There’s no better time than the height of summer to stylize your garden according to the latest trends. From making your green space a holiday destination in its own right to recreating a festival feel at home, the latest gardens have the fun-factor firmly at their heart.
When the sun is out and the weather is balmy, there’s nothing like eating al fresco for feeling that bonhomie that only summer can bring. One major trend that has gained momentum over the past few years, and which perhaps has encouraged us to dine outside continental-style, is the popularity of rattan furniture.
Once only found in the confines of conservatories, the new weather-proofed rattan furniture has suddenly reinvigorated our garden dining rooms, transporting us from mundane to Miami. While, well-established homeware stores, such as John Lewis (www.johnlewis.com) and Neptune (www.neptune.com) sell an interesting array of styles, from traditional to modern, if you are after a cohesive garden look with matching sofas and loungers, it’s advisable to head to a rattan specialist, such as White Stores (www.whitestores.co.uk), which stocks a huge variety of styles and price points.
The rattan fashion also lends an organic, ethnic feel to our green spaces. It’s a trend that has been echoed from many of this season’s catwalks and can be boosted with tribal-print pillows, tablecloths and floor cushions. Choose a colour palette of burnt oranges, taupes, blacks and browns, animal prints and geometrics to bring a touch of the exotic into your garden.
It would not go unnoticed that many of these hotel-like tables and chairs would not look out of place in a chic dining room. It’s a marker of how the lines between garden and home have become blurred. To complete the homely feel outdoors, source garden rugs (available from Go Modern, www.gomodern.co.uk), footstools, large garden mirrors and even ornamental chandeliers to bring the indoor-look outside. Ornamental wooden dining tables, such as the Versailles teak dining set from Alison at Home (www.alisonathome.com) and the modernist, lava grey Core range at Go Modern (www.gomodern.co.uk) are alternatives to the rattan style but are also high in the style stakes and are poles apart from traditional patio furniture.
“Summer entertaining is no longer confined to one area of the home,” points out Nicola Gidlow, buyer for outdoor living at John Lewis (www.johnlewis.com). “It often involves using the kitchen, dining room and garden to host your guests. To add a sense of unity between the areas, harmonise your indoor and outdoor accessories by using complimentary cushions, plant pots and decorative accessories,” she advises.
Rob Mead, head of marketing at White Stores, agrees: “There has been a growing leaning towards the garden becoming a true extension of the home. Living-room style furniture – such as the large sofas and feature daybeds from 4 Seasons Outdoor – are really popular at the moment. The comfort factor is also high in importance – large cushioned recliners, cosy chairs and dining sets, such as the Valentine & Brighton range, all give a feel of relaxing and set a hotel-like scene. Style harks back to the 60s, with a pop-art feel.”
This 60s influence is indeed another key influence this summer. The brightly-coloured Acapulco Chair (shown above, available from www.boqa.com), for instance, made from woven, vinyl cord is in vogue again. First produced in the 1950s and gracing many homes and gardens come the early 1960s, the design classic comes in a huge choice of shades, from turquoise to popping pink, and their retro-modern aesthetic suddenly looks of the moment again.
Jenny Hurren, director of home emporium Out There Interiors (www.outhereinteriors.com) has also noticed the ‘60s influence: “The trend for retro furniture has spread outdoors this year in a variety of ways. We’ve noticed a resurgence in popularity of intricate and open weave rattan in various colours. These lightweight and eye-catching chairs and tables are perfect for creating informal lounging and dining areas on your patio or lawn.”
Meanwhile, for smaller gardens, affordable bistro sets are good options for dining à deux. Choose candy-coloured metal, such as the Joules Garden Furniture Set from Garden Trading (£115, www.gardentrading.co.uk) and the Primrose Garden Furniture from Oliver Bonas (from £59, www.oliverbonas.com) for a young, vibrant look. Alternatively, choose an ornate wrought-iron style, such as the Chatsworth Bistro Set at Dunelm (£79.99, www.dunelm-mill.com), for a more traditional, French-inspired theme.
John Lewis’s Nicola Gidlow continues: “If you have a balcony or small urban garden, bistro sets make an ideal choice. They can fold away when not in use and are available in a wide range of colours and materials.”
Advising on creating the perfect dining space, Inga Lukauskiene, designer and owner at Linen Me (www.linenme.com), which sells fine linens for the home and garden, says: “Use vibrant, colourful tablecloths and napkins when eating outside and decorate tables with scented candles and seasonal flowers to create the perfect summer garden party. It’s also a great idea to have plenty of throws and cushions on hand to ensure friends and family feel warm and cosy when the temperature drops. Remember not to iron your table linens if you use them outside, the natural linen wrinkles make them unique and even more special.”
Combining the best elements of your garden – a space to be at one with nature and your own private escape from the stresses of everyday life with a practical, social purpose – means that the garden has become our go-to space when we want to relax.
Enhance the comfort factor by investing in garden corner sofas, deep seated chairs and oversized day beds, such as Marks and Spencer’s Navita Zigzag Day Bed, which also channels the ethnic print theme already mentioned (£1,399, www.marksandspencer.com). Maximise the time spent outdoors with a feature patio heater or authentic clay chimnea. Hang hammocks in pretty prints between trees (a selection is available from www.outhereinteriors.com) and set up reading corners with piles of brightly-coloured pillows and cushions.
Janet Dixon, chief designer at fabric and homeware specialists Barker & Barker (www.barkerandbarker.co.uk), comments: “Use colourful, eye-catching fabrics in the garden with strong statement designs to create a bright focal point and bring the comforts of the inside outdoors. More and more of us are wanting to expand our living spaces to the garden, lazing by the pool sipping champagne seems the perfect way to spend an afternoon. How to recreate this can sometimes be a challenge as size and space can be an obstacle. Where possible try to create areas that are going to be used for different activities such as eating, sitting and relaxing. Large comfy sofas, coffee tables and a fire pit will be the perfect place for friends to sit and chat over a drink, while dining tables can turn a summer BBQ into a more elegant, yet informal space. Add mood lighting in the form of candles or solar lighting to create a cosy and intimate atmosphere.”
You can also make a bold and dramatic statement in the garden by contrasting bright textiles and accessories with black fencing and dark wood decking. More commonly seen in Japanese-inspired gardens, the use of black provides a stunning backdrop for plants and gives a modern edge to a garden.
For those wanting to maximize relaxation time, it’s also essential to keep your garden low-maintenance, with easy-to-manage hardy plants and by using quality materials that don’t need a lot of upkeep when it comes to patio and decked areas.
Trex eco-friendly decking is low-maintenance and high performance making it ideal for creating stylish spaces with the bonus of being hassle-free (www.trex.com/uk). Bryan Fairbanks, executive director of International Business Development at Trex, explains more: “If you want to spend more time enjoying your garden, then choose low-maintenance materials that only need soap and water cleaning. As Trex is a wood-alternative decking, it resists fading, stains, scratches and mould growth. It is made from recycled materials so it doesn’t splinter, meaning you can go barefoot all summer long. It also comes a range of different colours. So if you fancy a Tuscan villa feel, then we can provide it with the Tiki-Torch shade. Trex can handle the outdoors for decades, so you can spend weekend after weekend relaxing in the comfort of your own home.”
Outdoor spaces can also be livened up with the clever use of colour. Sarah Cole, director of paint experts Farrow & Ball (www.farrow-ball.com) gives her advice: “You don’t have to have acres of land or lots of garden furniture to create an inspiring outside area. Even repainting a window box in a bold colour, like Charlotte’s Locks, can upgrade the look and feel of an exterior space. Look at metal railings, wooden summer houses, and masonry walls as potential areas to freshen up with new shades of colour. For a stylish and considered look, try replicating the themes used in your interior rooms outside. Carry on a natural feel by adding shades of Cooking Apple Green or Dorset Cream to wooden benches, or celebrate a love of contemporary design by using cool greys such as Dimpse on exterior walls.”
She also advises: “Accents of strong colours like St Giles Blue, Brassica and Babouche make outside areas look fun and exciting. Try painting garden furniture Arsenic for a dramatic look, or create art outside by painting garden stools in a strong pink like Nancy’s Blushes.”
Ramp up the fun-factor in your garden and you might begin to see it as an alternative mini holiday destination (if the sun shines that is!). Can’t get away this year? Then create a staycation in your garden and invite your friends around to share in the good times.
Give a holiday-at-home feel by sourcing brightly-coloured picnic wares, floral prints and seaside-inspired accessories, such as those found at Sainsbury’s (www.sainsburys.com).
Lauren Bennett, Sainsbury’s outdoor buyer reveals her inspiration this season: “Striped picnic blankets, white wicker baskets and kitsch floral cushions are all at the heart of this summer’s collections. They can be paired with Memory Lane’s melamine outdoor dining range for the perfect outdoor dining experience with friends and family this summer. Practical and stylish, our new paper tableware ranges offer trend-led products, such as candy-striped straws, honeycomb pom poms and sundae bowls, along with napkins, plates and cutlery, making outdoor entertaining both easy and affordable.”
Add a touch of humour into your outdoors with witty accessories, such as the Swedish brand Garden Glory’s garden hoses, which come in pink, black, grey, white and gold with reindeer wallmounts (www.gardenglory.se). While, giving fairytale connotations, are the fairy and fleur-de-lys garden spikes and handcrafted twig-like garden benches at Des Res Design (www.desresdesign.co.uk).
Adding interest and reflecting the changing landscape of a garden are the affordable, mirrored sculptures from In Spaces (from £290, www.in-spaces.com). Meanwhile, you’ll find a veritable feast of enlivening goodies at quirky homeware brand Cuckooland – from its fun weathervanes to rainbow-hued hammocks, hanging globe chairs to Aztec-inspired outdoor rugs.
Combining a retro feel with a nod to the good old seaside holiday is the return of the classic deckchair, albeit jazzed up with inspiring prints. Check out John Lewis for retro styles (www.johnlewis.com), Smart Deco for arty, contemporary versions (www.smartdeco-style.com) and Out There Interiors for pastel prints (www.outhereinteriors.com).
“Deckchairs are ideal for adding a sense of fun and injecting some colour into your garden,” says Nicola Gidlow, buyer for outdoor living at John Lewis. “This year we are selling frames and slings separately and have a range of eye-catching designs from Missprint.”
Swings, hanging chairs, giant outdoor games, colourful tents and playhouses also add a sense of joy and playfulness to a garden. For something extra special, Master Wishmakers create luxury bespoke treehouses, gazebos and playhouses (www.masterwishmakers.com). Brand and marketing director Nino Rosella comments: “Families want to introduce the fun-factor into their gardens but this process is rarely a seamless and personal experience – especially if it revolves around off-the-shelf products. Before designing even commences we believe it’s so important to really delve into the detail; who will use the garden and for what purpose? Only with details like this can we bring a client’s imagination to life. It’s this journey that allows us to create a product or environment that someone can cherish for years to come.”
If your budget doesn’t stretch to bespoke play-rooms, then don’t fret. Creating the ultimate summer garden is easy to do. String up pretty lights in trees, hang bunting, such as the practical Oily Rag bunting made of oil cloth (www.oilyragfabrics.com) which you can leave up all summer, and decorate tables with pretty linens and charming lanterns. It will give a festival feel and a hip glamping vibe.
Out There Interiors’ Jenny Hurren agrees: “Forget formality this year and create a fun festival feel in your garden with deck chairs, hammocks and swings hanging from trees. Think music, games, bottles of beer and kebabs barbequing on colourful bucket grills. Garland lighting adds to the festival feel and keeps your space inviting all evening long.”
Meanwhile, Hannah Browne, owner of Pastel Lane, an online emporium inspired by English country living (www.pastellane.co,uk), gives the last word on creating an evocative space: “With their flickering light, pretty lanterns look beautiful dotted around the garden and are an ideal way to enjoy those relaxed summer evenings for longer. Place free-standing lanterns on tables, walls and at the edge of pathways to create an inviting ambiance; lanterns also look great used as table centre-pieces, add flowers for a laid back festival style. Complete the cosy, party look with hanging lanterns; with their lovely warm glow they are perfect for nestling in trees.”
This feature also appears in the august issue of The Cambridge Edition Magazine, as part of my monthly series of features on interiors and garden style.