There’s nothing better than whiling away long, warm evenings outside with a glass of something cold in a hand. And it’s even better when it’s your own little piece of outside.
I’ve lived in London for six years and its only in the last year that I’ve been lucky enough to have a very small deck to call, temporarily, my own. It still feels like a treat to take coffee and magazines out there in there morning and I’m really hoping I never have to go back to being without so much as a flat roof to clamber out onto. It’s only rented so we can’t go painting, scrubbing or nailing things into walls, but it does get a whole morning of sun which is definitely not to be taken for granted.
I know it’s a real luxury to have just a small bit of space, especially if you live in a big city. But for those with a big garden, a tiny patch of yard or just big dreams to one day be able to string up a hammock in a tree, I thought I’d draw up some favourite bits of inspiration for outside spaces no matter what size.
1. Small can still make a big difference. Rather than cramming awkward furniture onto a tiny balcony, focus on the floor by adding cushions and blankets. Keeping the area low to the ground will make it feel bigger and more accessible.
2. Rugs aren’t just for inside. Take those old, threadbare rugs onto sheltered terraces and takes to add colour and character to outside spaces. The second picture down is actually of El Fenn in Marrakech where we stayed recently with i-escape.com. The full post on the beautiful riad is here.
3. Tree stumps as tables. Wood obviously works well outside but take it one step closer to nature by using old discarded tree stumps and logs as occasional tables and stands. A big wide, low stump would be great for Moroccan-style picnics on cushions.
4. Fill the space. Imagine the above without any of the furniture. It’s literally a bare concrete yard. By adding cushions to low walls, potted plants and spreading out tables and chairs, the space immediately feels lived in and useable.
5. Sometimes just one piece is all you need. A wide-bench or old, dilapidated bed covered in blankets and pillows are incredibly versatile. Read on it solo, sit and have a drink with friends or sunbathe in the summer.
6. Lighting is key. Anywhere looks magical when lit with candles and hanging lanterns, and it’s one of the easiest ways to make a fairly scruffy, rented garden look whimsical. If you have beams or bars to hang lanterns from go for it, if not, just litter the place with candles in jam jars.
7. Painted screens are your best friend. I love a folding screen but sadly have never had a place big enough to have one (they do make great headboards though). But they really come into their own in a garden. Perfect for adding detail and covering up peeling paint or modern brick walls. Ideal behind a bench or outdoor bed.
8. Put everything in a pot. A garden isn’t a garden without some green and if you’re without grass or renting somewhere, terracotta pots are the way to bring said green into the equation. If like me you’re renting, you’re going to have to leave all those carefully tended flowers and and mowed lawn one day, whereas if they’re in pots, you just cart the whole lot with you when you go. Yes they take some caring for, but it’s worth it when they start growing and it’s all down to your handiwork with a watering can. Think outside the box too; I’ve planted stuff in wooden crates, old steel buckets and painted ceramics bowls.
9. Take the inside out. This is a bit harder if you live somewhere like London where the chance of rain/damp/sludge is pretty much daily, but if you have a covered outdoor area, why not make it into it’s own room. I love the book shelves, prints and reading lights in this outdoor den and one of my favourite things to do at home is drag our dining table and chairs complete with cushions, flowers and candles outside if it’s warm and dry when we have over (the 2nd picture is my place). It also means I have more room to make a mess whilst cooking dinner inside….
10. Cushion overload. I have so many cast-off cushions and their go-to home is now outside (stored inside under the sofa when not being used). Small, uninspiring areas are transformed when covered in cushions that encourage people to sit and slouch for hours. Oh and a hammock is always a good idea where possible too….
11. Last but not least, think in colour. I love an all-white exterior (and interior come to that), but unless you’re living in tropical or Mediterranean climes, sometimes you need a bit of colour to make a space feel warmer and more inviting. Let’s be honest, white day beds don’t look quite the day against grey skies….
Some of my favourite online stores for bit and pieces for gardens and terraces are: