Design Moves Outside
Acheson & Glover country cobble with riven flags, setts and aggregates
We’re not in Tuscany but…
It’s not exactly al-fresco climate most of the time about these parts, but quite often aspiring to something is half the fun and if we set about doing something about the exterior of our homes in terms of design then we can truly savour the few days of outdoor lifestyle when the weather permits. Additionally, a living room based outlook onto our achievements is no harm in that we can enjoy it all year round! The elements of what I am referring to, are garden design, furniture and lighting.
In that, dining outside and usually the bigger part of our garden with more scope is at the rear, we are thereby able to personalise these spaces without upsetting the neighbours, planners or destroying the uniformity if we live in a development. Design is about integrating function with aesthetics so what we are talking about here then is achievable from the balcony of a flat through to the exterior of a one-off architect designed house if it successfully reflects our lifestyle and aspirations.
It doesn’t have to be a big brief, big design, big budget operation as work and purchases could be in stages and if you don’t consider yourself as ‘handy’, then there’s bound to be somebody in the family or friends circle who is. Think outside the box – I always remember my tutor in my art college days who used the wood from a packing crate as partial wall cladding. Car-boot sales and junk shops can be sources for that occasional rustic item which becomes a focal point when set in a modern design – such as a barrel, large urn or carefully chosen small piece of old farm machinery. Gnomes and cartwheels are probably not.
Have a look at the handy work of Diarmuid Gavin or the award-winning schemes at the Chelsea Flower Show if you want to see just how far the garden design boundaries are getting pushed. Of course, what’s in a show just might not be something we could live with every day – so caution on sculptural statements created on a whim.
We could all learn from garden designers who use their horticultural knowledge combined with experience in the use of materials to create the most inspiring designs. Water features are not as difficult to construct as you might think as a small collection pond, pump and a few large stones could be the basis of bringing a design to life.
Local manufacturers such as Tobermore and Acheson & Glover are part of the big industry which supply paving, sets and other products which keep variety in texture and colour to patios, walls and planting surrounds. The skill in all this is not just what we use, but how we combine them. For example, an easily cleaned non-porous material would best suit under a BBQ, and as it is not always in use therefore should not dominate the whole scene.
Clearly there are several books available on garden design and numerous internet sources but sometimes taking a few photos and a survey sketch to a landscaper, garden designer or an A&G display might expedite your thought process on what is reasonably possible on your area and budget. Just like mainstream building construction, anything curved is more difficult and usually more expensive to create. But walls, flowerbeds or paths which are curved will be a dynamic addition to any home’s exterior area.
The traditional material here has been Teak from the Far East since it weathers well outdoors. It requires a definite decision to keep it maintained or let it weather into a silvery grey – which some people don’t like. In the last few years there has been an increased use of stainless steel, aluminium and various types of perforated tensioned nylon mesh as seating fabric – at times combined with less wood, all of which ensures a consistent look with less maintenance.
Leading the field in terms of design is undoubtedly Extremis from Belgium. Have a look here at the very clever Gargantua which can be quickly changed from an eight seater with circular bench seats to a much bigger table for use with separate chairs.
Extremis Gargantua configured as a circular bench with seatsExtremis Gargantua configured as a table
The Extremis Romeo & Juliet is an interesting way of sitting amongst plants. If you are tight for space, the Extremis Picnik is funky, practical and durable (powder coated) and with the others referred to here, proof that bland department store garden furniture is no match for quality, innovative yet simple designs.
Pop sofa by Kartell
Aside from being visually different, the Kartell Pop sofa shown here is upholstered in outdoor fabric and shows that comfort can be retained outdoors.
The classic mistake of domestic outdoor lighting has been indecisiveness at times – whether it’s for security or ambience with a practical basis. In my everyday surveys for lighting I still call at homes that have sensor activated aggressive floods which apart from being out-dated juice-drivers, don’t highlight anything in a pleasing way. Criteria for exterior lighting should come from what a visitor would need in terms of turning their car, identifying the front door and of course admiring our shrubs and plants.
You can avoid it looking like a garage forecourt by not having hi-level bollards, instead by critically placing low energy spots in amongst shrubs and under trees and denoting of turning areas, steps and paths all from light fittings no higher than say 40cm. Of course all of these need properly planned out which is tricky in a new build when the garden is not evolved never mind matured but in an existing dwelling it’s more obvious to a designer how it should be planned.
To make certain types of light fittings fully waterproof (for more than a couple of seasons) whilst not making it run too hot is a big ask unless you invest in quality such as Deltalight.
Deltalight Monostep outdoor lightingDeltalight Tournesol outdoor lighting
Photos here show some of their fittings in situ – such as the Monostep and Tournesol which even emulates a flower. Outdoor dining and relaxing can be very uplifting in our own personal version of Tuscany.