Kya deLongchamps demonstrates that even the most petite of patios and summer seating areas offer enormous entertainment opportunities
Size doesn’t have to be the whole story. Small seating areas in the garden can be highly impactful and comfortable year round, but they do rely on careful horticultural tailoring, hard landscaping tricks and considered set dressing.
The Victorians designated their outdoor spaces, whatever their volume into determined ‘rooms’. That same formality, symmetry and serious (up close) quality can deliver on even a squeak of square metres.
Low walls can perform as built-in seating, flow into raised beds, ledges, shelves and even a barbecue spot. A section of warming wood seat and back set into concrete block, skimmed or finished in brick, stone or easy stone “slips” — is inexpensive but adds serious architectural thump.
Ask your landscaper about projecting further separation by splitting levels to allow a step down from this private pause through open piers in the embrace of walls into say a more communal lawned area.
Flat secure capstones to any thick walling against boundary walls and fencing, or encircling beds, can double up as further seating. Taller brick or block walls can include niches and timber or stone projecting shelving to stage trailing plants and herbs and to jewel with small alpines and succulents.
There are no wall ties or footings required for a stone slip finish and with a reasonable inclusion of 15% for breakages and snafus, there should be very little wastage skinning one side of a block wall. Suppliers include - fernhill.com, keltstone.ie, decostone.ie (Cork) and roadstone.ie. Real and faux stone veneers from €50 sqm (add €10-€15 for installation DIY).
There’s never been a better array of partition and screening ideas to answer whatever look you’re going for. My top pick would be the sliced log wall created by Paul Hervey-Brookes for Chelsea Flower Show.
Natural willow screening can be rolled out to soften less attractive boundary fencing, and set up in crisp but charming disguise panels to run interference where the bins or compost heap are in close quarters; from €55 for a group of panels, thegardenshop.ie.
Slim vertical timber battens in silky timber are all the rage in urban landscapes, and you can build your own budget take with the Lemhi range a B&Q in double groove, single groove or louvres.
IKEA offers a touch of this wildly popular look for tighter areas in the Applaro range of free-standing screens, shelving and matching hooks for pots. From €35. We love the rolling Tostero/Applaro bench/seat with the collection in multi-coated acacia, €130, ikea.ie. For structurally sound fencing, consider attaching a lattice section to the top of the panel — this can increase height and support climbers to the general 2m height local authority rule on boundary fencing height. In boldy urbane contemporaries, Bloom Neva modular collection comprise of laser cut aluminium uprights, wood, and/or reinforced composite boards, pierced decorative screens and quarter top-panels. Dramatically delivered in matte jet-black; €85 for 1.5m sections, B&Q.
Creating an effective visual bridge between indoors and out, can double the perceived outdoor foot-print. If you’re short on space but have patio or balcony doors that can be thrown wide, single flooring will deliver dramatic continuity. Avoid changes of material and interrupting shifts of level. Generous glazing will effectively merge the house and garden space, and with a fully glazed door and side-lights, the effect will survive even with the doors shut.
All surfacing set near a house (decking included) should be raked to avoid pooling by house walls. Ceramic, stone and concrete screed flooring can be laid to carry a recessed rail and what is termed — thrush threshold drainage (laid the full length of the glazing units to ensure rain moves away as it accumulates, rather than sitting and potentially condensing under the doors). With a proper weight of door, nothing should ever seep back under the door or slider.
Soil beds will always demand attention, but you can still have proper lush borders surrounding your tiny patio. Consider plastic cells to retain gravel, shingle and shattered slate beds planted into with grasses, small tree species, cushion forming plants and hardy tropicals. More plants of one species is more impactful that a mongrel crew.
Hard mulches will suppress weeds set over a permeable membrane that’s cut to allow plants to be “plugged” in, and allows rain to soak away. There’s a huge range of aggregate colours available and with beautiful exotic choices in easy care planting, there no need to worry about a graveyard vibe.
For a really contemporary look go for a determined sharp lines and a small collection of sleek, beautifully finished materials — hardwood decking boards, polished aggregates and large flags or tiles (with a key) set edge to edge (rectified). Take the advice of your local garden centre on the growing height and vertical volume of any plants you intend to use in a smaller area of the garden. Keep in mind, close to your windows — star, specimen plants remain striking year round. Think about layering and textures and a palette of three principal colours, just as you would indoors.
Use a vertical thrust and a tiny foot-print to grow-your-own in a corner of your small garden, balcony or patio with some ornamental edge. Open or enclosed shelving (ladder designs are currently wildly popular) can be set on four legs or leaned into a wall.
Look for outdoor tables, glazed cabinets, mini-greenhouses and shelving solutions to suit and then micromanage the surfaces with container planting. Mixing up flowering annuals, herbs and salad leaves will infuse the area with heady fragrance and serve the kitchen all summer.
Avoid chemical disease and pest control where you are sitting in close quarters with a growing area. French marigolds look gorgeous and see off many aphids. Position crops like tomatoes to soak up at least five hours of sunshine, and ensure the pot size is scaled to the plant or herb to thrive.
For a complete cheat, just drop a grow bag set with tomato plants into a lattice backed garden planter/trellis (120cm high), under €24, Argos. French beans, once secured against wind damage will happily climb the walls and flower prettily. For a proper living wall, try cell units you can build and tailor, such as Wonderwall Living Wall, €9.99 for three cells, ebay.ie.
If you’re looking for something entirely classic that can live indoor or out (utterly fabulous in a conservatory or garden room) Bodil Kjær’s 1959 design for Carl Hansen, The Indoor/Outdoor series has been reintroduced in its range of architectural furniture.
A Danish designer and architect, Kjær studied with Finn Juhl and Jørgen Ditzel, training in both the UK and the US.
In 1960 she returned to Denmark and established a studio in Copenhagen.
The selection includes everything from simple benches to full swinging seats in rich oiled teak.
See carlhansen.com for both prices and suppliers.
Above: The new Overalt stool in eucalyptus, a naturally durable and sturdy hardwood because of the high density of its wood fibres. A handy indoor piece with its raked styling; €50, home delivery only, ikea.ie.
Above: Throw on some new, fat seat squares to instantly update a jaded bistro set or bench; from a wide selection priced from €25 at Homesense.
Above: The Poppy Bold oil lamp in steel is an interesting feature alternative to candlelight inspired by the open petals of the poppy flower. Ensure any open flame is stable and used outdoors. Frost Produkt for Northern, DK) €149, ambientedirect.com
Above: The Acapulco look remains popular in resin-coated wire which won’t rot outside; Salsa table (here in sunset orange), €128.50 from a juicy new collection at johnlewis.com.