Picture the scene. It's a Friday evening in Mid-summer. You're awaiting the arrival of your guests for the reunion garden party of the millennium when you suddenly realize – your patio just isn't living up to expectations.
To avoid this unfortunate fate, we've rounded up design tips from the people at the top of the patio world who reveal the most common patio decorating mistakes – and what you should be doing instead.
1. Underestimating the importance of boundaries
'The big mistake people repeatedly make is to underestimate the importance of their boundary materials,' states acclaimed garden designer Adolfo Harrison from Adolfo Harrison Garden Design (opens in new tab).
Adolfo continues, highlighting how boundary materials form 'a significant part of the area directly outside your house' so, 'rather than settle for off-the-shelf fencing, give it the same consideration that you would if it was indoors.
'See if you can continue your internal wall colors outside to create a seamless transition that will make your interiors feel larger, and remember that bespoke furniture can be integrated into the boundary to save space and materials,' he adds.
2. Buying the wrong sized plants (and putting them in the wrong place)
If anybody knows how to curate their patio and plants – it is Lucy Conochie of Lucy Conochie Design (opens in new tab). The designer who effortlessly injects botanical jewels across the most prestigious of spaces.
Most interestingly, Lucy suggests buying 'pots and containers as large as you can afford, even if it means just having one.'
'Bigger pots will retain moisture for longer, which means less watering, and a large planting area gives you much more scope for what you can plant. There are plenty of small trees and shrubs that will thrive in patio containers, and you can play around planting colorful bedding plants around the base,' Lucy adds. Lucy also urges us to group large pots on odd numbers 'to create impact.'
3. Not creating a defined space
Following Lucy's advice, Andy Stedman, founder, and Creative Director at Andy Stedman Design (opens in new tab), further emphasizes the power of a plant – only in its ability to create a defined space. He, too, offers planting suggestions, saying: 'It is important to have a balance of planting to soften the patio area. Use evergreen shrubs and trees, such as pleached or box-headed Carpinus Betulus (Hornbeam), to create background structure and seasonal interest, which immediately creates a defined space.'
'This adds screening from neighboring properties and fences and wraps the patio area in greenery. This can be softened with lower-level planting – think about adding contrasting textures, plant shapes, and pops of color.'
4. Forgetting about a focal point
While we shape our interiors with statement colors, furnishings, and art pieces, we may not give quite as much thought to our patio spaces.
'Clients often make mistakes around how they envision the space – forgetting about spacing and privacy, how the patio will look when summer is over, and what makes the space interesting and a talking point,' Andy (opens in new tab) shares. The designer then offers his suggestions for creating an instant focal point on our patio.
'By adding seasonal interest with planting, and focal points such as a fire pit or water feature, outdoor furniture or even a sculpture immediately brings the space to life. Add outdoor cooking facilities, feature lighting, and music, and suddenly entertaining at home feels fun, inviting, and glamorous,' he says.
5. Not scaling the space
After Adolfo highlighted the power of boundaries, Andy further explored how to create an indoor/outdoor living space – by remembering to scale the space and leave room for large furniture.
While many forget to think about large furnishings for their patio, Andy suggests going big. However, he also reminds us to use the pieces strategically.
'Go big, fill the space, but allow for flow around when chairs are pushed out. Hide unsightly drain covers with recessed covers to pave within, hiding the drain entirely, containing the flawless porcelain paving lines,' he shares.
See: Outdoor heating ideas: 10 stylish ways to heat up your patio all year round
'Light, large paving tiles can make a small space look larger. Tight grout joints make it look contemporary and seamless.'
We've still got time to pick up some bigger pots and even bigger furnishings – our patio party is safe – right on time.
Megan is a News Writer across Future Plc’s homes titles, including Livingetc and Homes & Gardens. As a News Writer, she often focuses on micro-trends, wellbeing, celebrity-focused pieces, and everything IKEA.
Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and expansive collection of houseplants.
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