Who isn't dreaming of the great outdoors these days?

October 7, 2020

Overnight, outdoor space has become a commodity hotter than ever before, as—thanks to widespread stay-at-home orders—gardens, terraces, and patios replace the now cancelled summer travel and getaway plans made pre-pandemic. But worry not – a little social distance—with an ample assist from Mother Nature—can be just as restorative, if not more so, as a faraway jaunt. Read on to develop your small space landscape expertise, learn about the latest in cheerful outdoor products, and make the most of your outdoors all year. Read more, ‘How To Create An Outdoor Room.’

Because in the Covid-19 era, private outdoor space offers both safety and freedom.

Here’s how to extend your exterior space’s usefulness through spring, and summer, even into winter. A full guide awaits – read on to see why the backyard is the hot new destination this year.

Image via @melissa_penfold Instagram

Many people have ignored their backyard for years because they were rarely home amid long commutes, business travel, school, and sports activities, as well as weekend getaways. But the pandemic moved most people’s work home, cancelled their holiday plans and their children’s summer sports and inspired people, to do outdoor projects as a way to unwind. They are installing fire pits, swimming pools, creating flower beds, building sand pits, and buying beautiful outdoor furniture.

All of a sudden the backyard shot to the top of the priority list because people needed something to do. We have been out in our gardens more in the last six months than the last six years combined.

And we are transforming our backyards into ambitious gardens, outdoor kitchens, campsites, movie theatres, and water parks. Some of us are looking to create zones in our backyards to offer a sense of different destinations—and to allow social distancing when guests visit. Read more, ‘These Are The 10 Design Requests People Will Make Post Pandemic.’

Some 46% of consumers said they did a landscaping, gardening or outdoor-living update in the last three months, topping the list of home-improvement projects in a in June survey. Though fewer people are hosting large gatherings for big entertaining holidays we still found that over 25% of survey respondents said they bought a barbecue in the last two months.

The backyard is the hot new destination this year. Ethimo Furniture, pictured, available at

Let’s go Alfresco 

Mother Nature provides the backdrop, but there are plenty of reasons to take the party outside with this season’s latest looks. Goods related to outdoor cooking, relaxation and recreation are especially in demand. Sales of barbecues grew 46% in May compared with a year earlier, according to market research.. Sales of outdoor and sports toys are up 51% over the year before, the researcher said. Parents and children are turning to their backyards to keep active and busy. Outdoor spaces are taking the place of schoolyards and sports fields. Read more, ‘How To Improve Your Outdoor Room.’

Marketers at home-improvement stores have been mining consumers’ online search terms to spot shopper needs this year, noting steep rises in searches for terms like backyard weddings, backyard camping, outdoor cooking areas and fire-pit ideas.

It’s like opening an additional room of the home.

Since the pandemic began, people have increasingly wanted different places to go in their garden as they tire of being confined to a rotation of their home office, family room and kitchen. They want other destinations to take a phone call, have coffee and to chat with each other.

A breathtaking garden by Belgian Landscape Architect, Stijn Cornilly.

People who regularly travel to Europe for summer are playing lawn games and swimming in the pool. They are present to see the full blooms of their garden hydrangeas and lavender and to take morning strolls around their properties. Normally, they’d just zip through and off they’d go, but now people are just really appreciating the beauty of it and spending more time outside. When people realized they would be cancelling their summer travel plans, they started asking especially about paths, trees, vegetable gardens, and colourful flowers. They’re not having people over, it is just for them. Read more, ‘Making a Modern Garden.’

Plant sales at garden centres rose 30.3% in January through June compared with the year before and demand hasn’t slowed since the rush of the spring planting season.

Nurseries say they haven’t seen availability across the board as sold out as this year. Usually, people don’t plant shrubs and trees in summer because it’s so hot and people are travelling—so they can’t water a lot. But if they’re home they can still plant during the warm months, and people are.

Since the pandemic began, people have increasingly wanted different places to go in their garden as they tire of being confined to a rotation of their home office, family room and kitchen. Garden by Scott Shrader

For city-dweller folk with limited square meterage, designing an outdoor patio, balcony, or garden with functional and decorative elements that make it an urban oasis can be a real challenge. With most of us spending more time at home than ever before—working, and forgoing travel as well as social events—it’s more important than ever for a home’s outdoor spaces to double as a retreat.

Knowing how you are going to use the space is key.

Some gardens are to be viewed from the interior, some are a passive space to read the newspaper, some are for entertaining, and some are for all of the above. Design an outdoor ‘room’ the same way you would an interior and consider all dimensions. Think about the flooring, walls, and ‘ceiling,’ and how these elements can maximise the potential of a space. Do surrounding walls get clad in vines, or do hedges?

Why compete with Mother Nature? This season’s latest offerings are designed to play a supporting – not leading – role in outdoor design. Ethimo Furniture, or

A Place in the Sun

Why compete with Mother Nature? This season’s latest offerings are designed to play a supporting – not leading – role in outdoor design. Typically with small spaces, less is more. It’s often about what you don’t do that yields the best outcome. Having an open ‘flex’ space is important rather than over-programming with different furniture types. And keeping the materials palette simple can create a sense of calm and make a space feel bigger. Think about a planting palette that uses fewer varieties of plants, and keep the materials of planters, pots, furniture, and accessories in a similar ‘story.’ They don’t need to be monochromatic, but they should be complementary.” Then decide, do you screen out neighbouring windows? Does a tree canopy or a trellis add shade and privacy to the ‘ceiling?’ And does a unifying paving material direct attention to the plants and furniture? Be careful with too many decorative elements in a small space. Read more, ‘Your Outdoor Furniture: 5 Mistakes To Avoid.’

Conversely, you can take a maximalist approach. In small gardens, it’s best to actually do a lot. Planting should be coherent but varied in texture, colour, and scale; add several materials that complement one another—wood and gravel, boulders and decomposed granite. It’s important to consider every centimetre. Little details go a long way. Having gravel of a few scales, for example, is a simple thing that can elevate a small space. And an unexpected sculpture or piece of driftwood can provide some energy.

Your garden, however big or small, should be a source of joy.

Ethimo Furniture,

The Must-Have Elements

A place to sit to allow a person to just be in the garden in a meaningful way. Beautiful planting: that way, your space will come to life with birds, bees, butterflies. Nothing is better than being in a garden with wildlife. A simple, primitive water feature.

The sound of water can reduce the psychological proximity of urban street noise.

A firepit. It provides warmth and visual interest, and can really activate a garden at night. Think also about how seasons are reflected in the garden. A combination of flowering perennials and deciduous trees as well as evergreen trees and shrubs can ensure there is interest and ‘green’ throughout the year. Have a realistic understanding of the garden’s natural conditions: aspect or sun, exposure or wind, moisture, et cetera. Designing with that in mind in terms of appropriate plant selection as well as things like furniture choice and layout will lead to a more successful outcome.

Pick a Theme

Your outdoor space should reflect your sense of style. To narrow the field of design choices, pick a theme, and run with it. If you want to evoke summers spent in the English countryside, aim for a cottage garden lined with wildflowers, along with a fire pit made of cobblestones and seating of weathered wood. This theme could work in a small balcony, too — by scaling the foliage and furnishings to the size of the space. It’s about creating a sense of taking a journey. Read more, ‘Architects Top Outdoor Furniture Picks.’

When you step outside into a garden you want to be transported.

Your outdoor space, however big or small, should be a source of joy. Ethimo Furniture,

Consider Your Assets

Every outdoor space has its strengths, so embrace yours. Look for the power spot. Once you find your power spot, then you work around that. If you have a roof deck with an enviable view, celebrate it by placing the furnishings so they direct the eye to the vista. Is your backyard shaded by a narrow building? Enhance the mood with a shade garden, cozy seating and soft lighting.

You can play up a large outdoor space by using plants, pathways and furniture to divide it into separate areas serving different purposes.

If all your outdoor space is on a slim city balcony, highlight its charm and character by creating an inviting spot. Interlocking deck tiles or an outdoor rug could warm up a sterile tiled floor. Hanging planters could add greenery without claiming valuable walk space; a trellis or screen could provide privacy and personality; and a few pieces of small, but comfortable furniture could draw you in.

Not all spaces have an obvious focal point, so spend time finding yours. Perhaps there’s a perch in the garden at a higher elevation where you could place a bench and build a footpath leading to it. Or maybe a lower spot makes for a natural gathering place.


Your instinct might be to start with plants — aren’t flowers the point? — but resist that urge. If you plant a magnolia tree in the middle of your garden before you decide where you want to sit, you may discover you relinquished a prime seating area to a tree that could have happily lived elsewhere. So figure out your seating first: Determine where it will go and measure the space before you shop.

Ethimo Furniture,

Position Wisely

You may have a fantastic view when you stand on your balcony, but if you fill the space with a daybed, will you be staring at a brick wall instead of the skyline? Check your views from seated and standing positions, then select furnishings that work from both perspectives.  Look out at the space from inside your home, too. What can you see from the living room? An outdoor sofa with thick cushions may look great when you’re enjoying the outdoors, but if you have to cover it for the winter, you may face an eyesore for much of the year. If that’s a concern, consider furniture with no cushions or small ones that can be easily stored.

Choose a shady spot for seating. Shade is hugely important. Where is your best opportunity to create shade?

High Performance 

Whatever your style choices, make sure your outdoor design works with your home décor to create a sense of continuity and flow. The inside and outside should talk to each other. The furniture and planters outside should complement the furniture inside. And gone are the days of forgettable fabrics. The performance-textile landscape is now replete with botanical prints, ardent colourways and textures that entice. Kvadrat has released a new Patio fabric in punchy huges ranging from mint to lavender to citrus and is now covering cushions at Dedon. Australian and New-Zealand-based textile brand, Mokum has launched Tropicala by Catherine Martin – an effervescent collection of palettes and prints that works beautifully for indoor and outdoor living. Then Sunbrella has teamed with Pendleton to take it’s familiar stripes outdoors. According to Dedar this season calls for a simple yet elegant jacquard stripe in classic resort hues. Designer Thomas O’Brien’s latest collection for Lee Jofa – and the first designed for outdoors – features batik-inspired prints in hues that draw on nature’s influence. Oh and, we love, Playa Jardin by Old World Weavers for Scalamandre – an elaborate foliage print, well worth investigating.

Light it Up

It doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated, but lighting will expand the hours you can enjoy your garden. Even if you’re not trying to read on your balcony after sunset, a set of string lights or a lantern can achieve more than pure function: It sets a mood, transforming your anodyne patio into something dreamy. The newest outdoor lighting debuted by beloved Italian and British brands makes for an easy – and elegant – transition from day into night. *This is an excerpt from ADPRO


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