Interiors: Bringing inside out - marrying interiors to summer gardens
Let there be light, colour and consistency in your outdoor space designs
IN Ireland we spend so much of our time inside the house looking out. It means that our relationship with the outdoor space - be that a garden, a yard, a patio, or even a balcony - should be about much more than just those few months in which the patio doors are left wide open.
It is therefore vital that the visual connection between the indoor and outdoor spaces work for us all year round - even when you're sat in the kitchen staring out at the pouring rain.
"The main thing is light," says the garden designer Marion Keogh. "Whatever you put outside your window or door shouldn't block the light from the house. So if you have a beautiful tree that's getting in the way, hire a really good tree surgeon to raise the canopy."
If a shrub is blocking the light, you might be able to trim it yourself with a bit of advice and a good pair of secateurs. "People have very sentimental attachments to plants but sometimes you just need to put manners on them."
When Keogh is designing a garden, she looks at the colour scheme and atmosphere in the house and carries that into the outdoors. "It's important that the style of the garden is in keeping with the style of the house. An English country garden will clash with a modern kitchen and a country kitchen won't look good with a very contemporary terrazzo patio."
Unless you have a huge garden, it's best to define the space by creating boundaries that use as few materials as possible. "Don't put in two or three different types of fencing. A garden works like an interior - if you have a base colour palette then other colours will pop off it nicely.
"If you have a muted palette in the kitchen, try painting the boundary walls in a similar shade. That can be a bit cold, but you can add a pop of bright colour, just as you would inside the house. If you've got lime green or hot orange or bright pink inside the house, pick up that same colour in the planting or the garden furniture."
A lick of paint is a quick and cost-effective way of creating a visual link between indoor and outdoor spaces. Designer Róisín Lafferty's (kingstonlaffertydesign.com) clients include Cuprinol, which offers a shade range in 78 different colours for all kinds of outdoor timber (around €12.99 for a litre tin). "I'd avoid exactly matching the colours that you have indoors. I prefer to create a layered look by using a slightly different shade," she says. "The distinction between interior and exterior is much more subtle than it used to be."
Patio slabs should be bright and in a style that works with the rest of the house. Marion Keogh recommends limestone or granite, largely because these materials are indigenous to Ireland and work well with our climate.
She prefers to avoid decking, especially in a north-facing garden where it tends to become slippy. Likewise, Indian sandstone.
"The clue is in the name. It's Indian. They have a different climate over there and the stone is much more porous than indigenous Irish stone." Like decking, Indian sandstone will have to be cleaned several times a year. But, whatever surface you select, Keogh suggests you calculate the cost of delivery and laying the patio before you start.
"As a rule of thumb, if a paving slab costs €40 to buy, reckon on paying another €40 for labour." Laying a patio isn't an easy thing to do so it's best to hire an experienced landscape contractor. The Association of Landscape Contractors in Ireland has a list of their members on alci.ie.
If you're planning on having design work done in the garden, the Garden and Landscape Designers' Association have a list of accredited members on glda.ie. Keogh (marionkeoghgardendesign.ie) charges €100 for a consultation but, if you hire her to put the plan into action, the consultation fee is deducted. "Sometimes people get the best out of me by having me come in for a day to do some work in the garden," she says. "It costs €200 a day, plus whatever you spend on plants and waste collection, but you'd get a lot out of me for that."
Keogh is one of the organisers of Bloom Fringe, the guerrilla gardening festival that takes place in unexpected urban spaces across Dublin on Saturday, May 30 (bloomfringe.com). This is the maverick cousin of Bloom in the Park, a big festival of all things garden-related in Dublin's Phoenix Park on the June Bank Holiday weekend (bloominthepark.com).