Many people make the mistake of hunkering down in the winter and putting their garden plans on hold until the spring. But these colder months are the ideal time to start turning your outdoor dreams into reality, so when the warmer months emerge ,your outdoor space is already up and running and ready for relaxing, cooking and entertaining.
“Typically, we see a lot of garden projects kick off in February time, but it really depends on what you’re having done,” says Harriet Goodacre of Topps Tiles. “If the intention is to clear the space and start afresh then you can start doing this in the New Year in preparation for any hard landscaping to get started once the worst of the weather is out of the way.”
All big garden projects, says Goodacre, should start with the hard landscaping and this hard graft can bring great rewards.
“The garden is often viewed as a separate space. But it should really be treated as an extension of your home and, of course, your style,” adds Goodacre.
“Zoning is key when using your garden for multiple uses. For example, think about cooking a little way away from your entertaining area so that guests aren’t engulfed in smoke. And, of course, consider the longevity of the space – a covered, heated space is useable for more of the year.”
Topps Tiles provides a range of specialist outdoor floor tiles called Everscape, which are ideal for year-round patios. They are 2cm thick porcelain tiles that are stain-proof, frost-proof and fade-resistant.
Their slip-resistant finish makes them safe in all weather and, when used with an outdoor grouting solution, they can be jet washed every season to keep them looking new. They are essentially maintenance-free and available in a range of finishes, including stone effect and wood effect, depending on the look you want to achieve, with specialist outside tiles key to your design success too.
The most popular garden product category by average spend this year is paving. Hard landscaping experts Marshalls analysed Google searches,
with rocketing interest in all aspects of outdoor space, cooking and living.
“The right choice of paving and patio slabs, stone and flags can rejuvenate the most tired-looking garden and transform it into an outdoor oasis – from somewhere to soak up the sun to a selling point that could add as much as 20% to the value of your home,” says Johanna Elvidge, head of design at Marshalls.
Garden fireplaces have seen a huge leap in interest, as has demand for summerhouses and pergolas, helping to support and cover the outdoor living and BBQ 365 culture spreading across the UK, ignoring the vagaries of the British weather to cook outside all year round.
The market for patio and outdoor heaters, alongside barbecues, wood-fired ovens and firepits, backs up this trend, while decking and bi-fold doors are proof that outdoor design and landscaping is about so much more than flowers and plants.
“We tend to neglect our gardens in the colder months, but the changing of the seasons is a great opportunity to embrace the vibrant foliage and switch up your garden’s layout to give it a cosy facelift and make sure it stays as a useful extended living space,” says Elvidge.
“With darker evenings, illuminating your garden paths and seating areas can create a more inviting atmosphere. Add a bit of charm to your space with some outdoor fairy lights and solar marker lights in warm white to create a little ambience, and consider solar lanterns hung in larger trees. The key to using your garden in winter is making it feel warm and cosy, as well as just looking so.”
Elvidge says you can further extend your indoor space outdoors with weatherproof patio furniture, while using the heat of a fire pit or patio heater.
“If you invested in an outdoor kitchen over the summer, don’t neglect it now, while larger pizza ovens can be used to cook all sorts of dishes al fresco.”
Ben Bryden, sales director of RAK Ceramics UK says if your flooring runs seamlessly from your garden room or kitchen extension into an outdoor dining or relaxing space it gives the illusion of space and creates an on-trend contemporary look.
“And on a practical level there is no change of texture or height from indoors to outdoors. Opt for hard-wearing porcelain tiles that are colour safe and weatherproof.”
A porcelain surface that is as suitable for patios as it is for kitchens, Fashion Stone from RAK Ceramics creates a seamless impression from inside to out with a surface that is hardwearing, weatherproof and very much in fashion.
“If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that our home is to be enjoyed and if we can create extra ‘rooms’ by making our outdoor space part of the property, then it opens up the enjoyment of our homes all year round,” adds Bryden.
The pandemic also gave us an opportunity to be more familiar with our outdoor settings and, consequently, we developed a fondness for connecting with nature and immersing ourselves in the great outdoors – a trend that is forecast to be even more popular next year.
“Since the pandemic, we have certainly witnessed a rise in the need for more versatile outdoor living spaces,” says Amie Reeves, sales director at Show Business Interiors, which also has an outdoor living range called Scenik.
“We always consider the layout of the house, and most particularly how the nearby room would complement the flow of space. Open-plan kitchens and dining rooms can neatly accentuate family areas to the outdoors and create an ideal space for entertaining and dining,” says Reeves.
“Meanwhile, for closed floorplans or long, narrow gardens, garden paths can often be a great visual feature to extend the flow of space within your home. If you have a converted bar/entertaining area, dressing your path with warm lighting along the outside adds ambience when directing your guests to cosier living spaces, particularly in the darker months.”
And it is outdoor bars, kitchens and entertaining areas that have really become popular.
“The rise of the outdoor kitchen is really changing the design of our outdoor space,” says Gemma Schofield, managing director of Lifestyle Interiors.
“Outdoor products should also be built with the elements in mind, so durability must be at the top of your list. Source a trusted contractor to provide a thorough estimate for building the outdoor kitchen of your dreams. If you’re not wanting a complete outdoor kitchen area, you can create a makeshift space by curating readily available, inexpensive items like a table with a flat surface for prepping food, a tiered bar cart or shelf for storage, a grill, and a cooler. Shop in a tight colourway for a cohesive and polished look that works with your internal colours.”
And once you have cooked that fabulous al fresco meal, it’s time to sit back and relax.
“Outdoor fires really add a modern and stylish feel for your garden,” says Schofield. “Perfect to gather around with friends and family, the cosy feeling of an outdoor fire really is a great way to enjoy your garden whatever the season.”
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