Nature may still be providing the raw materials but today’s bespoke gardens are very much by design, and often with a key activity in mind. The purpose of your outdoor zone will depend on many factors, including the make-up of your household, favoured activities and individual preferences. Is this garden space mainly for adults or for children? Should it be soothing or invigorating? Do you want to harvest your own produce or is low maintenance a priority? Is it for intimate gatherings or lots of people? Gardens serve variously as entrances, retreats, dining rooms and recreation zones. Here we’ve lined up some ideas for customising your outdoors to suit each purpose.Arrive
Your front garden is the transition area between the bustle of the street and the sanctuary of the home and, because first impressions count, the way it looks is as important as how it works. Consider symmetry and formality to help draw visitors towards the front door. Paths edged with hedging and doors flanked by topiary or standards in matching pots bring a sense of welcome. Use width to signify the importance of the route; a wide, generous path will lead to the main guest entrance while a narrow side path allows access to service areas. Your choice of materials makes a statement too: the weightiness of stone and tiles lends gravitas while shell and pebbles have a more casual vibe, as well as a satisfying crunching sound underfoot.
An idiosyncratic focal point serves as an instant conversation starter. Reveal your creative side with a grouping of quirky collectables such as stone doves and potted succulents. If space permits, consider introducing a Haddonstone cast-stone birdbath or sundial, available through Alfresco in Auckland, or a wrought-iron obelisk. Add another layer of interest with scented plants such as roses, violets and alyssum.Eat
No deck, patio, terrace or courtyard is complete without a dining table and chairs. When spring arrives, we all want to make the most of the warmth and sunshine, but we do need to acknowledge how we actually live, rather than imagining how we might live when our fantasy life miraculously eventuates. If your style of entertaining typically involves hosting a few friends for wine and nibbles in the garden, there’s no need for a huge outdoor dining table with seating for 12; you can always hire or borrow furniture for any exceptional events.
Dining is more convivial when the environment is contained and well defined so use statement pieces such as Versailles planters to demarcate the entertaining area. Similarly, some sort of overhead definition enhances intimacy – whether it’s as simple as a tree branch or wisteria-clad pergola or as substantial as a gazebo or cabana where floor-length curtains are recommended to soften the lines and instantly evoke a holiday mood.
Mixing up materials shows confidence and adds visual and textural interest. Consider placing a concrete table on (reinforced) wooden decking or a wooden table on a concrete or tiled surface. Make sure your outdoor chairs complement the table without slavishly matching it. Candles of all sizes add atmosphere while softly lighting the space. Warmth is essential too. Alfresco’s concrete tables have the option of built-in heating, or choose one of their braziers in laser-cut steel. Matisse has Cocoon hanging fires for ultra-contemporary warmth. Or take your cue from luxury lodges and drape each chair with a thick woollen blanket.Relax
To counteract hectic daily life we need ready-made, no-fuss spaces that radiate harmony and peace. Hammocks, sun loungers and round cafe-style tables invite you to pour a glass of something cool and savour the day. In this area you do not want reminders of chores, so banish clotheslines, wheelie bins and all things practical to a designated utility area. Enhance the tranquillity with scented candles in hurricane lamps and exotic lanterns hanging from trees.
A lush lawn instantly evokes an old-fashioned sense of relaxation. Just add a picnic rug or simple striped deckchair and prepare to snooze. While the eyes are closed your other senses are heightened so plant fragrant lavender nearby or hang a soothing wind chime. Those with a yen for alfresco soaking might install an outdoor bath – whether a modest tub or a fully plumbed unit – and others find raking a Zen-style pebble garden a relaxing experience.
The Nestrest hanging lounger, described as an “oversized bird’s nest”, is a new release from Dedon, available at Domo and tailor-made for chilling out. The ingenious Neo Livingstones, available from Matisse, are organically shaped neoprene-covered cushions that closely resemble natural stones; they’re simultaneously landscape detail and seating solution.Play
True gardeners find much pleasure in the routines of planting, clipping, mulching and digging so create a corner that invites gentle pottering. Place a pair of patterned gumboots under an old chair topped with a Panama hat and gardening gloves. Underscore the theme with a well-placed weathervane and terracotta pots filled with herbs.
A large, flat lawn is ideal for cricket, croquet or skittles but pétanque enthusiasts may prefer a pitch of crushed shell edged with a wooden border. Young children love sandpits, daisy chains, inspecting insects and leaves through a magnifying glass – and traditional activities such as skipping, hula hooping, apple bobbing and sack racing. Install a netball hoop or soccer goal for older children.
If a custom-built swimming pool is an option, you could try Morgan Pools or Mayfair Pools. Cascade offers ultra-smooth Aqualux linings and 64 different pool designs. Belse armchairs, constructed from wide polyethylene strips over a bent-tube frame, are new to Poynters and available in a rainbow of colours. Or locate a day bed large enough for the entire family to pile onto under a shady tree.
(09) 309 3643Allium Interiors
(09) 524 4242Artedomus
(09) 361 1567Bashford Antiques
(09) 361 5142Cavit & Co
(09) 358 3771Corso de’ Fiori
(09) 307 9166Design Warehouse
(09) 077 7710Kings Plant Barn
0800 752 687Le Monde
(09) 377 9518Romantique
(09) 529 9933
For more images click on the "photo gallery" link above.
Story: Shelley Bridgeman
Photographs: Melanie Jenkins
Stylist: Claudia Kozub