Thinking Ahead

the garden patio, terrace or seating area is the most important part of your outside space and the area you’ll use the most. Clients always specify a large lawn but even on a summer’s day, the grass is wet from the dew in the morning. The terrace can always be used without getting your slippers wet, and furniture needs to be on a hard, level surface. You can’t keep moving tables and chairs each time you cut the grass.

The terrace needs to be close to the house. If you eat out side you need to be near the kitchen to carry food and plates backwards and forwards. It’s also nice to have the patio in the sunshine, but if you have a shady patio near the house then use this for eating – nobody wants to eat in full sun – and build another sun terrace to catch the last of the evening sun elsewhere. Even the smallest garden can have two paved areas.

The terrace needs to be large enough for your table and chairs, and also big enough to push those chairs backwards and walk around them without falling into the flower bed or walking on the lawn. I see so many small, mean patios where people dodge around pots and plants as though they’re in a Devon antique shop.

Give yourself space and room to breathe.

The terrace is the kitchen dining room of the garden. Make it welcoming. Put cushions onto your chairs. Throw blankets across them and place huge hurricane lamps and candles onto the table. Make it feel really inviting out there. As soon as it’s a sunny day, I whizz round with the cushions and make sure the garden looks like another room. Even if I only sit out there with my sandwich at lunchtime for half an hour, it’s been worth it. As the evenings draw in, and the weather becomes cooler, I arrange plants on the table where I can see them from the window. Little pots of autumn colour will make way for bulbs and winter pansies. It should still look like a wonderful place to be.

Paving materials are limited, compared to the huge range of indoor flooring. It’s pretty much stone or brick; natural or man-made. Indian sandstone has been hugely popular but you must make sure it’s ethically sourced, or a small child or woman will have quarried the stone at the expense of their health. Travis Perkins, Benton Weatherstone and Covers all provide ethical sandstone. If your existing patio is a little too small and you can’t match your existing stone, think about adding a wide border of bricks and perhaps taking up some of the slabs and replacing them with squares of brick too, so it all ties in.

I do like a terrace to be surrounded by a pergola or a wide border of planting. You feel like you’re eating right in the middle of the garden, and feel enclosed and private too. My favourite pergolas are in square cut oak, but we make great circular pergolas too. Have another look at your terrace. Do you really want to sit out there?

For help with the design and build of your garden please call us. Appointments are fun and free.

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