Dakota Murphey, Decoration, Garden Design, How To

As much as we’d love to have a huge garden where we can relax, play with our children and host parties, for the majority of urban homes in the UK, this is far from reality. The demand for city living has meant that homes are getting evermore compact, featuring gardens and outdoor spaces to match.

For those of us that have managed to snag a comfortable home with at least a little outdoor space, it’s usually a priority to make it work as hard as possible. Here are our top tips for making the most out of every inch.

maximising a modestly sized garden

1. Think vertically

When floorspace is at a premium, it’s time to look upwards. Planters with a small footprint are your friend, helping you squeeze as many plants into your garden as you desire. As well as hanging baskets and trellises, look for stepped herb gardens, potted wall panels and other DIY planter ideas.

2. Play with illusion

You might be surprised what a little visual trickery can achieve. Take a weekend to paint your walls or fences in a bright colour, and invest in a few pretty solar lights to brighten dark corners and add depth to flower beds and shrubs. Mirrors are the ultimate tool for making your garden seem bigger. Here are a few ways in which they can be used creatively and with subtlety to create the illusion of an endless space.

3. Don’t forget the driveway

If you’re lucky enough to have a garage and driveway attached to your property, you might be able to save some valuable space here, too. Conventional up-and-over garage doors are known for “kicking out” at the bottom, meaning that you can’t have a car parked too close to the front if you want to get inside. Switch this for a roller door and you’ll regain a good few feet of useable driveway.

4. Divide and conquer

If you want to be able to use your outdoor space for multiple activities, consider visually splitting the space up into different areas. It’s amazing what a difference can be made simply by marking out designated areas for gardening, socialising and playing. Use decking, patio slabs, and clear borders to separate pathways, flowerbeds, seating areas and your lawn. You’ll be surprised as to how much space you actually have.

garden dividers

5. Prioritise pruning

Unfortunately, small gardens simply don’t have the space for unwieldy plants. If you want to keep flowers and shrubs in a modest space, you have to be fairly strict about pruning them back so that they don’t overwhelm what little space you have. You can make this easier for yourself by choosing plants that work particularly well in small spaces.

6. Pick your furniture wisely

Choosing the right garden furniture and accessories is essential if you want to maximise the space you have. Anything that folds away or stacks together is your friend. That goes for tables and chairs, washing lines and anything storage solutions. You should also look for slimline designs that don’t take up too much visual space – think ‘minimal’.
The other option is to get as much of your furniture working double-time. Benches can double-up as storage boxes. Seats can fold out into loungers. Potting benches can be used as storage and flower display stands.

7. Re-evaluate your shed

How much storage do you actually need in your garden? Chances are, if you have a shed, you’re not using it as much as you could be. Now is the time to go through everything that’s stored in there and assess whether you really need it more than you need a little more room in your garden. Can you replace it with a smaller unit – a lean-to, or half-height shed, perhaps? Alternatively, is there now enough room that you could spruce it up and use it as a garden room in summer?

decorate garden shed

Most of us wish we could have a little bit more garden space but this just doesn’t always fit with a modern lifestyle. Instead of worrying that somebody else’s lawn is greener, appreciate the space that you do have by making the most of every feature – you’ll soon be able to see it for the charming, low-maintenance gem that it is!

Dakota Murphey

Dakota Murphey is an independent content writer who regularly contributes to the horticulture industry. She enjoys nothing more than pottering around her gardening in the sunshine. Find out what else Dakota has been up to on Twitter, @Dakota_Murphey.

Dakota Murphey, Decoration, Gardening Year, How To, Make over

If you need more space in your home but an extension or a loft conversion is out of the question, how about putting a log cabin in your garden? Garden buildings have come a long way since the ‘outbuildings’ of old. Contemporary garden rooms can be designed exactly to your specifications and to meet whatever requirements you may have. From teenage den to guest suite, music studio to home office, it all becomes possible with the help of a good builder.

Here are just a few examples of how your new garden studio office might look:

garden office

home office building
Image Source: Whitehead Builders

log cabin

outdoor office
Image Source: Home Building

If you’re thinking of a garden office, this can be a clever and cost effective way to extend the usable space in your home, while adding interest by making use of your home’s natural surroundings. What’s more, a professionally designed and installed garden office will look fantastic and add value to your home too.

However, when it comes to specifying your new home office, there are some key decisions that need to be made at the outset to ensure that your log cabin offers the home comforts you need for all-year use.

1. Insulation

As a starting position, all garden buildings that are designed for year-round use need to be fully insulated. When you specify your garden office, make sure you choose a twinskin log cabin which comes with cavity filled wall insulation, as well as full roof and floor insulation.

Standard levels of insulation provide a better thermal performance than you would find in a mobile home, while upgraded insulation levels are comparable to those of a modern brick-built house. Once insulated, the walls of your log cabin garden office can be the equivalent thermal value of a solid wall, which is much thicker.

2. Heating

Even with high levels of insulation and double glazed windows in your garden building, chances are you will need additional heating to keep warm during the colder months. There are several heating options.

  • Wall mounted electric convector heaters are the traditional choice
  • Wall mounted electric infrared heating panels are energy efficient as they don’t heat unnecessary space
  • Underfloor heating is unobtrusive and space saving
  • Wood burning stoves can be fitted to an outside wall for a natural solution and real fire comfort
  • Fully fitted air conditioning can be used to provide heat in the winter months
  • Standalone oil filled radiators or electric fan heaters can be wheeled into position for extra flexibility

It makes sense to install a heating system with a programmable timer, so that you can control the temperature to suit the times that you are actually spending in your garden office. The latest systems come with smartphone app controls, which may be useful.

3. Ventilation

British summers can be hot, and usually when you least expect it! Some form of ventilation is recommended to keep the temperature comfortable, so make sure your garden office design takes account of this.

  • Glass panels can look very stylish in a contemporary garden building, but don’t forget to include an opening window in the room design to keep their airflow circulating
  • If you wish to avoid the clutter of a desktop or floor standing electric fan during the summer, think about a ceiling mounted electric fan that can be switched from the wall.
  • For full comfort throughout the year, whatever the outside temperature may be, air conditioning systems can be fitted.

4. Natural light and shade

Maximising natural light is the holy grail of many interior designers. And what could be nicer than having a garden office where light floods in through large expanses of glass? Using insulated glass panels in your home office design will provide plenty of light while blurring the boundaries between indoors and the natural environment on the outside.

That said, you may also need to make provisions for shading to screen your eyes from the intensity of direct sunlight and to cool down. If you work with as computer screen, the sunlight reflecting onto the screen can be very uncomfortable and cause long-term eye strain.

Think about where the log cabin is situated in your garden. Positioning your home office near a deciduous tree means that the leaves will shield you in the summer but not block out valuable winter light. Consider the design of the building too; deep eaves will offer a degree of natural shading.

Of course, fitting window blinds (or even curtains) to your garden office is a simple trick you shouldn’t miss. Whether you go for Venetian blinds, pleated or blackout roller blinds such as these ones, there’s no shortage of choice to give your building the right degree of shade. For a top end solution, look out for double glazed window designs that come with Venetian blinds fitted within the glass panes.

5. Electric lighting

Your home office will come fitted with standard electrics, and lighting is typically installed in the form of track spot lights or downlighters set into the ceiling to provide a general level of artificial light. Among garden building designers and customer alike, LED lighting has become an increasingly popular choice to provide good quality and energy efficient ambient lighting.

In addition, you may need to consider specific task lighting to aid your work. Depending on the amount of detail incorporated at the garden room design stage, task lighting can be built in – perhaps as a pendant light over a sitting area, wall-mounted picture lights or outside entrance lighting.

If you’re not sure how exactly the room will be configured, why not add more power point to provide flexibility later on? Then, when it comes to furnishing your home office, standalone lamps or desk lighting can be added as required.

6. Data cabling

Finally, in addition to wiring for power and light, it is essential that your garden office’s IT connectivity requirements are fully covered. Tapping into your home wireless network may not be the best solution. Very often, your computer’s WiFi reception may be patchy, particularly if your home router is in the main building and high levels of insulation in the garden office disrupt the signal.

Specifying data cabling when you order the design of your log cabin garden office will give you a much more reliable service when you need it most. You will need data connections for telephone, broadband and possibly TV too. You may also wish to consider cabling for alarms and entry systems, so you can answer the front door or gate when you’re in the office at the bottom of the garden, and to protect your garden building from intruders.

Dakota Murphey

Dakota Murphey is an independent content writer who regularly contributes to the horticulture industry. She enjoys nothing more than pottering around her gardening in the sunshine. Find out what else Dakota has been up to on Twitter, @Dakota_Murphey.

Dakota Murphey, Decoration, Garden Design

Did you know that concrete is having a bit of a moment in landscape garden design? It’s one of the most widely used building materials in the world on account of its strength and durability, and at last year’s Chelsea Flower Show it could be seen everywhere.

Concrete featured strongly in Darren Hawkes’ gold medal winning ‘secret garden’ and Kate Gould’s City Living Garden, another gold medal winner and ‘Best in Category’ winner to boot, and it could be admired snaking, bench like, through Jo Whiley’s Scent Garden below.

Jo Whiley’s Scent Garden
Source: RHS

Concrete is an easy building material to work with in the garden. Organic looking, it blends well with the surrounding nature and you can use different types of concrete in a variety of finishes to suit many shapes, styles and designs.
Compared to many other materials, concrete stands the test of time. It can endure even the most extreme weathers without cracking, won’t scratch easily and isn’t susceptible to moisture, mould or pests. A versatile and utterly practical substance, concrete can be used for walls and flooring, furniture and garden objects.

What’s more, this is not an expensive garden materials, and you can have it delivered direct to site either as ready mixed or on-site mixed concrete. Before you ask your local supplier for a quote, it’s a good idea to calculate the exact amount needed for your garden project. There’s a handy tool to help you do this on this website.

Here are 5 favourite ways to add a personal touch to your hard landscaping design by using concrete.

1. Concrete patio

Great for relaxing or entertaining, a patio allows you to enjoy the outdoors without actually stepping into the garden. A concrete patio is quick and easy to install, able to be poured in one solid piece in a single day if that is the design you’ve chosen. In terms of maintenance, it couldn’t be easier. A quick sweep with a broom or rinse with a garden hose now and again is all that’s needed, plus a good sealant applied every couple of years.

concrete patio
Source: Homedit

2. Concrete paths and steps

Whether you use it for small or large areas in your garden, concrete can be altered to produce many different aesthetic effects. From smooth to textured, coloured or patterned, there are plenty of options to get the desired look for garden paths, steps or stepping stones. The image below uses concrete slabs to create the look of floating stairs.

concrete path
Source: Cool DIY Ideas

3. Concrete planters

Fill your garden with beautiful plants and flowers in containers and planters made of concrete. Position solid rectangular planters to line the edge of the patio, or use freestanding round or flowing shapes moulded from bowls or buckets for a softer aesthetic and to add interest. Why not try quirky shapes or stack several planters? The only limitation is your imagination.

concrete planters
Source: Love the Garden

4. Concrete furniture

Give your garden a few finishing touches by adding visually striking furniture. From concrete tables and chairs to benches, stools and side tables, you can furnish your seating area in an array of different styles. Concrete garden furniture is durable enough to withstand rain and storms – in fact anything the weather can throw at it – meaning you don’t have to store it indoors!

concrete furniture
Source: Radiothailand.org

5. Water feature or fire pit

Concrete is a safe material for coming into contact with the elements such as water and fire. It’s the perfect material for a water feature, whether you’re designing a nature friendly environment to attract wildlife with a bird bath or pond, or styling a relaxing zen garden with a decorative fountain. In the evening, a concrete fire pit can look spectacular in a garden setting, while providing ultimate safety from the flames.

concrete feature
Source: The Garden Glove

Dakota Murphey

Dakota Murphey is an independent content writer who regularly contributes to the horticulture industry. She enjoys nothing more than pottering around her gardening in the sunshine. Find out what else Dakota has been up to on Twitter, @Dakota_Murphey.

Awnings, Dakota Murphey, Gardening Year, How To, Sail Shades

keep cool in garden summer

With the snow finally off the radar and spring beginning to warm things up, most of our minds have already drifted into making plans for the sizzling summer sun. Hot days on the beach, lazy weekend picnics and maybe even a nice cold drink in the beer garden of our favourite pub – right?

Getting out of the house seems ideal when you’ve been staring at the same four walls all winter, but don’t forget that everyone else will be thinking of doing the same thing. Why not go somewhere that’s free from people, free of charge and literally right on your doorstep?

Here are five ways you can beat the queues of people flocking to the beach this summer and stay cool (and smug) in your own back garden.


1. Grab some shaded lawn furniture

One of the quickest ways to get some shade in your garden is simply to put up some parasols, but you may as well do it in style. If your current patio table doesn’t have a hole to support a parasol you can either use this as an excuse to get a new set or opt for a free-standing design. Update the cushions on your seats to match the fabric of the parasol and consider treating yourself to a co-ordinated swing seat or loungers so that you have somewhere cool and comfortable to relax after lunch.

New lawn furniture is an effective way of giving your garden an instant makeover, making it feel like you’ve been transported somewhere exotic without ever leaving your home.

summer house

2. Treat yourself to a stunning summer house

Create an inviting, shady retreat in your own garden by building a summer house in a secluded spot, away from the house. A bit like a shed (only much, much prettier and devoid of muddy tools), you can get summer houses in all kinds of styles.

Whether you like the idea of just enough space for a comfy chair and a bookshelf, or a cabin that’s are big enough to double up as a home office or guest bedroom, there’s a summer house that is perfect for your garden. The only requirements are that it lets in plenty of natural light but has windows that open and shutters that close to keep you cool in the middle of the day!

swimming pool

3. Invest in a luxurious swimming pool

Building a pool is a commitment, but if you intend to stay in your home for many more years and have a big family, or love to host parties, it can absolutely pay off. Just imagine the joy of being at the beach or lido on a hot day, but with warmer water, cleaner toilets, zero crowds and no drive to get there – heaven!

Modern designs mean that you don’t even need a huge garden to accommodate a pool, with plunge pools, lap pools and hot tubs all being great pool options for a small home. Above-ground (rather than in-ground) styles will bring the cost down and choosing a modest size will be much easier to maintain, too.


4. Build a romantic pergola

Somewhere between a gazebo and a trellis, pergolas are great for providing cover over a patio or walkway. To get the most shade from a pergola you will need to surround it with fast-growing climbers and shade plants, which will wind around the beams to create a beautiful, natural rooftop.

Pergolas can make for a beautiful focal point in a large garden but are also ideal for more compact spaces, where having both seating and plants would be otherwise difficult. It’s the perfect spot for dining al fresco and enjoying your garden throughout the year.


5. Lay back in a breezy hammock

If these suggestions are sounding a little bit intense, there’s nothing simpler than stringing up a hammock and putting not just your feet, but your whole body up. Two sturdy trees should be able to support a hammock and provide plenty of shade, or you can use the beams of a pergola if you have one and don’t need the space for dining.

There’s something immediately relaxing about gently swinging above the ground, although the best part about a hammock might be how incredibly easy it is to pack up and put away once it gets colder. Between partners, friends, children and pets, your hammock will probably be occupied for most of the summer!

It might be a little bit more effort than grabbing your sunblock and heading to the local park, but if you get your summer shade plans in action now, your garden will be a veritable paradise in time for June.

Dakota Murphey

Dakota Murphey is an independent content writer who regularly contributes to the horticulture industry. She enjoys nothing more than pottering around her gardening in the sunshine. Find out what else Dakota has been up to on Twitter, @Dakota_Murphey.