Stylish Outdoor Living [10 step plan] September 28, 2018 13:38
Stylish outdoor living, made easy.
Summertime, and the (outdoor) living is easy. But, if you are looking to create a stylish garden escape that will see you through all 12 months of the year, you need to get planning.
With busy lives, digital overload and less access to wild spaces than our forebears, many of us are turning to the garden for our instant retreat.
No matter how small your garden, you can enjoy the benefits of glamping, without the travel. Here's how.
Step 1: Plan your outdoor living space
You may be thinking, why is she writing a blog about outdoor living in September, after the summer period is over? Well, now is the best time to get your hopes, dreams and plans for your garden into action. Plants and shrubs around the garden are coming into their dormant period, which makes it far easier to move and shift things around. Plus, if you are like me, you've spent all summer experiencing the odd 'niggle' in the garden - wishing you'd moved that shrub, or thinking that you could really do with being able to sit and enjoy the garden in a completely different place to the existing one. Drat. Well, now is a good time to get things moving. A great way to start is to think about how you have used your outdoor space this summer, and how you would like to continue to make the most of your garden throughout the year. Our list below will give you a head start...
2. Consider a Garden Room
If you have space, a little home from home luxury could offer just the retreat you need, a hop skip and jump away from the back door. A lovely friend of mine has just built a bijou yoga room at the bottom of her garden - ideal for her private classes and one to one tuition. My Auntie has a summer house literally opposite her kitchen window and she loves it. It's filled with blankets, books and a kettle. What more do you need?! Author Erika Kotite talks about the solitude and splendour of a She Shed in her best selling book and I love her opening description "a shed exists primarily for protection - a dry sheltered place to keep things safe." Sheds are not just a dumping ground for gardening tools and wellies, but a place brimming with creative pursuits and endeavour. Artist workshops, music rooms, knitting sheds.
While some a garden rooms offer a peaceful retreat from the world, other structures lend themselves to good company, great conversation and fun times. They can also be incredibly contemporary. eDen, a local Kent based company specialising in bespoke garden rooms has just been awarded 'Best Specialist Construction Company' in the South East by SME news and their garden rooms are cool, sleek and stylish.
As a gardener, I feel slightly guilty that plants have only been mentioned now! However, you've got to get the big stuff out of the way - the structure of the garden, how you use it now and what you'd like to get out of it in the future. So, with all those considerations sorted, it is onto some fab, practical planting. What to plant and where is the most obvious starting point. Planting is easy. It's fun and if you plant the right thing for your situation, it pretty much takes care of itself. If you are new to gardening, read these 10 tips for starting out in the garden.
4. Maintaining a garden
I know, a poor workman blames his tools and all that, but if you don't have easy access to the basics, such as water for example, your plants will die. Having these in place first makes for a stylish garden. Maintenance is all part and parcel of having your own stylish outdoor living space. It doesn't matter whether your style is wild and free flowing, or clipped and contemporary, if it lives, it needs water, warmth and food, albeit in differing measures. When it comes to maintaining your garden, consider your own availability and desire to garden. If you get a lot of enjoyment from potting up plants and styling your space, and have a little time where you can do it, you'll end up with an outdoor space you really love, and one that is perfect for your needs.
5. A garden sanctuary or social spot?
A garden can provide a wonderful sanctuary and escape as well as beautiful spot in which to socialise and have fun. The two are not mutually exclusive! However, they might inform how you design and style your garden. I love to feel enclosed by a garden, surrounded by the plants at eye level. Working with different heights enables you do to this. This can be as easy or as complicated as you like. We created a raised bed around our patio, which gives us privacy, and a feeling of being cocooned by the garden. But you can also achieve that kind of feeling in a garden no bigger than a balcony, with pots and window boxes at different heights.
Entertaining on a bigger scale might require a different approach - bigger, more open spaces, areas for people to gather - a large garden table, seating etc... If you have the space, you might want to create different areas for these kinds of gatherings - some small and intimate, other areas for larger groups. It's worth thinking about what you plant around these areas - if you love cooking for people, you might want to surround your outdoor seating area with scented herbs and edibles, ideal for popping into dishes and tasty treats. If you are short on space outside, consider growing plants and flowers that you can enjoy indoors as well as out - cut flowers in your favourite colours that you can place in and around your home. Not only will it look great, it will also create a connection and sense of continuity between your indoor and outdoor space.
6. Eating outside
Eating outside is pure memory making. There is definitely a sense of occasion when eating outside. Maybe because it tends to be a bit of an effort, so it always happens when you have friends and visitors over. Or perhaps because it is often the result of a quick blast of unexpected good weather - quick, let's fire up the BBQ!! Whatever the reason, for me, eating outside is always associated with good times and great company.
It is definitely not something that should simply be confined to the hot summer months. Bonfires, campfires and fire pits large and small, all lend themselves to magical wintery evenings spent outside. If you are big on space, the sky is your limit. Set yourself up with a pizza oven or outdoor kitchen area and you'll have everything you need to enjoy entertaining outside throughout the year. If you want to have something a little more flexible, there are lots of options that make eating outside both fun and seriously stylish. Create your own little glamping area, with a small fire pit and a dutch oven and tripod. All can be moved about easily, which means you can store things away and bring them out as and when you need them. Just add comfy garden seats or a deckchair or two, and a few blankets. Heaven.
7. Garden style = structure?
For me, a stylish garden is one that has a little structure. It's a personal opinion only and feel free to shout me down, but as much as I love a wild, chaotic garden, I think it has to have a few sharp edges and confines around the place in order for it to look and feel good. A really quick and easy tip is to shape your shrubs. Honestly, all kinds of disarray and wild abandon might be going on in your beds and borders, but if you've got a box ball or two in good shape, it just smartens up the whole thing. Talking of which, if, er, balls are your thing, make sure you clip top and bottom. Showing a bit of leg, so to speak, at the bottom of your shrub helps let light and air in, but it also really does improve the whole look of your shrub.
8. Have work areas and space for storage
In order to maintain your stylish outdoor space, you've got to give yourself a little room to move. I always look at those stylish, sleek houses in magazines and think 'how do they do it?', to which I find myself replying to myself (!) 'Storage'. It's all about storage. Those clean, clutter free kitchen surfaces are only achieved if you have ample storage to house all of your tut. It's the same for the garden. You need a space to hang up your hand fork or keep your tools in. Again, your personal style can really get going here. Buy, make or upcycle storage that can either stow away or show off your much needed tools or garden furniture that needs to be housed over winter. Have a compost heap, because it's so much easier and more environmentally friendly than sitting in the queue to the local tip at the weekend. Hide it behind a little hedge, or build your own with pallets that you can paint up. Whatever you need to keep your garden gorgeous, build that into your plans and it will pay you back tenfold in terms of style, ease of use and enjoyment.
9. Limit your materials
If you've gone through the list, and you've cracked it in terms of how you want to use your outdoor space, what plants you'd like and the overall look and feel you'd like to achieve, start work on the detail of your plan in terms of the materials you use. Creating a limit on these might help you focus down and get that garden style that is just perfect for you. Wood, brick, concrete, stone, slate - all these different materials are available with such a lot of choice and variety for each one. My advice - don't go too mad. Start broad and aim to end up with just three. Get samples, put them together and then think about how they might work and age in your outdoor space. Limiting your materials can really help you to create a mood or direction for your garden that is completely suited to your needs.
10. Take your time
To me, gardening is one of the most mindful ways to pass time. It's worth bearing in mind that those teeny, tiny show gardens at Chelsea cost anything from £250,000 up in order to make them look that established and that perfect in such a short amount of time. Plants can grow in ways you hadn't expected - taking over some areas, falling short in others. Moving them around, finding out what works is all part of the joy. Lots of plants will give you instant gratification along the way to keep you motivated. If you are looking for a few more instant uplifts, try planting a slow growing acer in a pot to create instant maturity on your patio or front step. Plant up some tall grasses and there is an immediate way to draw your eye away from that ugly fence that's been bugging you for years. Dogwoods are coming into their own about now and are great at adding structure, texture and colour to the garden in winter. Alternatively, why not add a few brightly coloured viola's to a pot to create an instant shot of colour?
The point is, over time, you may find your style and your needs for the garden change. Just like your wardrobe, your garden is a way of expressing yourself. How it develops and changes is, in a way, a reflection of you and the changes in your life. Enjoy the reflective opportunity this presents. Take photos, enjoy watching it grow and remember to sit back and soak it up as often as you can.