closet wheels attached to the ends of the wooden trellis work.
Here's another pic to help illustrate the sliding aspect.
And here's a close up of how the trellis sections would interact with each other and the tracks. I really like this from a function and cost aspect, but not as much from the aesthetic end.
On the east side of the house, I've also been dreaming of a front yard patio as the that side is nicely shaded in the late summer afternoon/evenings. I'm thinking metal edging with pea gravel or decomposed granite between saw-cut 2x4 ft texas limestone pavers as concrete is MUCH more expensive and a pain to form up.