These days we want a lot more from our gardens – they are becoming outdoor living spaces to relax, cook and entertain in, as well as grow fabulous plants.


To make any space function well and look good takes a little thought. It's a good idea to measure the area you have to work with and buy products that together will help create a cohesive style.

On warm evenings you'll be able to eat and relax outdoors, too, so do include a generous helping of plants with enticing, evening scent, such as jasmine and night-scented stocks.

If you're struggling with particularly wet, claggy soil, raised beds are a good option and will help complement your outdoor living areas. Find out how to create a contemporary raised bed.

Check out our tips on creating an outdoor room, below.

Shade and shelter

A covered area outdoor is good for a number of reasons. Firstly, you can leave things outdoors knowing they won't get wet in the rain and secondly, they provide shade in hot, sunny spots. Permanent structures like garden shelters can be pricey, but are a good investment. Temporary solutions include shade sails, garden parasols and pop-up gazebos.

A retractable shade canopy on metal frame

Landscaping materials

A classic way to make a garden feel like an extension of the home is to use similar materials to those indoors to help blur the transition. A wooden floor inside could mean having a seating area or deck outdoors. If using tiles outside, be sure to check they're frostproof with a rough surface for grip.

Timber and stone corner seating planted with ferns, grasses and hostas

Outdoor entertaining

There's nothing better than eating alfresco, especially if you've got your own barbecue accessories at home. From one-use barbecues, simple camping stoves, tables with built-in grills or firepits, to fancy pizza ovens and outdoor kitchens costing thousands. Barbecues can be built in, but be aware they may unintentionally draw the eye without being an attractive garden feature.

Vegetable skewers and sausages cooking on a barbeque


It's difficult to relax if you're being overlooked and shelter structures such as shade sails, can provide privacy. It may only take a large shrub or some trellis with climber to do the job. A canopy of small trees can work too, as can a big parasol. Some garden furniture also comes with screening, such as trellis or an awning.

Colourful planting around a garden trellis screen

Garden furniture

If you have room for two sitting areas, you could choose one for dining and one for lounging. Comfort is paramount. L-shaped sets are good for making use of terrace and garden corners, while folding patio sets are inexpensive and take up little space when folded. Even a few outdoor cushions on a low wall can make a comfy seat. Or use wipeable outdoor beanbags.

For more garden seating ideas, we've also put together a list of the best garden furniture and the best deck chairs.

Outdoor beanbags propped against a low stone wall


Outdoor lighting makes a garden look more inviting. For a great outdoor room effect, highlight hard landscaping, especially boundaries, to bring tall elements into play and increase the sense of intimacy. Set some lights low to wash up on to walls to achieve this and have a few lights shining down, where needed, for cooking or pouring drinks.

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Candlelight on a garden drinks table with fairy lights in foliage behind


Technology can change the way we use our gardens, with most indoor items now having an outdoor equivalent – from TVs, sound systems, to fridges. All you need is an outdoor power socket and you're ready to go, but ensure it's installed by a professional electrician. There are also robotic lawnmowers and computerised irrigation systems to reduce maintenance and give you more time to relax.

An outdoor television

Setting out a patio paving pattern

DIY projects for your outdoor room