Sunday 16 June 2019

Alfresco aspiration

Don't despair if your outdoor areas lack loveliness: a few clever tweaks can add colour and interest, writes Kirstie McDermott

Mimic the soft shades of the season’s interiors; pastels and botanical prints work just as well outside; all at Marks & Spencer
Mimic the soft shades of the season’s interiors; pastels and botanical prints work just as well outside; all at Marks & Spencer
Lantern, €24.99 Candles add essential atmosphere and this Egehjort Lantern in bamboo from jysk.ie is a must
Swing chair, €1,019 An SS19 essential: this Cocoon Art Deco Swing Chair is from woodesign.ie
Rug, €72 Adding colour and comfort, the Indoor/Outdoor Recycled Rug, at next.ie, is a perfect patio pick
Cushion, €17.95 Outdoor cushions from Meadowsandbyrne. com can withstand a little rain
Floor cushion, €35 This floor cushion at argos.ie, offers comfortable extra seating and a rest for feet

Kirstie McDermott

If your home's outside area is anything like mine, it may be in need of some serious TLC. After 12 years in a flat with nary a balcony to my name, my home-owning fantasies definitely involved some non-negotiable garden heaven, so we dutifully bought a fixer-upper with a big-for-town, albeit overgrown, back garden.

Three-and-a-half years later, we have done precisely nothing with it, bar christen it the 'disenchanted forest'.

It turns out, wanting a garden and having a garden are, in fact, two distinctly different things.

This is the summer I'm promising myself we'll finally dig the bindweed out, box in the bins, tidy the trees up and reclaim our not inconsiderable outdoor space from our two pet cats, who currently treat it as their sole domain.

I'm not alone in my need to add oomph to my outside - we love our gardens in Ireland, and, as interior designer and stylist Alannah Monks says, "in the past few years there has been an increasing trend in interiors towards bringing the outdoors in; and it looks like we've come full circle as outdoor living spaces become more and more like another room".

Interiors trends are helping make the division almost invisible.

"With eclectic and bohemian styling taking centre-stage indoors, it's easy to extend the look outwards into the garden with traditional rattan furniture and cosy outdoor decor, such as garden rugs and cushions in natural weaves and textures," says Monks.

In fact, given that this is Ireland, it's actually essential to have extra throws and cosy textiles to hand for cooler evenings. Make sure they're machine washable and won't mind the odd shower or two.

Rugs and cushions aside, gardens can be eye-wateringly expensive areas to update. If your budget doesn't stretch to new paving, boxed planters, water features and fire pits, don't despair. "A few clever touches will instantly update any outdoor area. Don't be afraid to use colour; whether it be in the choice of flowers and foliage or the palette for your furniture and walls," Monks says.

Tiling is a mid-price option that also has the advantage of being visually stunning - think of all those Insta-likes.

"Tile a wall or patio," Monks suggests. "Hark back to the gardens of Marrakesh with Majorelle Blue or the patios of Spain using a deep terracotta."

Those with smaller spaces and 'yardens' don't have to feel left out. "You can still live the outdoor dream," she says. "Increase space for furniture by extending your planting upwards: macrame hanging planters are the perfect way to stay on the retro trend while creating vertical visual interest."

There's one piece you shouldn't leave behind this summer. "It's the perfect macrame or rattan hanging chair," Monks says. "Hang either from a pergola or pick up a freestanding egg chair for a 1970s vibe."

Kirstie McDermott is editorial director of 'House and Home' magazine

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