Garden Design: The Outdoor Room

By Oliver Burns

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May 19, 2014|

  • W

  • ith the sun now shining and The Chelsea Flower Show upon us, the garden has become a design focus once again. However a garden should not only be enjoyed in the summer, but all year round. It should be thought of as an extension of the home itself; an outdoor room which requires the same design principles as the inside, paying attention to space, proportion, structure, texture, colour and light.
Image sourced via Channel 4

All design is about space, and this principle is the same for garden design. Just as we create zones in interiors, apply these layouts to the exterior and divide the space up into a series of ‘garden rooms’. An area of decking, a lower lawn and an upper lawn that are closed in by flower beds can easily create three distinct zones in your garden.

Image sourced via RHS Chelsea Flower Show

With any garden, big or small, it should be designed to take you on a journey – leading you down the winding path, discovering what is up those stairs or beyond that archway. For this reason, a garden should have a point of destination. Just as a room in the home has a focal point, so too should the garden. This can be anything from a sculpture, to a bench or a seating area.

People are always intrigued by the idea of a ‘secret garden’ so hiding areas of your garden behind doors, archways or trellises will add an extra level of interest. Even some simple steps to another level will create a journey

Image sourced via Linda Cochran

Vertical space the only limitless space we have in our gardens so use this to its advantages. Adding structure to a garden will add interest and make the garden feel bigger. The Foxtail Lilly (Eremurus) is perfect for this, growing up to three metres high.

Image sourced via RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Colour is one of the most significant aspects of garden design but as with interiors, it is important to consider where sunlight falls when thinking about what colours to use. With a south facing, sun-filled garden, hot, dark, spicy colours will stand out much more than lighter tones, which dilute in colour under the bright sunshine. Pastels therefore work best in darker gardens.

Image sourced via Royal Horticulture Society

Ensure you use your most colourful plants and flowers at the front of your garden as colours in the distance will shorten the view so softer colours are much better suited here. Planting contrasting colours together will also allow the different plants and flowers to stand out; even subtle contrasts such as leaves picking up on the stem colour of another plant will be noticed. Using coloured furniture is also another great way to highlight certain colours within your garden.

Image sourced via Creative Spaces

It is well known that texture adds depth to an interior scheme and the same principal works in the garden too. Combining foliage textures such as soft and fluffy hair-grass with more angular plants such as Agave Americana or placing them against rocks creates a wonderful contrast, seen in the above picture.

Unifying your interior and your exterior is simple when you think of the garden as an outdoor room. Using similar stones from the exterior of your house to create paths or painting your garden furniture in the same colour as your doors and windows will create continuity from your home into your garden and open it up as a space to be used. Applying the simple design rules that you would in your home, your garden can become just as beautiful as your interiors.


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