June 18, 2019 – Published in Design & Decor Summer 2019 issue
Your place in the sun
Words Kristine Bonnici – Interior designer
Exterior spaces need to be decorated with as much thought as interiors. Designer Kristine Bonnici explains the importance of the garden and how to achieve unity of style, unity of scale and the creation of a focal point in what should be a haven of relaxation and entertainment.
Before you begin planning your outdoor space, think carefully about how you would like to use it. Would you be hosting elegant dinner parties, supervising chattering two-year-olds, or just doing some solitary reading? Consider also the amount of time you have available for maintaining the garden, and incorporate these ideas into your plans from the onset.
Creating a successful exterior design project is similar to working on the interior of the home. Although the garden lacks rooms for defined tasks, the design scheme requires similar basic principles – unity of style, unity of scale and the creation of a focal point.
Use similar materials, colours and textures throughout your garden to unify the space and to bring interior elements to the exterior. Your garden should reflect your personality in the same way that your home reflects your style and ideas. Think about the floor plan of your space and decide which areas to leave as pathways and which to plant.
Exterior lighting is important and must be sorted out in the planning stage. Think about adding soft light that filters through the trees. Some specialist lighting shops supply spotlights that can be strapped onto branches to create a magical, dappled, ‘moonlight’ effect. Use low-level lighting to add atmosphere. Light up pathways and staircases, uplight trees to create interesting shadows, and spotlight your garden’s focal point. Add solar lights, hurricane lamps, candles, and lanterns to create flickering, atmospheric light.
Consider all factors when deciding what type of outdoor furniture is best for you. Make comfort your top priority, and then consider your overall decorating theme, function, exposure to the elements, practicality, durability, personal taste and budget. If space is limited, consider multi-functional pieces of furniture, such as storage benches and backless benches, which can be used as extra seating, or as a plant stand. If winter storage is a problem, choose hardwearing steel furniture that can withstand the elements, or build benches and tables out of stone.
Adding a pool to the garden does no longer require acres of space. A small pool can fit into the most compact of spaces and can provide hours of entertainment for your kids. Swimming or relaxing in a shallow pool can be a great way to relax after a stressful day. A water feature can also create an interesting focal point to the garden adding visual interest to the space.
A barbecue area or an outdoor kitchen adds another relaxing dimension to summer evenings. Whether you choose a simple charcoal bbq, a fully-fledged gas grill or a custom designed exterior kitchen, find a spot in your garden to enjoy cookouts with family and friends. Ideally, the cooking area should be close to the kitchen, so that you can avoid endless journeys to fetch food from the house. A table, or shelves are also useful to have beside the barbecue. Add enough light in the barbecue area, so that you can see if the food is cooked.
Fire pits are a great way to add kinetic moving light and warmth to your garden and the warmth of a burning fire will entice you into the garden even on our chilly winter evenings.
Even if your porch, or balcony overlooks an industrial area, there is probably a patch of sky, or an area of greenery that you can focus on. The most effective way to do this is to ‘frame’ the desirable view with plants, bamboo screens, or other eye-catching elements. Use foliage to soften hard landscaping features, such as walls and roofs.
Soft background music can filter out noise and add ambience to your outdoor space. Create your own quiet spot for reflection in the garden, an area of relaxation, by adding a comfortable chair, facing the view. Add scented flower plantings and ambient sounds, such as a trickling water fountain, or playful wind chimes to foster serenity. Add a hammock, a bench with overstuffed cushions, or a deckchair to enjoy napping in your garden. Create a breeze when there isn’t one – use a floor fan in the garden on hot, airless, summer days.
Relaxing, whether alone, or with family and friends, is an essential antidote to daily stress. From a quiet corner where you can curl up with a book, to an area where you can entertain friends, you need to establish your place in the sun.
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