Almost everyone enjoys spending time outdoors when the weather is fine, and I’m always looking for ways to make my garden more inviting. One of the best ways to do this is to design a functional and stylish outdoor summer space that is a natural continuation of the indoor space. Many of the general rules of designing outdoor summer spaces are the same as used with an interior, with a few essential considerations.
When designing an outdoor living space, here are a few things I keep in mind. Firstly, think about the purpose of the space. Will it be used for entertaining, relaxing, or both? Once you’ve decided the purpose of the space, make a list of what’s essential and what’s desirable. Lighting, water features, and items such as a jacuzzi, fire-pit or barbecue, will require power and plumbing, this will all need installing before the hard-standing goes down – so make sure it’s in the design early on. In an area for entertaining, there must be plenty of seating. Eating outside is a special pleasure, so think about space for a dining table, and maybe a covered bar area or small kitchenette. If you’re looking for a space to relax, it will need comfortable seating, maybe sun-loungers and areas of shade.
Before rushing out to look for furniture, it’s very important to consider the climate. If it’s a hot climate, you’ll need to make sure the space is well-shaded and has plenty of water features to cool the air – make sure it’s moving water through a rill or fountain; stagnant water is paradise for mosquitos! If it’s a cold climate, you’ll need to make sure the space is well-protected – stone or brick walls are good for keeping the temperature up, and hedges are nature’s windbreakers.
No matter what the climate or budget, there are a few things you can do to design a beautiful and functional outdoor living space. Here are a few of my tips:
1 - Drawing Existing Themes and Designs from Inside
2 - Checking the Vistas and Practicality
Next, go outside. Take time to consider the views. Whether it’s a small terrace facing a wall or grand meadow with a panoramic vista, you will be sitting and looking at this – so what do you want your space to be facing when you position everything? Walk around looking from each angle to see what you can see. Remember, the best viewpoint for outdoor summer spaces might not be the most practical – do you really want to walk that far with a cup of tea each morning? At the same time try to log where the sun rises and sets at the times of the year and the hours when you want to use the space.
3 - Planning and Planting
4 - Getting the Lighting Right
5 - Choosing Materials for Surfaces
6 - Selecting Materials for Furniture
Once you’ve constructed the hard-standing, it’s time to think of the furniture for your outdoor summer space. Don’t forget all the ideas from the planning stages, pulling the threads of a theme from inside the home will make the space feel more comfortable as if it’s a natural extension of the house. Again, consider the climate. Wooden furniture works well in most environments, because it rarely gets too hot or too cold, but will need an annual varnish to keep it strong. Stone or iron is very durable, but prone to getting very hot or cold in certain climates.
7 - Furnishing the Space
8 - Adding the Finishing Touches
Finally, add some greenery, plants in pots become ornaments and focal points. Plants easily add life and color to any outdoor space. Choose a variety of plants that will thrive in your climate and will provide shade and privacy but be careful to keep it relevant in size to the space. There is a huge range available of statuary and sculpture in all designs from classical to modern – this is a great chance to add a beautiful point of interest, just like you might add an antique indoors, except that it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
With a little planning and effort, you can create a beautiful and functional outdoor living space that will be enjoyed for years to come.