The Great Outdoors
Out and About
It's time to start thinking about our outdoor spaces. Whether we live in the city or the country, there are ample ways to make the most of the extended evenings by creating a beautiful al fresco space - be it for dining, entertaining or relaxing with a good read.
An outdoor space can act as a natural extension to your house, especially during the summer months. Like any room, creating a space that you're comfortable in takes an element of planning. You also want to achieve cohesion - a nice, natural flow from the inside out.
Laying the groundwork, literally, is important for a space you can use all year round. Here, there are three things to take in to account: material, safety and aesthetics.
Firstly, investing in some good quality tiles that withstand every type of weather should be your first port of call. In wet locations, porcelain tiles are a good choice, because they're so durable. Porcelain has a density that gives it a low absorption rate. Thanks to this, porcelain is also frost-resistant, so it's a great material to use outdoors all year round.
Rougher textured tiles that won't be slippery when wet will avoid any mishaps when young children or guests are using the space. Look for the non-slip kind for safety and peace of mind.
And lastly, if you want to give the illusion of more space, matching your outdoor floor finish as closely as possible to your interior floor will serve as proof that your design is considered and well-thought-through. "In the open-plan home, being able to throw open the living room doors to a nicely designed outdoor living space is increasingly popular, as people factor entertaining in to their home design," says Patrick Doyle, of Halo Tiles and Bathrooms in Wexford. "Installing floor and wall tiles that are durable and suitable for both indoor and outdoor is a now a key element of the design process."
Very similar interior design rules apply when choosing your outdoor furniture. Scale and functionality are ever-important, but knowing how to care for your pieces to ensure longevity is at the forefront, says Peter Flanagan, of Flanagan Kerins (flanagankerins.ie). "Each material has advantages and disadvantages, especially with our indecisive Irish weather," he says. "Better-quality teak will need to be washed with warm soapy water, lightly sanded and tightened up over the years, whereas cast-iron furniture will, despite its coating, eventually show signs of rust, particularly at bolts and joints. Lightly sand the signs of rust, apply rust primer and choose from a huge array of car paint colours.
"If you prefer the metal look, then the best for the job has to be aluminium, as it's sturdy and light to carry, if you're chasing the last rays of sunlight around the garden," advises Peter. "It's very resistant to Irish weather and won't rust. If comfort, with minimal care, is number one for you, then a woven resin has to be up there." He suggests Rathwood furniture, as it is robust and comes in a variety of styles.
"Whatever your choice of furniture, your best friend will be a good cover," says Peter - especially true for the winter months, when it's time to make the move indoors again.
Anna Shelswell-White is editor of House and Home magazine