Turn your garden into a second living space with pretty patios, lavish lawns and versatile verandas. Here’s how to make your outdoor space ideal for entertaining and a peaceful refuge.
Now that summer is firmly here, many of us want to leave the confines of our houses and retreat to the outdoors. Peaceful corners to read in and stylish areas to bask in the sun are the dream. With long, warm days to enjoy, more and more of us are also entertaining in our gardens, with sunken fire pits, hi-tech BBQs, pizza ovens and even outdoor kitchens all the rage. According to Houzz UK’s 2018 Landscaping Survey, three in five homeowners spend more time entertaining outside after completing landscaping projects, so there’s never been a better time to create the ultimate al fresco space.
Declan Walsh, managing director at Morsø UK, which offers a range of modern outdoor ovens and grills, agrees: “Al fresco cooking is a favourite of mine – there’s nothing like making your own homemade pizza or grilling steak and vegetables on an open fire, and then once your guests are positively full, continue the evening by gathering around toasting marshmallows. Adorning your chairs with fleeces and blankets means that when the evening starts to get cooler your guests can cosy up while still enjoying spending the evening outdoors.”
From Dunelm’s 1950s-inspired bistro set to Indigo’s industrial tables and benches, there’s a wonderfully wide range of furniture available on the high street to add a sense of style to dining outside. Charlotte Cosby, head of Creative at Farrow & Ball, also advises uplifting old furniture with splashes of colour to liven things up.
“Applying colour to old furniture, summerhouses and bird boxes, is a simple way to breathe new life into outdoor spaces,” she says. Try painting furniture in statement colours like Charlotte’s Locks for a dramatic look, or create a work of art in the garden by painting plant pots in Pelt, Studio Green and Drawing Room Blue to make them an unusual decorative feature.”
Matthew Brown, Sandtex’s technical consultant, also gives his view on the rising trend of using colour in the garden. “While moss greens and browns blend effortlessly into natural surroundings, there has been a rise in the demand for more brightly-coloured exterior paint. Why not upcycle your old furniture in a bold pillar-box red or perhaps a striking Oxford blue? Colour is a great way add to add character to any outside space.”
Meanwhile, at Valspar Paints, Kasia Wiktorowicz, marketing manager, gives her advice: “Consider the space your blank canvas and bring it to new bloom with creative and brave colour choices inspired by the flora around you. Shades like coral, light teal and yellow are growing in popularity as more and more DIY enthusiasts look to use their gardens as a platform to showcase they individuality.”
LET ME ENTERTAIN YOU
Wyevale Garden Centre’s garden furniture buyer, Caroline Mann gives her top three garden tips
- Patterned cushions, knitted throws and floor lanterns are a simple way to dress your outdoor space.
- Look for furniture with enhanced offerings such as built-in ice buckets.
- Dining sets in subtle shades offer the perfect blank canvas for those looking to play around with colour.
For smaller gardens, a beautifully curated patio can bring the feel of the Mediterranean to your home. Invest in a variety of pots – such as the terracotta tubs and tin vessels from Petersham Nurseries – and fill them with blooming plants and flowers. Source brightly-coloured bistro sets and wicker alcove seats from John Lewis, while for a more urban feel, there is a varied selection of contemporary furniture and compact BBQs at The Conran Shop.
When it comes to underfoot, Stone and Ceramic Warehouse’s Boardwalk Porcelain paving tiles offer a practical solution. Chris Grainger, managing director, explains:“Boardwalk porcelain pavers offer a high-technology alternative to natural or composite wood decking. They feature a simulated wood grain finish, which differs with every tile, making them very realistic and are durable, frost-proof and anti-slip as well as being fade, stain and fire resistant.”
While lush lawns are heaven to look at, the upkeep can be a problem for busy homeowners lacking time. Consequently, in recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the trend for artificial grass, with sellers, such as Carpetright, reporting an increase of 25% in sales over the past year. The company’s buyer, Jemma Dayman, explains:“With its natural, vibrant and lifelike appearance, artificial grass offers homeowners a cost-effective way to take pride in their outside space, without the hassle of maintaining it. While it gives a similar underfoot sensation to the real thing, it is very child and pet friendly, with busy parents not having to worry about mud and mess after rain.”
For larger gardens, you can add a ‘living room’ feel with corner sofas – like those from Neptune – and Chesneys’ outdoor heaters. Christopher Wray’s modern solar lighting is a good way to add interesting features, while Shimu’s scarlet Chinese lanterns bring an exotic touch.
Tandine Rawkins, design director at Extex, sums it up:“Look at your garden as an extension of your indoor living space. Consider longevity when designing your garden. Although it’s fun to follow the latest trends, it’s important to create your own unique garden style with pieces that you will love for years to come.”
THE INSIDER’S VIEW
Tasha Green at Weaver Green gives her top tips
- Comfort – use lots oflovely outdoor scatter cushions, floor pillows and rugs to take the hard edges off outdoor furniture and benches.
- Lighting – soft candlelight in rows of jam jars and storm lanterns look amazing. You can also buy excellent solar and battery fairy lights for outdoor use, but ensure they are the ‘warm white’ colourway so the light is not too harsh.
- Hidden corners – create little areas to escape the madding crowd. I love using rugs as roof canopies to create cool shaded areas over dining tables or benches.
MY TOP TEN GARDEN ACCESSORIES
Large Mediterraneo Bowl, £75, alittlebitofalmosteverything.com
Terracotta Bird Ball, £49, conranshop.com
Tassel Fringe Hammock, £49, ellajames.co.uk
Ceramic Rose Lantern, £73, graceandgrey.co.uk
Bulkhead Copper Sconce Wall Light, £289, industville.co.uk
Links Pouffe Fuchsia, £195, nisiliving.co.uk
Links Cushion Cobalt, £70, nisiliving.co.uk
Provence Navy Rug, from £40, weavergreen.com
Brighten Patio Chair, £169 for three pieces, wyevalegardencentres.co.uk
Handmade Silver Peony Planter, £28, ellajames.co.uk
This article is also published in the August 2018 issue of The Cambridge Edition Magazine