For many generations our focus was on the inside of our homes. What happened outside was largely dedicated to growing vegetables or cut flowers, kicking a ball about or the occasional barbeque. Yet, just as we have now refurbished our bathrooms to become spa-like havens and our kitchens to become dream entertaining spaces, many of us are now looking to extend our living spaces into our gardens.
With house prices at an all time high, and the costs of moving rising, more of us are staying put and focusing our efforts into improving our homes both inside and out. Modern day life has seen our children staying at home well into adulthood. More of us are working from home and our space is bursting at the seams. Our gardens are often the largest space we have in our homes and there are many different ways we can zone and utilise the space to create extra ‘rooms’.
Adding a dining area is probably one of the best ways to make the most of your outside space. Entertaining at home is increasingly popular. Adding outdoor dining not only allows us to make the most of any fine weather but may enable us to accommodate a larger number of guests. Outdoor cooking options, such as barbeques and wood fired ovens, are increasingly popular making an outdoor dining space a necessity. To ensure outdoor dining can be used to the greatest extent consider adding protection from the weather by way of a retractable awning, covered pergola or sail.
A pergola can make a real design statement and set the mood for the entire space whether it be a contemporary design in wood or steel or a more traditional style covered in clematis and climbing roses. These structures will really define a space in your garden and help to create a clear zone. To ensure that you can get the most use of your dining space, whatever the weather, it is worth considering one of the many types of retractable covers now on the market. If your pergola is not located in a particularly sheltered spot, you may also wish to consider enclosing one or two sides.
Cooking is increasingly becoming one of the nation’s favourite pastimes. Having a purpose-built entertainment space including built-in barbeque, wood fired oven and grill should set you up for all cooking requirements. Be sure to add some external prep space and shelving for glasses and crockery, all helping to make your entertaining go as smoothly as possible. Having your external cooking area located close to your kitchen will cut down on the time taken to pop inside for supplies. An even better option may be to ‘extend’ a run of units from your kitchen outside onto your patio. This gives a seamless look between inside and outside catering and can often include the installation of an outdoor sink and refrigerator.
Space to Relax
In addition to dining outside you may also want to zone a separate space for relaxation in an outside lounge area. It makes sense to ensure this space is as cosy as possible to deal with chiller temperatures as the sun goes down. Using some kind of screening or awning over this area will increase its usability. Seating should be comfortable with good cushioning which can be left in place in a shower of rain. A sunken lounge area can create a particularly cosy and intimate space. Adding blankets, a firepit and atmospheric lighting all add to the cosy feeling. If your area is weather proof you can also add a wall-mounted flat TV or cinema screen, offering an outdoor cinema vibe, perfect for movie nights or sporting events.
In just the same way as designing for an internal space, it is important to take into consideration who will be using these areas, for what purposes and at what times of the day. Good attention to space planning will make best use of the area available. Ensure that it’s possible to move between furniture easily, enough space is available to draw chairs back from the table and any hot cooking surfaces are out of the reach of small hands. An arch can add a useful transition between different zones.
When outdoor dining and entertaining spaces don’t fulfil all of our additional needs it might be time to consider a garden room. The market for garden buildings is booming. There are designs to fit all requirements from traditional country cottage summerhouses to sleek contemporary designs. A garden room is a great way to take the inside out and fulfils a multitude of uses.
With more people working from home, creating the right environment is essential. A garden room can create a dedicated space to work in at relatively low cost. The commute is stress free and there are no travel costs but, at the end of the day, you can still shut the door and walk away.
With gyms being closed for so long, many people have found the benefits of exercising at home. However, all that equipment can take up a lot of space. A garden room can provide the perfect home gym where the music, pace and type of workout are set by you. No one is judging your abilities and there is no wasted travel time or monthly membership fees.
Allowing children space to play and be creative is essential. A special place designed with your children in mind, where they are safe to play, is ideal. A garden room perfectly lends itself to children’s play needs.
With the increase in entertaining at home, a ‘party room’ is a great addition. This can incorporate a garden bar and can be used whatever the weather.
A space to escape to can be vital in today’s world. Your garden room could be used to create a den providing a relaxing space away from the rest of the house. You may just want to enjoy views of the garden or to curl up with a good book. Alternately, it could house the cinema room you’ve always wanted or provide a space for your teenagers to socialise.
Lacking the space for multiple seating options or a garden room? Make the most of a small garden by laying a patio. This will provide a more robust, usable seating area than a lawn. If stone is too expensive try using reclaimed bricks, timber, gravel or even bark chippings. However, bear in mind that keeping your material palette limited will create a more cohesive look. To blur the boundary between inside and out a good tip is to use the same kind of flooring where possible. Take note that flooring which is suitable inside may need to be switched to one with a higher slip rating outside. Loose spaced paving will offer a greener alternative, allowing rainwater to seep into the ground rather than running into drains. This approach softens the look of the space and provides better wildlife habitats too.
If your outside area is little more than a patio try painting the back wall a strong colour which will draw the eye to the rear making the space look bigger. A pop of vibrant colour adds interest even in the middle of winter. Adding large mirrors can also blur the edges of the space. To make the best use of a small patio built-in, wall-mounted bench seating will maximise space. Fast-growing plants such as bamboo and grasses in a narrow planter against the wall, or creating a living wall can all provide a wall of green without taking up too much space. Water features have surged in popularity in recent years. Aside from the soothing background sound they are also eye-catching focal points and add interest to a patio garden.
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