It’s been exciting seeing some sunshine over the past couple of months, and it’s made us think about our outdoor living space.
In recent years our outdoor space – however small – has been transformed into a genuine extension of our living area, perfect for eating, relaxing and playing.
If you’re lucky enough to have a good-sized garden, you’re in the perfect situation, but even with a tiny outside courtyard or terrace you can still create a welcoming place with a little planning, the accessories and some colourful plants.
Here are our top tips for creating the perfect outdoor living room this summer.
Decide what you want to use the space for – breakfasting? Dining? Just sitting? This will help you decide what you need.
Get out your pad and draw a plan. Mark where you would like to sit, or perhaps barbecue. Think about the shady spots, which could be ideal for a comfy seat with plenty of cushions for relaxing on a – fingers crossed! – hot day. You might also need to build in some storage space – for instance, some outdoor furniture is weather-resistant, but the cushions need to be stored out of the rain.
Be critical about your outside area. Does it get a lot of sunshine, or is it shady? Can neighbours see you? And realistically, how big is it?
Can you maximise the space by creating links between the outdoors and indoors? For instance, a sunroom with good blinds and a sunny patio make a great, flexible combination of sun and shade.
What will your surface be? You could add decking or paving, or you could improve a concreted area with a covering of slate shards or gravel.
Think about your furnishings. Good outdoor furniture is robust – you may need to do some regular upkeep with paint and varnish if you choose wood, and traditional materials including rattan can be susceptible to damage from sunshine and water. Other materials – formed from types of plastic – can take the punishment, although they can also be damaged by sunlight or cold if left out through the autumn and winter months.
If you want to create an eating space, your choice is pretty much made for you by the amount of space, but even a tiny area can usually stretch to a bistro table and chairs. If you have a multi-purpose area, pick folding furniture that will stow away when not needed.
Then add accessories. Since the garden/patio became a fashionable area, the range on offer has become enormous, from hurricane lanterns to outdoor fairy lights to decorative screens and pretty pots.
Get creative with plants – ask at your local garden centre if it’s not your area of expertise. Bare walls can be made beautiful with coloured pots and climbing plants such as honeysuckle, and pots of lavender will fill the air with fragrance.
After that, all you need is a sunny afternoon, something nice with ice, and plenty of time to soak up the peace. You could even invite a friend or two – if you can bear to share!