Expert advice from interior designer and TV presenter Julia Kendell will tell you how to decorate an amazing outdoor room for your family
POSITIONING AND SPACE
Think carefully about how you want to use the room and let this be your guide when planning its location and size. Garden rooms don’t have to be restricted to the patio or close to the back of your property. Some of the most successful outdoor living spaces are hidden from view of the house and offer an entirely different aspect. A sunny spot will ensure that you get maximum use of the space if you’re just creating a decking area with seating, but consider privacy by checking whether the site is overlooked.
CHOOSE A STRUCTURE
There are a great many custom-built solutions to choose from, ranging from mobile shepherd huts and fully constructed and insulated rooms to tented spaces, glass boxes and customised sheds. But if this ‘room’ is just going to be used during the summer months and you don’t want anything as permanent as a building, you can create a simple and attractive area by arranging outdoor furniture on a raised deck or under the shade of an arbour or large tree. If you’re taking this route, it’s worth investigating the cost of installing outdoor lighting and heating (see Step 3), and having somewhere to plug in a sound system and other media. It’s also helpful to have storage nearby to store cushions and blankets quickly when it rains and to provide a space for playing outdoor games.
EXTENDING THE EVENING
Outdoor heating can transform a garden room, making it possible to enjoy it in comfort late into the evening. A big brick outdoor fireplace with a chimney is an exciting way to take the indoors outside if you have a large patio. For a more flexible and movable option, a firepit will satisfy the primeval desire to sit around a fire and they’re available in both traditional and contemporary designs. Choose the size carefully; a firepit that is too large will burn through a substantial amount of wood! Outdoor gas heaters are effective, but are less environmentally friendly and can be expensive to run.
Integrating your outdoor room with the garden is important, so you can create a seamless visual flow between the two. One of the best ways of doing this is to use materials for both that complement your garden design. For example, keep wood unpainted in the interior of a summerhouse (see above) to match your fence. However, a stylish backdrop to an open seating area, whether a fence or fabric drape, will add height and definition.
If your open seating area is small, use a few visual tricks to make it appear bigger. Mirrors are useful for creating additional perspective and will also reflect candlelight beautifully in the evening. Take care that they’re not in a spot where birds might accidentally fly into them though. A floating, built-in wall seat will increase the sense of floor area and can be underlit for an ethereal feel at night. And if you have no space to dot a few potted plants around your seating area, a planted wall can look fabulous – just pick up a living wall planter at your local garden centre.
COLOUR, PATTERN AND DECORATION
Bright colours and vivid patterns that might appear brash indoors can be very effective outdoors. Choose your palette with care, though, as it will determine the overall feel and energy of the space, whether bold and exciting or refined and relaxed. Cushions can add dramatic colour for seating, and bright hanging lanterns will draw the eye upwards. You can even define a seating area by painting a ‘rug’ on decking (using deck stains or exterior paint and stencil designs), or for a less permanent feature use a polypropylene easy-clean rug.