Recently, I was invited to write a guest post for the blog of KLC, School of Design in London, where I study Interior Design. I thought I’d share it with my readers at darkroom bright:
The last two months have been nothing but teasers in my opinion – at least when it comes to the weather. Lovely sunny days, warm temperatures and blue skies sprinkled with totally unexpected downpours, gusting winds and chilly temperatures. A total rollercoaster for my sun-loving mind, which gets thrown off its feet every time a nice spell gets interrupted abruptly by nature’s unwanted forces, aka low pressure areas.
I am therefore rather pleased that we are now approaching the month of July, which always gives me a feeling of increased predictability (justified or not considering the country we live in…). Let’s just assume – and hope – that, for now, we have put the days of dismal weather once and for all behind us and have truly and fully entered the glorious territory of summer. And I am determined that nothing comes between me and this (admittedly optimistic) picture in my head.
At the very latest come 21 June, the official start of the summer, I can’t help but having this vision of lazy days and endless, relaxed evenings sitting on our terrace and enjoying the adjacent garden with a glass of chilled wine in my hand. I love the idea of living outside as much as inside during the warm months, effortlessly moving between one and the other.
In an ideal world, a house and its outdoor space should be designed in a way which accommodates this idea in the best way possible: Full-width sliding doors with slim frames for (almost) uninterrupted views are essential for me. I must admit, I don’t entirely understand the concept of folding doors, which are very common in the UK. Please, go for sliding ones if you can, you won’t regret it. They have a more contemporary feel, fewer frames to spoil the view, and they are space-saving too, as you don’t have to accommodate a stack of glass panels which are never an entirely pretty sight in my opinion.
Make sure your terrace is wide and long enough for a dining table and allow space to walk around it while people are seated. Try to also make space for a relaxed seating area, no matter how small. I rather have two armchairs with a side table in my garden, then nothing at all. The seating and dining areas should ideally be sheltered from the sun (and maybe even from the occasional brief rain shower). If you don’t like the idea of an ordinary umbrella, a sun sail or a pergola could be a stylish option. Scatter some large floor cushions around, put an outdoor rug on the floor, add some planters with foliage or flowers that create interest – and don’t forget the lighting, which is so important to create that special atmosphere once darkness sets in. Not much more needed to create your own outside haven, if you ask me.
I can’t really complain too much about the English Summer, I think its reputation is much worse than reality. I don’t need 30c for weeks on end. I am already happy as long as I can wear short sleeves and no socks. However (and here comes the big BUT), there is one thing I really miss: warm outside temperatures come dawn. There are just not enough occasions that allow us to spend time outside after the sun went down and not long for a jumper or a blanket. So, either you have this on hand or you turn to other solutions like a fire pit, an electric or gas patio heater or an open fireplace. Personally, I would always go for an open fire of some sort, it is just simply more romantic.
One topic I haven’t touched yet are BBQs and outside kitchens. While probably most of us own some sort of a coal or gas BBQ, outdoor kitchens are not exactly widespread. The cost factor plays, of course, a huge role, not mentioning that in our degree of latitude it might simply not been used enough. Having said that, I wouldn’t be too bothered if I had this back garden, being in London or not:
During the planning phase of our own home there has never been any doubt about one thing: The exterior of our property should be nothing less than an extension of our indoor space – in the way it looks and feels and flows. Almost every aspect of our garden mirrors how we live inside: no fuss, no clutter (sort of…), simple lines and easy maintenance. Obviously, this is not for everyone but it works for us as a busy family of four plus (very cute) puppy.
If you are planning to redesign your home, then make sure you spend as much time planning the outside than the inside, and never ever consider them as separate areas. See it this way: You are not only adding some outside space, you are also creating a new room in which you will spend many hours per week – if you get it right. The interior and exterior individually should work effortlessly and seamlessly, whatever your lrequirements and your budget. However, once you have made the two parts work together as one unit, once you have mastered that all-important link between both zones, then you will realise what you have missed so far. As they say, ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’, and it shouldn’t stop when it comes to that one place where we spend our most precious time: our home.