Rachel Smith writes: I’m just redesigning my own garden and I know that when it’s done it will be another place for us to spend time, either together or separately.
Having a big expanse of lawn is great if you like mowing and all you do is play football on it, but if you want more usable space then dividing it up into different areas, or zones, is the way forward.
Amazingly, a garden feels bigger the more usable areas you put into it.
Mine is a relatively small garden, but by planning it carefully I have managed to get two different seating areas into it, which essentially means two more rooms.
So where do you start? Decide what it is you want to do in the garden (sunbathe, have a morning coffee, entertain during the day/in the evening) and then plan round that.
Make it obvious what the different zones are to be used for and everyone will use them accordingly.
We love eating in our house so a table outside is a must for family meals and for entertaining – so are stackable chairs so that we can have as many as we need in the shed.
I’m also creating a barbecue area close to the eating area where there is space to prep food so we’re not constantly toing-and-froing between the garden and the kitchen. It’s important to look at each space and really think about what you need there so that you can plan it all in advance. It’s always harder to do things retrospectively.
There are great ranges of outdoor furniture these days at affordable prices – if you’re not in a hurry or are planning ahead to next year then it’s always good to buy things at the end of the season when they are discounted. Just check whether they are designed to stay outdoors or they need taking in. Most furniture these days will be okay outdoors with a water repellent cover on it.
Lighting is another thing not to be overlooked. If you’ve got outdoor sockets then great, but if you haven’t they are pretty cheap to install (they may just make a bit of a mess inside when they drill through to connect to a power source). And if you don’t want to add to your energy bills then there are lots of battery-operated or solar powered lights about. And there are always good old fashioned candles.
Festoon lights give off a surprising amount of light and can be hung around the perimeter of the fence and/or zigzagged across a patio. Putting uplighters along paths or at the bottom of a pretty tree or shrub to highlight it can also look lovely and create a nice atmosphere.
There are plenty of patio heaters and firepits these days to allow you to stay outside long after the sun has gone down. And it also means that you can venture into the garden during spring and autumn.
And don’t forget about my favourites: colour and pattern! By using colours/patterns similar to ones you’ve used in the house it will link the outside to the inside and it will make the garden feel more inviting and more like an extension of your home.