At this time of year (when the weather allows) many of us want to spend much of our time outside. With TV programmes such as Channel 4’s Inside Out Homes dedicated to linking the house with the garden it just underlines how important the space beyond the four walls of our house is and what an underused resource a garden can be. To make that valuable space outside work well there are a number of things to consider.
Key to being comfortable outside (I think) is the creation of cosy spaces to sit in. Whether using plants or structures such as walls, fences, or trellis screens to achieve this, there’s no doubt that the sense of feeling enclosed results in a more comfortable space to spend time.
On that theme, many of us are now overlooked by neighbours so planning screening along the boundaries or next to seating areas helps to create a sense of privacy.
Whilst it’s lovely to create enclosed spaces around a garden, there’s a balance between feeling cosy and feeling blocked in, so keeping views out of and through the garden are also something to bear in mind.
When I go to visit potential clients I am often struck by the fact that most gardens have a paved area outside the back door, then some lawn and all the plants are arranged around the boundaries of the garden. Bring them closer! There’s nothing nicer than having plants flopping over walls and paving near the house to add colour, softness and scent.
If plants are used to soften paths, there needs to be enough space to allow for that, so the paths should be built at a reasonable width (I’d say 900mm as a minimum without plants overhanging, but ideally I’d go much wider to allow enough space for 2 people to walk side by side comfortably).
The scale of entertaining spaces is very important – especially with the popularity of large outdoor sofas – so it’s important to ensure that paved areas are large enough to accommodate seating and tables and chairs.
Permanent outdoor furniture is great! It definitely encourages us to get into the garden more – even if just for a quick cuppa in the sun without the palaver of having to carry a seat outside specially. So create spaces to leave seats and benches in key positions around the garden and I guarantee they will be used all year round, not just in summer.
If space allows, it’s a bonus to have areas around the garden to enjoy at different times of the day. Evening is a key time for most of us to unwind and enjoy the late sun so I always try to design even just a small space for my clients to sit out at the end of the day.
Whilst we tend to focus on sitting in the sun in the UK – with it being such a rare treat! – it’s also important to create spaces for shade. And that may be something as simple as having a space under a tree to have lunch on a hot summer’s day.
I always encourage clients to include garden lighting in a new scheme – not just to create a lovely atmosphere when the sun has gone down, but to make it safe to navigate steps and paths around the garden.
As well as sofas, hot tubs, pizza ovens, firepits and even outdoor fireplaces, another recent trend is the addition of an outdoor kitchen to the garden. Moving on from the simple built-in barbecue, many companies now offer something far more extravagant – all-singing all-dancing outdoor kitchens complete with fridge, work surfaces, gas barbecue, kitchen sink ….
It’s definitely true that the Outdoor Room concept has come a long way, even in the last 10 years, and gone are the days for a lot of us being satisfied to cook a few sausages over charcoal and eat them from the comfort of a deckchair!!
Photo credits: Janet Bligh, Gaze Burvill