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Step Inside Dulwich: Making the most of your small outdoor space

Summer is nearly here, so it’s time to look at your outdoor space and make it ready to enjoy those long sunny days and balmy evenings with a barbeque and glass of bubbly.

Imagine yourself sitting in the perfect small, outdoor space, describe what it would look like and take that as your inspiration. Think of the space as an external room rather than an empty space and decide the primary function it will serve; a space for socializing, a children’s play area, a quiet, secluded retreat where
you can escape the world.

Here are a few simple ideas that won’t cost a fortune, but help you create that idyllic small outdoor space.

Vertical Wall Gardens

Where space is limited think vertical. Use walls in a small outdoor garden when space is limited; instead of taking up precious floor space think vertical. Optimise available walls, fencing panels, arbours or arches or simply create your own vertical garden wall. Living walls can look fantastic in small town gardens or even on flat balconies. Many different types of plant species can be tailored to your preference, using plants that have an attractive, structural or architectural look such as ivy, succulents and grasses.

Container gardening

Container gardens are increasingly popular and can reduce the level of upkeep necessary; regular watering and the occasional feed is all that’s needed. You can use wooden barrels, ceramic or terracotta pots, and even plastic planters now offer an attractive option. Oversized pots and plants can make a small outdoor space feel much bigger, so think large!

Garden fencing

A solid, well-maintained fence can provide privacy, structure and definition to a small garden. Fences can also form the backdrop for the design of your outdoor space. If you have to build a fence don’t just opt for the ubiquitous lap fencing, try horizontal or diagonal battening, leaving an equal space between each batten, this will create a more contemporary look. Paint the battens with a coloured wood dye to add a touch of sophistication.

Create a central focal point

In a small or confined space it helps to create a central focal point, something that catches the eye straight away so people are instantly drawn towards it when they step outside. If the space is to function as a social area then the seating / dining area should perform this role. Locate where the sun shines the longest, but ensure that some shade is provided. The alternative is to create a dramatic planting scheme or to use structural forms to draw the eye in.

Create the illusion of more space

There are several ways to create the illusion of a bigger garden. If a neighbour’s property has mature plants on their side of the fence consider mimicking the planting scheme on your side, this will create the appearance of a larger garden.

Another option is to use of mirrors to reflect foliage, planting and perspectives. This can deceive the eye into believing that space exists beyond the actual boundaries.

Outdoor lighting

Subtle or clever lighting using solar, string or fixed lighting can highlight the feature areas of your outdoor space, such as the central focal point or the dramatic planting scheme you’ve established.

Hopefully these few tips and hints have inspired you to make the most of your small outdoor space. Remember any outdoor space in London is valuable and precious; so do make the most of what you have. It will only improve your quality of your life and make the most of your leisure time.

Ems Penniston is Creative Director of Impressions London, a local business transforming residential properties in our area.


contact: hello@impressionslondon.co.uk

This article first appeared in the July 2017 issue of SE22 magazine.