Justin Greer

Outdoor Living

From garden kitchens to home comforts, garden designer Justin Greer looks at how to take indoor living outside

We are increasingly looking at how to make more of our outside spaces by bringing some home comforts into the garden. Comfy furniture, an efficient cooking area, being sheltered from the elements, heating and subtle lighting are all features that we associate with being inside that can be introduced outside.

Additionally, bi-fold doors, and tiles that can be used both indoors and out are also a good way to extend your living area outdoors and gives you a flexible indoor/outdoor space in changeable weather.

Exchanging the traditional garden table and chairs that might be used once in a blue moon for more inviting and comfortable outdoor sofas with cushions really increases the appeal of spending time relaxing outside.

There is huge range available and some come in modular units that allow you to configure the furniture however you like to suit any occasion. Outdoor rugs are now available to finish off a seating area.

If somewhere to sit and eat is a must then there may be space for both a table and chairs and sofas either in the same or different locations in the garden that may take advantage of a sunny and/or shady spot. Sacrificing a few square metres of lawn to introduce a new seating area that hugely increases the potential use of the garden is well worth it.

Cooking outdoors is no longer restricted to brushing off a rusty old charcoal barbecue to cremate a burger. Smokers, rotisseries, pizza ovens, kamado style grills along with traditional barbecues (either gas or charcoal) offer the opportunity to bake, smoke, roast, grill – you name it. When some of these elements are combined in an outdoor kitchen, potentially with additional options of a sink, fridge, and gas ring you have the makings of a great, social cooking area. An outdoor kitchen gives plenty of work surface area on which to stand trays of food or for preparation and loads of storage underneath. Part of the kitchen might include a counter, offering a place to sit and eat on stools much like a breakfast bar or kitchen island in the house.

One of the main limiting factors on using our outside space is the great British weather. Traditional umbrellas or parasols are now being replaced by awnings that extend from the house wall, covered pergolas or more permanent structures with louvred or retracting roofs that can be left open or closed to keep out the rain. Additional extras include glass sliding doors or side panels that can create an enclosed outdoor space impervious to the elements.

If it becomes too cold to stay outside there are infra red heaters that can be mounted on walls, pergolas or in the covered structures mentioned above. Relaxing inside in front of a roaring fire can now be mirrored outside in a variety of ways by introducing fire pits to provide a warm focal point. There are simple portable grates in which to burn logs or more contemporary gas fire pits around which sofas can be positioned which also avoid the clinging smell of smoke from logs.

Different moods and effects can be created by lighting and can extend the use of the garden. Remote control systems are available that allow you to have several different circuits and can even allow you to dim or brighten the effect. Lighting decorative features such as water or feature planting is the icing on the cake.