Do you find it easy to decide on your interiors; paint, wallpaper and furniture but get completely flummoxed when it comes to tackling your garden design? You are not alone…

I used to be an interior designer before I moved into designing outdoor spaces, so here are some tips on how to approach your garden, using some of the interior tricks you may well be familiar with.

This post is focused on appearance as I’ve assumed that you’ve resolved all the practical elements, if not check out my previous blog on practical planning.

With the practical and functional considerations all looked after, you need to turn your thoughts to considering how your garden will look.

Your Home’s Period and Materials

There are two elements to this: firstly, the external appearance of your house.

Most of you will have chosen your house because you liked its style. The style normally is denoted by the period in which it was built; Art Deco, Victorian, Arts and Crafts or Mid-Century Modern.

All these styles are defined by various architectural rules and a palette of materials. So, use this design vernacular as a reference point, a place to start in deciding what your garden should look like.

For example, in this Arts and Crafts front garden in Sunridge the clients clearly liked this period.

The major element was the herringbone clay paver pathways which tied into the Arts and Crafts detailing of the porch. We used the same herringbone brick pattern, to match in with the house construction and oak posts and sleepers to tie-in with the lynch gate and over-croft porch.

Tip – it really helps to start with one fixed element, in this case the bricks and let it lead you to the next material or design choice.

Ask yourself; what are the materials that were used to build your property? These should be referenced in the hard landscaping. Also try to stick to a limited palette, as just as indoors this creates continuity within space/s.

Your Style

The next aspect of style is more aesthetics; are you drawn to classic clean lines, a boho mix, cottagey shabby chic, bold and colourful? Your house probably already references your style so pull this aesthetic outside too in the hard landscaping, furnishing, lights and even the planting.

The owners of this garden in Dulwich, South East London clearly love their arts and crafts property and it’s reflected in their traditional English cottage garden style front garden; with a rose arch gate, formal beds, lavender and roses.

Your Lifestyle

Treat your garden like a room, and just like with a room, start with function – what do you want to do in it? List the elements you need to do that; table, chairs, benches, sofa, firepit and so forth.

Next consider your lifestyle and how you want to live in the space, be practical don’t have a dining area at the top of a terraced garden you’ll never want to drag all the food up there. However, the same spot could be perfect for enjoying a glass of wine in the evening sun with friends.

Layering Up

Styling is so important, I love those Pinterest pics of gardens, which are all rugs and cushions and festoon lighting, don’t we all? Well, the good news is that you can get great outdoor rugs these days and outdoor water-resistant fabrics are wonderful and the choice is huge such as;  La Redoute and Dunelm.

However, you can’t leave them out all year round the same goes for your outdoor furniture – so do think about storage and coverings.

Sweet Spots

Where are the sweet spots in your garden? Aspect is the first thing I check on my initial site visit and with good reason, where the sun travels through the space will denote the ideal layout. A sunny patio is lovely for sunbathing, but do you want to eat your lunch in the heat of the mid-day sun? Perhaps an umbrella will do however a pergola may give a more permanent solution and creates great visual height all year round.  

I am always considering lifestyle when I am designing gardens; what will my clients be doing and where are the prefect spots to do certain things. The sweet spots in your garden may vary; with the time or day, activity you want to undertake or individuals using the garden.

For example, you might love baking your bod in the sun whilst your partner prefers shade and a book, so think about different uses in various spots. Obviously, kids play areas have different considerations which I covered in a previous post.

So go ahead and put these tips to good use, and remember to keep a look out for Part 2 of this Blog to follow very soon.