Ex­te­rior de­sign

Plan out­side space with the same care and at­ten­tion to de­tail as the in­side of a house, says Amelia Thorpe

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Amelia Thorpe

Din­ing al­fresco has be­come de rigueur in sum­mer, at least if the pro­lif­er­a­tion of new pave­ment cafes, gar­den bars and rooftop restau­rants is any­thing to go by. And din­ing in the gar­den at home? no longer the venue for just a few scat­tered pic­nic rugs and burnt bar­be­cue of­fer­ings, it’s now all about mak­ing the out­side as en­joy­able—and well con­sid­ered— as the in­side of our homes.

in­te­rior de­signer Kit Kemp, the cre­ative force be­hind Fir­m­dale Ho­tels, is one of those lead­ing the way in cre­at­ing out­door ‘rooms’ on the same prin­ci­ple as those in­side. Her de­sign for the pretty gar­den at num­ber Six­teen in the heart of South Kens­ing­ton fea­tures a se­ries of sun-splashed and shel­tered ta­bles and seat­ing ar­eas for din­ing and re­lax­ing. Each area is sub­tly zoned with plant­ing and pots, and with paving and peb­bles, cre­at­ing the same kind of oa­sis of com­fort that one would ex­pect of the ho­tel’s in­te­rior.

The se­cret to any suc­cess­ful scheme is to plan with care, think­ing about cre­at­ing the most seam­less tran­si­tion from in­doors to out and whether you want to in­clude an out­door kitchen or bar­be­cue area, as well as spa­ces for shar­ing din­ner with friends, en­joy­ing the view or sim­ply some­where for hav­ing a snooze in the sun.

What’s most im­por­tant to con­sider when you’re plan­ning an out­door space?

Start by think­ing about how you pro­pose to use the space. For ex­am­ple, if you plan to cre­ate an out­door din­ing area, it makes sense to po­si­tion the ta­ble with good ac­cess to the kitchen so that you haven’t got to carry the food from one side of the gar­den to the other.

Equally im­por­tant is to make the most of the vista, in­clud­ing the view of the out­door area from in­side the house. For ex­am­ple, through glass doors from a con­ser­va­tory or a liv­ing area that opens out to a nar­row gravel path lined with box balls, lead­ing your eye to an invit­ing din­ing ta­ble and chairs at the end, or even on to a gap in the hedge or gar­den wall to a far view in the dis­tance.

Plonk­ing a ta­ble on a lawn is not go­ing to de­velop the at­mos­phere in quite the same way as cre­at­ing a more shel­tered space. Can you use hedg­ing, plant­ing or walling to cre­ate a more in­ti­mate feel­ing? Not only does this of­fer shel­ter from the wind, it also cre­ates the sense of a ‘room’ out­side.

Of course, Eng­land is not the Mediter­ranean, so a large para­sol will help keep the dew off the ta­ble late in the evening. Or site the ta­ble and seat­ing in a lean-to, which can dou­ble as a log store—just make sure your logs are beau­ti­fully stacked. For warmth in the gar­den, a bra­zier or fire pit can work well; it’s easy to pull some chairs round it af­ter din­ner.

What should you con­sider when choos­ing fur­ni­ture?

I like out­door fur­ni­ture to look beau­ti­ful and to be com­fort­able and prac­ti­cal with­out the need for lots of main­te­nance. There are now plenty of all-weather de­signs to choose from, in­clud­ing Nep­tune’s All-weather Wicker chairs, which can be left out­side year-round.

Have a va­ri­ety of lev­els of seat­ing if you can, but avoid the fur­ni­tures how room look with too much in one space. Think about a din­ing area and some smaller satel­lites with com­fort­able seat­ing in dif­fer­ent ar­eas of the gar­den, po­si­tioned to en­joy the best views and sun at dis­tinct times of day and at sun­set. Light­weight pieces are use­ful if you want to be able to move the fur­ni­ture around.

Which fab­rics work best?

I pre­fer neu­tral cream or stone-coloured cush­ions and of­ten use ro­bust fab­rics, such as those by Sun­brella (www.sun­brella.com), and out­door cush­ions by com­pa­nies such as Fresh Amer­i­can (fre­shamer­i­can.an­nieselke.com). It can be a prob­lem find­ing some­where to store cush­ions in win­ter, so some­times I take the linen scat­ter cush­ions from an in­te­rior sofa in the house plus some light wool throws and use them in the gar­den as needed.

What’s your ad­vice on light­ing?

Go for a sub­tle glow—too much bright light will kill the at­mos­phere. Just a few gar­den lights on spikes in plant­ing around a din­ing area and a mast light, such as Nep­tune’s Dart­mouth, to wash light down the wall, with some can­dles and hur­ri­cane lamps on the ta­ble.

Paving or deck­ing?

It de­pends on the en­vi­ron­ment: deck­ing is ideal for coastal ar­eas and looks good in city gar­dens, but in coun­try ar­eas, I like sand­stone or lime­stone paving with some tex­ture and colour vari­a­tion, used in a va­ri­ety of sizes and com­bined with gravel or cob­bles. Po­si­tion the din­ing ta­ble on a flat slab and make a bor­der of cob­bles around the edge of the area to cre­ate beau­ti­ful tex­ture and more in­ter­est than a whole ter­race in one paving slab. All weather Cadiz arm­chair, £320, Nep­tune (01793 427300; www. nep­tune.com)

The gar­den at Num­ber Six­teen, de­signed by Kit Kemp, is a text­book ex­am­ple of an out­side space for en­ter­tain­ing

Com­fort­able fur­ni­ture and prox­im­ity to the kitchen are key in­gre­di­ents in the ideal ter­race

In­te­rior de­signer Emma Sims Hilditch of­fers ad­vice on cre­at­ing the ideal ter­race for en­ter­tain­ing

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