Your outdoor room... how to transform your garden into a living space
Expand your home by transforming your garden into a place that's not just for looking at but for living in
If you're optimistically inclined - let's be honest, you need to be in this country - no doubt you're already pencilling in your summer barbecues and al fresco soirées.
And with Ireland's growing love for aesthetics both inside and outside the home, it's no longer a case of merely trimming back the grass, lashing on a few sausages and whipping out your uncomfortable, two-for-a-tenner sun loungers that have been gathering dust in the shed all winter (complete with nausea-inducing patterned cushions). These days, we take such pride in our homes, carefully curating each room according to our own individual tastes. We want to not just 'make do' with every corner of our living space but love it too. And now that some semblance of a summer is on the horizon (we say, crossing fingers, toes, arms and legs), we're turning this newfound proclivity for interiors in the direction of the back door. We might even go so far as to drop the words 'back garden' entirely and instead consider our exterior space as a continuation of what's inside: an outdoor room, if you will. This logic applies whether you have a tiny urban patio or a sprawling rural lawn. This week, we're taking a look at the big picture: the garden furniture you can leave out all year round, the permanent structures - both bought and homemade - that will elevate your space from 'garden' to 'room'.
Time was, planting took precedence in the garden. It was a horticulturist's dream of delicate flower beds and, if you set foot on them, you'd face the wrath of your green-fingered parents. Now things are a lot less high-maintenance and more geared towards your enjoyment of this outdoor space. The garden is not just for looking at. If you're starting from scratch with your outdoor area this summer, or opting for a complete overhaul, consider a design that satisfies both aesthetics and functionality. A Pinterest favourite would be to incorporate inbuilt seating into your framework, behind which plenty of of easygoing greenery would be protected. Ensure your design takes into account the position of the evening sun (you'll want to soak up those last few drops of vitamin D here) and regardless of any additional outdoor furniture, you'll have permanent seating that doesn't impact on space.
Anyone for pizza?
Not just for the Jamie Olivers of the world, the outdoor pizza oven is fast becoming a firm favourite among those of us who like to spend as much time as possible outdoors (come rain or shine). This is a permanent structure in your garden that can double up as not just an outdoor oven but a striking focal point too. Consider it the outdoor counterpart to the hearth of your home. There are many style options here, from rough and ready beehive (round) to a mosaic tile finish to something more minimal and contemporary. You could have a professional build one to your liking or, with some fire bricks (for the base), heat- resistant bricks, sand and cement, you can do it yourself for less. There are countless easy-to-follow guides online.
Turn up the heat
High up your list of priorities, you've got to think about a heat source. What, you forgot we were in Ireland? This will make a world of difference to your enjoyment of your new 'outdoor room' long after the sun has gone down. (Side note: arguably the best thing about dining outdoors in the evening here, as opposed to abroad, is the distinct lack of critters. Small victories and all that!) Here, you've got a few options, among which the humble chiminea is included. Even under the chiminea umbrella, you've got countless styles to choose from (favourites include the Spanish- style clay option or more contemporary structures composed of cast aluminium or cast iron). A little harder to get going if you're burning charcoal or wood - but safer than an open fire pit - the heat given off by this structure is formidable. If you choose clay - terracotta is popular - it will be heavier, so you need to be set on its location in your garden. The latter materials will have a longer lifespan than clay; they are lighter and much easier to move around the space. This is another aspect of your garden that, while functional, should blend seamlessly with your overall aesthetic.
Four seasons in one day
Storing your garden furniture elsewhere during the colder months of the year isn't always feasible unless you've got the luxury of ample space. If you're working with a smaller garden - and one that is particularly low maintenance - it might be worth saving the space that a shed would use up and instead investing in the kind of garden furniture that will endure even the harshest of winters (not that we want to even think about that right now). For the necessary garden tools, consider the space-saving 'Store it Out' Midi Storage Shed, from €120, available in Woodie's (woodies.ie). Thankfully, it needn't be an eyesore amidst your oasis of calm. But back to weather-resistant furniture: you need to choose materials that are rust-proof, such as stainless steel, aluminium or high-quality wicker. While it's a lot easier to store the cushions indoors, some garden furniture brands have ensured that even these can be left out for all seasons or, better still, choose a full suite made from outdoor fabric (4seasonsoutdoor.co.uk). Style-wise, more and more of us are gravitating towards L-shaped furniture that mimics the comfort and luxury of seating you'd find inside, but that's not to say a vintage outdoor bistro set won't look the part in your urban retreat. See Meadows & Byrne (meadowsandbyrne.com) for beautiful options.
Use your imagination
Lastly, should you have already caught the DIY bug from building your own wood-fired pizza oven, there's a wealth of outdoor furniture ideas to be found within the increasingly popular - and gratifying - world of 'upcycling'. Getting your hands on old wooden palettes - cheap as chips, if not totally free in some junkyards - will not only give you affordable seating but handy work stations too, whether to assist with the annual barbecue prep or as outdoor shelves for potted plants. If you've got the space, you could even go so far as to fashion an outdoor bar from stacked crates. Pinterest is your best bet here, but proceed with caution: the inspiration is overwhelming at best. You can even repurpose an old car tyre into a chic ottoman by adhering a wooden top and wrapping durable rope all around it before treating it with a weatherproof sealant. Novel!
Interiors fans are giddy with excitement at the news that Homesense has come to Ireland. A sister to TK Maxx - itself adored for its décor offerings - its two new stores, in Cork's Grand Parade and Dublin's Blanchardstown Shopping Centre, promise an eclectic range at bargain prices. See homesense.ie