Have we ever been so excited about spring? As we all emerge from a damp, wet lockdown into a bright, sunny, sociable fresh start, most of us are turning our attention to our gardens and thinking about enjoying being outside.
The interiors of our homes are probably just the way we want them, whether that’s calm and muted, vibrant and striking or even somewhat eclectic. The challenge now is to extend those much loved interiors into the garden to create an exciting new living space. Somewhere to relax with family or entertain friends
You don’t need a massive budget to create an outdoor area infused with your personality and taste. Whether you like the relaxed Scandi vibe with its casual blues palette or are aiming to be right on trend with up to the minute rich tropical mixes, we’ve got it covered.
A great starting point is to choose outdoor furniture that is built to last, such as Marks & Spencer’s new Porto furniture range. These durable sofas, chairs, stools and loungers are made with powder-coated metal frames to withstand the worst of the British weather and are finished with stylish wooden armrests and contemporary grey cushions. They provide the perfect neutral backdrop for you to add pops of colour to, such as these bright teal leaf-patterned outdoor cushions made from a water-resistant fabric that will withstand the occasional rain shower, or water fight.
If you want to make a more bold colour statement, opt for furniture such as these bright yellow Lois garden armchairs, which will brighten a dull corner of any garden, or how about a raspberry coloured parasol, such as M&S’s Shanghai parasol, which has UPF50+ protection from UV rays to ensure you can lounge without adding lines to your face. “Don’t be too heavy-handed with lots of contrasting blocks of colour though,” says London-based stylist Katie Cordell. “Carefully layering tones, with the odd bright zesty pop, will create a more harmonious space.”
Once you have your furniture sorted, it’s time to add decorative detailing. Choose a mix of flowering and evergreen plants and shrubs to soften the space and add fragrant colour. Tall plants, such as bamboo, can be used to create a natural screen for your seating area, or you can use trellises with climbing plants such as honeysuckle or jasmine to provide shade and define the area.
Choose pots and planters that match your cushions, such as this teal planter in the Lois collection, or opt for neutral greys, blacks and browns. If you find too many pots untidy, then you can build deep planters using railway sleepers or reclaimed bricks to give your outdoor living area a more walled-in feel.
To extend the use of the space well into the evening you might want to add the Madeira fire pit, which has a mosaic border for a hint of the Mediterranean. You can then use lamps and lanterns to create ambient outdoor lighting, such as this quirky glass butterfly lantern, which takes a tea light, or this large wooden hurricane lantern, which will take a full-size candle. Consider buying candles that contain citronella to keep the bugs away. “Hanging small lanterns in shrubs or trees will create a magical, fairytale scene,” advises Cordell.
Even with the fire pit lit, you might still want to provide some blankets for your guests to wrap themselves in if the night is chilly. These lightweight herringbone throws come in a variety of colours and can be draped over knees or wrapped around poncho style.
Whether you opt for picnic-style cold nibbles, a classic barbecue feast, or sausages on sticks cooked on the fire, you will need some outdoor dinnerware to create a cheerful spread. M&S’s rainbow picnic range is made out of clear plastic with a multi-coloured tint and even comes with a matching drinks dispenser that you can fill with punch or homemade lemonade.
Alternatively go for bold and playful prints, such as these bamboo and melamine jungle dinner plates, which depict bright exotic scenes to make you feel as if you have travelled farther than your own back yard. “Or bring the jungle inside and mount these plates on the wall,” says Cordell. “They would make a fabulous addition to a child’s bedroom – all you need are some simple plate hangers to attach them with.”
And, of course, not everyone has the luxury of having their own outdoor space, but there are plenty of other ways you can bring a hint of a garden into your home. You could plant some herbs in a window box to create a minute kitchen garden on your window sill, or buy some colourful geraniums to provide a potted, fragrant table display.
If you don’t feel you’ve got green fingers, or don’t want the hassle of looking after living plants, you can opt for faux ones. Gone are the days when fake plants looked, well, fake. These days artificial plants are very convincing and can be a great solution for a room that doesn’t get much light, such as a north-facing bedroom or a hallway. This floor-standing artificial tropical plant is a real statement piece that would require heat and humidity were it real, but will merrily suffer draughts and drought in its artificial form.
Consider contrasting plants that have soft, feathery leaves, such as ferns, with harsher, more angular plants, such as aloe. “A simple shelf filled with plants above your bed is an excellent way of bringing some greenery into your bedroom,” says Cordell. “These fake plants are ideal for a position where it’s harder to water.” Alternatively you can look to bring leaf prints into your soft furnishings, or even your wallpaper, to bring the mood-boosting power of plants into your home.
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