The Art Of Al Fresco Living – Part Two
by Lisa De Silva
Style up your outside space with part two of our guide to living alfresco this summer.
In Part two of our series on how to get the most from your garden this summer, we look at the ways in which you can make your outside space as comfortable as inside your home. So whether you’re looking for new furniture, accessories or a gazebo, here’s our guide for creating your very own slice of alfresco paradise.
GARDEN FURNITURE SETS
There are three things you need to consider before investing in garden furniture. Firstly, the level of usage you hope to enjoy, as this will influence the weight and size of the furniture; secondly, the amount of outdoor space you have and finally, where you will store the furniture over the winter months. If storing in a garage or shed, you might want to consider furniture that folds or stacks, or if you’re planning on leaving it out all year round, you need to consider suitable materials and protective covers.
For those looking for contemporary style and weatherproof features, rattan furniture made from high quality resin, which is resilient against both rain and UV damage, could be a great option. The steel or aluminium frames are hard wearing and there are a vast variety of styles and colours available. Choose from modular sofas, chairs and tables, adding your choice of coloured cushions. This is the ultimate in low maintenance garden furniture as it can be left out all year; just remember to bring in the cushions.
A more traditional look can be gained from wooden furniture, which is usually made from teak, or eucalyptus wood. These are both tropical hardwoods which produce natural oils to help protect them from the weather, the insect population and rot. Wooden furniture offers many options in terms of ageing. While some may wish to let it age naturally, others will want to treat it annually with fresh oils.
Another alternative is metal furniture which is both durable and modern. This can be painted to match a colour scheme and is great for smaller gardens and balconies, as it is easy to move, stack and store.
A LONGING TO LOUNGE
When it comes to proper lounging there is an infinite variety of options now available. If comfort and relaxation are important to you, it’s worth giving this some thought.
Hammocks are perennially popular. They are easy to hang if you have trees or a supporting structure, such as a pergola, to hook them up. Even without this, it is now possible to get freestanding hammocks. These are suspended on a wooden or metal bow-shaped frame. Once the summer is over, simply take down and store.
Adult swing seats have also swung back into fashion. Both soothing and stylish, like the hammock, they can be hooked up to any supporting structure already in the garden. Alternatively, a portable pod swing can be moved from the sun to the shade and taken down during the colder months. The wide range of options means there is something to suit all styles, whether that’s a macramé 70’s inspired chair, a traditional wooden armchair, or a sculptural plastic statement piece.
If rocking isn’t for you, why not try a daybed? Again, the range is extensive and you can find anything from beds which look like traditional sofas, to beds with a canopied shade, which look like small igloos.
Other lounging options include traditional steam loungers, rocking loungers, bean bags and the good old fashioned canvas deckchair. All offer the chance to unwind, chill out and escape the pressures of 21st century living for a couple of hours.
Creating shade is an important feature in any garden. A freestanding, wall mounted or integrated table parasol is the perfect option to shield you from the hottest rays of the sun. Alternatively, shade sails are a good idea if you have young children, as they offer a greater area of protection. These are hooked into steel or wooden posts, blocking out 90% of harmful UV rays, giving a light and airy vibe.
Outdoor cushions, rugs, bean bags and blankets can also add a touch of style and colour to your garden. Many now come in specialist outdoor fabrics, which means you don’t even have to remember to bring them in each night.
Garden ornaments can help to elicit a mood of calm and in this respect, Buddha statues are becoming an increasingly common sight. Alternatively, you may prefer to add some sculptural interest with objects that appeal to you made from metal, resin or ceramics.
GARDEN GAZEBOS & TENTS
Whilst many of us associate temporary garden structures, such as gazebos and tents, with parties and special occasions, there’s no reason why they can’t be left up throughout the summer months to act as a useful extra room. As you might expect, the style and design of these structures is infinite, ranging from the traditional white marquee with side panels and plastic windows, to tents styled to look like everything from VW camper vans to watermelon slices.
Take a leaf out of the festival circuit and style up your tent or gazebo with an outdoor rug, cushions, a lounger and small table, to create your own personal sanctuary. Alternatively, you could create the perfect play den for the children, or even set up a desk and move in with your laptop for some alfresco work time.
Hot tubs give you the chance to create a garden spa, offering the benefits of health and relaxation. This particular form of hydrotherapy can help with everything from stress to insomnia and a hot tub is a luxurious addition to any garden. Different sizes are available, along with varying numbers of hydrotherapy jets.
They can be installed on a patio and for those with decking, it is possible to sink the tub into a slightly raised area of the floor, or to create a surround to match the deck. It is worth considering installing a pergola, or roof of some kind to protect you from both the weather and any prying eyes. You’ll also need a cover to keep out any debris between uses.
For those on a budget, it is now possible to buy an inflatable hot tub. At the other end of the scale, the most luxurious models come with both interior and exterior lighting, moulded head rests, built in sound systems, TVs and even built-in workout equipment.
THE OUTDOOR PLAYHOUSE
Once you have children, the garden can become less of an oasis of calm and relaxation and more of an extra play area. To prevent your lovely outdoor space being overrun with plastic toys, it’s a good idea to create a specific space where the children can let off steam by installing a playhouse.
An outdoor playhouse will get used for years, making them great value for money. Again, these come in a variety of style options, so whether you’ve got a princess or a pirate, there’s plenty of design scope.
A traditional wooden playhouse will always be popular and many now have a two storey design.
Or if your children are more adventurous, you may want to consider a platform playhouse. These are usually built a few feet off of the ground on stilts. Access is via a ladder and they can also support attachments, such as a slide, or be linked to a climbing frame. It’s a great way to create a mini theme park in the back garden.
During the winter months a playhouse can also be used for storage, but if you don’t have the space or budget, you could transform an existing shed with some carpet and curtains. Once they’ve grown out of it, you can restore it back to its former shed status. Having said that, there’s the opportunity to adapt the space for all age groups. A former playhouse could become a teenage den, or a home office, providing the adults in the family with a place of sanctuary.