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How to create an outdoor living space

How to create an outdoor living space

With a little careful planning, investment and time, a garden can become an extension of your home – an extra room for relaxing, working, dining or cooking set against an ever-changing backdrop of blooms and foliage. ​​We asked our founder, Nix, who spent the early years of her career working with renowned landscape gardener Arne Maynard, to share her top tips on how to create the perfect outdoor living space to enjoy all year round.


Create different zones

“As with an interior, by far the most important thing is to map out the best use of space; how you are going to layout your garden,” advises Nix. “For that to be truly effective you should consider the garden and the interior at the same time.“ 

“I love creating an architectural skeleton to a garden – often using hedging and trees to define spaces and then layering in softer elements of herbaceous planting.”

Nix suggests giving each zone a purpose and a name that refers to its function. “This will help to conjure the spirit that you want each space to have,” she explains, “such as ‘the Orchard Garden’ or ‘the Croquet Garden’.


Choose garden furniture carefully

When choosing outdoor furniture, the key question to ask is: is it fit for purpose? Think about how and when you want to use it. For instance, do you need to move it around? Is it lightweight enough to do this? Depending on where you live, the furniture may need to be stored over the winter season. Remember to check how it will weather and if it needs cushions, do you have space to store them?

If the furniture is in view of the house, consider if it subtracts from the view or does it complement it? Will it suit the style and period of your home? “Carry elements through – such as colours or materials,” suggests Nix. “Make sure the way you treat each space complements the other – no clashing styles of furniture.”


Don’t overdo the lighting

When it comes to lighting, “Less is more!” states Nix. “Too many people over-light their gardens. Light usually spills out from the house, so take that into account.”

If you are looking for romantic lighting, nothing beats real flames, think storm or hurricane lanterns. Fire bowls are also wonderfully atmospheric and have the benefit of being easy to move around. 

“Whatever you do, don’t choose lights that flood a whole area or create a glare,” she warns. “Instead choose fittings that cast light down, so you have a glow where you need it. And use gentle, warm white bulbs…this makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE!”


Plant in pots

For those of us working with smaller gardens, balconies, patios or terraces, carefully planned containers can bring colour and structure all season long. “Options really are limitless but I like confident blocks of planting,” says Nix. 

“For example, tubs full of prostrate rosemary – a low growing, trailing variety of the herb – or brilliant blue Anagallis monellii ‘Sky Lover’, will tumble out and cascade. Or, if you want something a bit different, that needs minimal maintenance and has a wonderfully sculptural effect, plant different height containers with rhubarb. Its bold and confident leaves work surprisingly well even in smaller spaces”

We’d love to see how you’ve created outdoor living spaces or small garden sanctuaries in your own homes. Share your tips with us below or tag us into your posts on social media @nicolahardingandco

Nicola Harding & Co

About Nicola Harding & Co.

Nicola Harding & Co is a London-based interior design studio that creates places, not spaces. Rich in atmosphere, our interiors are refined and reassuringly familiar, reflecting and serving the people that use them.

About Nicola Harding & Co