Exterior Design

Summer has officially arrived...smell of barbecues at every corner, bare legs, ice-cream every day. Everyone wants to spend more time in the garden, so here are some simple tips and ideas to get the best for your outdoor living.

First thing is first, as with any room or space, it’s important to decide on the layout of the area. Look first at the shape of the area of your patio. A long narrow space would suit a rectangular table whereas a round table might work best in a square area. Is your garden in the sun or shade?  Will you need a parasol? How are you going to use the space - for parties or intimate dinners?

Make sure you reflect for a moment before you buy. If you have good comfortable furniture you will use if more, as opposed to having uninviting patio furniture which may look fantastic but be very uncomfortable. 

Outdoor furniture has been continuously evolving, and now there are a number of different materials to consider.

Iron

This is the classic, most romantic type of furniture. It will stand its ground in windy weather and you don’t need to worry about it year long. To keep rust at bay make sure to buy matching paint when purchasing and you can touch it up at the start of every season. Also wrought iron now comes in modern finishes and colours so can suit all exteriors.

Aluminium

One of the leading choices in outdoor furniture is aluminium due to its portability, durability and flexibility (it’s easy to make so many shapes, sizes and styles are available). Cast aluminium is more solid and sturdier than normal aluminium, but still has the benefits of the material.

Wooden furniture

Wooden furniture tends to be more aesthetically pleasing. It has a natural look which obviously flows well within the garden. It is arguably more comfortable than metal patio furniture. Furniture like this doesn't stand up very well to the elements, so it's best to place it under a covered porch or in a sunroom, and remember to look after it with stain and preservative oil.

Wicker furniture

Wicker furniture can be made from rattan, cane, vine or bamboo. Rattan furniture has a natural look like wood, but is easier to maintain.  It can be exposed to rain with little ill effects. 

It is great with kids as it is lightweight and hardwearing - easy to knock about and not worry about damaging the surface. For me I think it can be extremely comfortable and stylish. 

Resin

Resin or plastic are a great choice for low cost garden furniture. The advantages include easy maintenance, portability, funky designs and affordability. Make sure to go for something recycled for good karma in your garden. However, you do get what you pay for, so over a few years resin furniture can look weak and colours lose their vibrancy from the sun.

Accessorising in the garden is great fun this season with major design houses contributing. It’s a fantastic way to add more colour and fun to your outdoor space. Thibaut, Jim Thompson, Casamance and Designers Guild all have funky splashes of colourful fabrics. Extremely popular on the continent are outdoor fabrics for cushioning and seating, and they are now arriving here in Ireland. Be sure to buy fabric that is high-performance and suitable for outdoors, a good benchmark is Sunbrella fabrics. When mixing furniture and fabrics, stay neutral with your furniture and add colour with your cushions.

Heat and light are key when partying outdoors. For atmosphere you can’t beat sitting around an outdoor fire or pit. They are great as a focal point in the garden but also for keeping warm when the temperatures dip in the late hours. Lighting in the garden has also moved on from simple functional lighting to more atmospheric creative pieces. Candles can be beautiful and essential, don’t forget the citronella scented candles to keep the bugs away. 

I have a large mirror in my garden, they are a great way of making the space seem larger. In larger gardens, a mirror on a back wall dressed it with foliage can give the appearance of an entry into a deeper, secret garden. Mirrors can also bounce light back into the garden...in my own it gives me an all important extra 30 minutes of sunshine in the evening… just enough for one final glass of Pinot grigio..  

In Ireland as you know we are faced with all types of weather. Having your outdoor furniture and cushions ready when the sunshine comes will enhance your enjoyment of the good weather. And if you invest, remember you’ll add years to your garden furniture by storing it in a protected location over the winter months if you have the space and if not using covers.