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From city balconies to country gardens, stylist Jennifer Haslam explains how to make the most of your outdoor space

Follow the sun

Consider how you use (or want to use) your space. Is it for relaxing, eating, playing, growing food, or a combination? If you have the luxury of plenty of room, create zones to enjoy throughout the day. Think about which areas are sunny and when. You might want a table in an area that gets morning sun for breakfast, and comfy seating for relaxing in a spot that gets sun in the afternoon and early evening – and don’t forget a parasol for shade. When choosing furniture, think about the size and purpose of the piece and make sure you don’t get something that’s too big. If you’re working with a small area, such as a balcony, choose collapsible furniture so you can use the space in different ways.

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Add colour and light

Focusing on a colour theme will stop your space feeling cluttered. Use the exterior of your home as the setting for your theme – a red-brick terraced house suits warm terracotta tones, while a modern grey balcony flat suits pops of bright colour. The beauty of garden accessories is that they’re not permanent, so you can mix, match and interchange. Introduce colour with plants and pots, soft furnishings or some fun picnicware. Change the look and feel from day to night by bringing out lanterns, lighting candles and turning on festoon lights, and having throws to hand for cosiness, even on summer nights. 

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Go for easy updates

Start by having a good tidy-up and paint worn-looking fencing and furniture. In a small space, a few key pieces of furniture or accessories – like an outdoor rug or some summery cushions – will have more impact than lots of small objects, which can make a space feel cluttered. Add a few statement pots containing colourful plants, refresh old pots by painting them with paint testers, make use of fences and walls, for example with a painted trellis to grow a trail of sweet peas, and think about height, with hanging baskets and lighting. Sweep up regularly and keep clutter under control by finding a designated space for it, whether that’s a storage box or a small shed.

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