Barry Burrows provides detailed advice and tips on making the most of your outside space.
“In recent years we have seen a significant trend in people expecting to use outside space as an extension of their homes to relax and entertain in. No matter how large or small the space outside is, you can make it a pleasant relaxing area, at the extreme end of the budget, clients are installing fully functional bars, fire-pits, kitchen units and cold storage and advances in technology have led to the growth of outdoor sound systems, large-screen televisions and electronic canopies, all controlled remotely from an iPad.
However, a more budget conscious person can create an inviting space by selecting key elements, perhaps a brazier that is inexpensive, yet creates warmth and theatre; recycling furniture by painting with an all weather paint in a complementary colour, ensuring seating is comfortable and adding throws and cushions can enliven a space. Planting should not be forgotten, for more adventurous gardeners, creating green walls with vertical planting can add a lush tropical feel and disguise an unattractive party wall, or using attractive screening, such as bamboo or wicker and carefully selected climbing and scented plants will help create a sound barrier, but above all it will add beauty, texture, colour and interest to any space.
Key trends this year are for outdoor kitchens, that may include a bbq/hot plate/rotisserie with either; built in wine chillers, stainless steel or moulded sink unit with hot and cold running water; Outdoor heating and table centred fire-pits are also very popular. As a direct result, the product range is increasing continually; and there are now a number of products on offer in particular televisions. ‘Aqualite Outdoor’ is a good tried and trusted brand, but do be prepared to budget upwards because the price is not comparable to that of an indoor television.
Bespoke outdoor kitchens including BBQ / hot plate /rotisserie are also proving to be very popular with a wide range of suitable products available on line. Another popular request these days is for built in wine chillers, stainless steel or moulded sink units with hot and cold running water (ensure all pipes are lagged. Outdoor heating and table centred fire-pits are also very popular, and again there is a large range to choose from online. ‘Fire-magic’ is a specialist supplier of a large range of external products, who will also carry out the installation for you.
My advice would always be to focus on getting the design and layout in place, together with surrounding yourself with beautiful planting before considering the installation of any appliance. In these busy times, it is important to remember that first and foremost your garden should be a haven! And as much as our demanding life styles are constantly developing, gardens ought to be areas of peace and tranquillity, taking one back to nature, and providing an escape from everyday technologies and social media, albeit, available on demand at the flick of a switch. Therefore, appliances should be functional, practical and discreetly located without taking away that feeling of being surrounded by beautiful scents, foliage that encourages all aspects of wildlife. The emphasis should be on creating a beautiful natural setting and then concealing any clever gadgetry and technology so that it does not detract from the garden itself.”
Top tips in creating an outdoor space:
1. Select an area close to where you will entertaining i.e. the main patio/dining space, although not too far from the house as you don’t want to be tracing back and fourth for the initial set up and essential supplies.
2. Ensure all services such as gas, electrics and plumbing are all in place prior to any installation and always appoint qualified and registered fitters. Always ensure that the product is “fit for purpose” and has been designed specifically for outdoor use. It’s important to ensure that it can withstand the elements: wind, rain, hail, sleet and snow as well humidity if within a pool area. For those really high ambient light days one should consider using anti-reflective film or a filter, which helps with visibility and glare. However, it’s not advisable to install a screen in direct sunlight, that is perpendicular to the screen.
3. Overhead directional lighting should also be considered, as you don’t want to be cooking in the dark.
4. A low maintenance garden furniture option is aluminium framed furniture in a range of colours, a labour saving alternative to teak, which needs to be stored (along with cushions) during inclement weather). The choice for external fabrics is now extensive – a breathable water repellent Porotex, as well as laminate fabrics that all look and feel like cotton or wool.
5. Planting: Intelligent use of plants can create a unique planting scheme that is particular to the location, and designed to complement the architecture and interior style. All this requires is a knowledge of soil, micro climate, aspect and plant species, but a little adventurous thinking and professional advice can see any scheme raise its head above the norm and lift the overall impression of the buildings around it. There are several reliable plants that can deliver over the year with changing displays of colour, texture or scent, and which provide relief from the usual evergreen formality.