all the inspiration you need to transform your outdoor space

Already searching for new garden design ideas so you can transform your outdoor space ready for next spring and summer? If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s just how valuable our outdoor spaces are to our everyday lives, not to mention our health and wellbeing. 

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With all of us spending more time at home, using our gardens as an extension of our living spaces has become more important than ever. Whether it’s a space to relax with family at the weekends, somewhere quiet and peaceful to escape the stresses of everyday life, a play zone for the kids or an outdoor kitchen area, our gardens have to work hard to meet all of our needs. 

That’s where our stunning garden design ideas come in. We’ve rounded up our favourite schemes to give you all the inspiration you need to turn your dream garden space into a reality. No matter how big or small your garden is, with just a few simple touches you can turn your outdoor space into a tranquil oasis that you’ll want to spend all your time in.

Whether you’re after ideas for a complete garden makeover or you simply want to update your existing space, we’ve got it covered. Read on for your ultimate garden inspiration, then check out our guide to planning a garden makeover for more advice for your project. 

1. Get in the zone

In a small garden, you might think that breaking up the space into separate areas would make the space look even smaller, but zoning a garden like this can actually increase the feeling of space. This small garden has been divided into zones that are separated by low maintenance tropical-style planting. The decked dining area is positioned nearest the house, which can be practical for easy access to the kitchen. The snug seating area at the bottom of the garden feels cosy and secluded and is perfect for relaxing. Adding a firepit means it can be enjoyed later in the year too when the evenings are cooler. Love the idea of decking in your garden? Head to our decking ideas feature for more inspiration. 

2. Create a living room feel 

If the bottom area of your garden is the place that gets the most sun, it’s the ideal spot for a seating area where you can enjoy the sunshine. As it’s further away from the house, it also gives a feeling of seclusion and privacy. The decking gives the space a more permanent feel, as though it’s an extension of the house, which is enhanced by the shelves on the rear wall. Add some bright bunting and colour pop cushions for some fun and flair. Find more inspiration with our guide to outdoor living spaces. 

3. Bring in some foliage 

Foliage-covered fences and walls can act as a handy barrier to exterior noise, which is particularly useful in city gardens. Plant climbers such as fragrant jasmine in raised beds next to your fence and encourage them to spread out, creating a living wall effect. Enhance your secluded oasis with foliage and a large parasol for shade and lose yourself in the greenery. Our guide to living walls has plenty of tips on how to create a similar look in your space. 

4. Introduce a stylish pergola

Modern pergola ideas are a great option for any sized garden. Pre-sized panels can be fitted together in different layouts so you can customise your design. Off-the-shelf modular products can quickly transform a space and help create a unified look for boundaries. The strong lines of a contemporary slatted design provide a stylish backdrop for plants, creating an extra planting opportunity and adding an architectural element that looks good all year round. Another plus is that if your garden is overlooked a small pergola can be incorporated into your plans to add a secluded spot.

5. Choose exotics for small spaces

Densely planted lush exotics create an exuberant planting style that detracts from small dimensions. Plants chosen for their interesting leaves dominate and add a gorgeously textured look, making them perfect for tropical garden ideas. Fill in borders with lustrous banana palms, spiky phormium and low growing hardy ferns. A supersized tree fern always catches the eye. Dicksonia antartica is one of the hardier varieties with arching filigree fronds. Add drama with a touch of bold colour too. With their vibrant hot red or orange blooms and luxe foliage, canna make a stunning centrepiece for a border. 

6. Plan your planting 

If you’re struggling with ideas for how to fit your planting around your seating area, try sketching out some ideas first. Mark out your area and see where you could place your foliage. This seating area has beds that have been preplanned and built-in when the bricked patio was being laid. Large statement pots with colourful planting, such as these hydrangeas, are an easy way to change up the look and feel of the space from one year to the next. Want to build you own patio? Head over to our step-by-step guide on how to lay a patio for all the expert tips you’ll need. 

7. Size doesn’t matter

Here raised beds define the seating area in this modestly spaced garden. Though they narrow the area, it actually lengthens the look of the space and it’s still the perfect fit for an outdoor dining table. Here the raised beds are painted white, which reflects sunlight and creates a bright and airy feel to what could otherwise be a small and perhaps oppressive garden.

8. Create built-in seating

Want to maximise space in your garden? Having permanent seating up against a wall gives a seamless look, especially when combined with raised beds. The wall behind the bench seating also offers added protection from the wind or sun. Simply add some colourful bench or scatter cushions to ramp up the comfort factor. 

All those cushions will need storing away when it’s raining and during the winter months, however, so if you don’t have a shed or garden storage it’s a good idea to incorporate storage underneath your bench seating instead. Opt for a design where the top of the bench seat can be lifted up to reveal a large storage compartment, perfect for keeping all your cushions and throws in.

9. Create a cosy seating area

If your garden lacks shelter then adding a man made structure like a pergola could be a good option for creating a cosy and welcoming seating area. Painting it a dark colour can help it tie in with your furniture and creates a more fresh and contemporary feel. String festoon lights up for when the sun goes down and frame the area with an outdoor rug and matching cushions.

10. Choose statement furniture

Sometimes one standalone piece of furniture is all that’s needed to give an instant lift to an outdoor space. Next to a group of container plants at varying heights this tranquil and stylish spot is perfect for whiling away the hours with a good book. Find your perfect outdoor seating in our guide to the best garden furniture. 

11. Go for laid-back entertaining 

Love using your garden as a space for entertaining friends and family? Why not try incorporating one of our favourite outdoor bar idea to give your garden a focal point for parties? It also encourages people to spread out from the seating area, ensuring your garden gatherings have a more open and friendly vibe. If you’re good at DIY, creating a simple outdoor bar structure is an inexpensive way to recreate this look, or take a look at ready-made designs such as the Honolulu bar from John Lewis. 

12. Go for the minimal look

Choosing one variety of plant in a restrained colour palette and grouping them en masse gives an effortlessly stylish look. Remember that less is often more. Uniform planting of airy grasses adds a cool style to your garden that’s right on trend. Ornamental grasses add drama and understated elegance with their sculptural shapes in stunning shades of burnt gold, luminous silver and vibrant stripes. The trick to add wow factor is planting different types of grass as the stars of the show rather than mixing them in with other plants as a filler. Plant them in pots that you can move around to suit the mood.

13. Set the right tone 

Deciding on a colour scheme that ties in your plants and your furniture can be tricky, so opting for a monochrome palette means that you needn’t worry about things matching. This all-white scheme is fresh and modern, and really soaks up the sunlight. Picking plants becomes easier too as there are plenty of white blooms available to choose from.  

14. Add interest at eye level 

Having multiple levels in a garden can add variety to the space, such as a raised patio dining area which can also give you a better view of the rest of the garden. Raised beds are also a great way of bringing plants up from ground level – having them at eye height in a seating area means you feel more of a connection to the planting. Taller plants like alliums give another extra level too.

15. Keep it low maintenance

You may not have the resource at the moment to spend time and money on landscaping ideas, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still have a beautiful garden. On fair-weather days you can bring indoor furniture outside and appreciate the existing charms of your garden.  Just remember to bring things inside overnight because it’s not worth the risk of furniture getting soaked in an unexpected downpour. 

16. Consider an awning for shelter

If you have a seating area that’s next to your house, investing in an awning or veranda will provide protection from both the rain and sun. Choosing a clear material like glass or perspex for the roof material means that light still gets through and you can enjoy views of the sky. If the structural beams are strong enough, you could even consider hanging a chair from one of them for the ultimate outdoor relaxation spot. 

17. Reinvent a classic

Hard landscaping should last for years so it makes sense to go with a timeless look. With so much choice available when it comes to materials this is where things can get expensive so it’s important to bear in mind your budget so things don’t ravel out of control. Textured limestone pavers add the luxe look to your garden design but are one of the more expensive options. Now you can get the look at a fraction of the cost and without the hassle of maintaining the real thing. Limestone-effect tiles give the same wow factor and slot seamlessly into a cool and contemporary look. Head over to our paving ideas feature for more inspiration. 

18. Design an indoor-outdoor space

A lovely outdoor space can be an extension of your home. Select materials that match, or at least complement, your indoor flooring to create a seamless flow. Floor-to-ceiling doors that open fully really create a feeling of endless space. This is an ideal scenario for a small garden to stop the space feeling cramped and oppressive.Want to create a similar space in your home? Check out our buyer’s guide to the best decking.  

19. Include tropical planting

Design a jungle-style canopy by layering trees and taller plants, such as ferns, with smaller-sized plants underneath to get that lush, overgrown vibe. Tree ferns are slow growing and hardy, so are perfect for bringing an exotic feel to a tropical garden. Include some structural elements made from materials that feel as if they’ve always been there – large rocks, distressed woods, old brickwork, bamboo poles and brushwood screening all work well. 

20. Style up your space

Go for seamless modern living where your garden becomes an extension of your house. Create an extra room for that indoor-outdoor moment to give you key extra living space as well as a great area for entertaining. The modular furniture in this lounge style set-up is accessorised with small tables, cushions and vases to create a cohesive look that’s co-ordinated right through to the stylish planter. Choose all-weather powder coated aluminium and synthetic rattan in a cool stone grey contemporary weave and add a bright accent colour for cushions and planting to switch up the look. 

21. Transform a terrace

Small roof terraces or balcony gardens can also be well designed. Use the colours of your surroundings to help you create your colour scheme. For example grey stone has informed the shade of the decking and the furniture, creating a cool and muted palette. You may not have lots of space on your terrace for an array of plants, but one statement pot will really lift the space.

22. Choose a blank canvas

If you’re someone whose taste changes depending on trends, then you might want to opt for a furniture set that can act as a blank canvas. Something fairly plain and unobtrusive can be styled up with new accessories depending on what look you’re trying to create. Adding a new colour pop planter or bold cushion here and there can give it a whole new energy.

23. Use every nook

Have a look around your garden and see if there is any dead space that could be put to better use. Is there a patch of wall that’s currently bare, that could fit in a compact garden bench? If so, you’ve got yourself a new cosy nook! Different seating areas are always handy, whether it’s for entertaining or just for your own use, it’s nice to take in a different view, or separate dining areas from relaxation spaces. 

24. Lead the way 

Having garden paths that link different areas is not only visually appealing, it’s also also practical. Without a pathway you’ll soon find that you tread an unsightly channel in your lawn. Opt for salvaged paving slabs as a cheap option and smarten them up with a pressure washer before laying them to look brand new. Head to our landscaping ideas feature for more advice. 

25. Material matters

Patterned floor tiles are a growing trend for paving ideas, and there’s plenty of choice available. From cool graphics to ornate Mediterranean patterns, they certainly pack a punch. If you aren’t all that green fingered then their patterns can make up for a lack of interest elsewhere and give a much-needed boost to more simplistic planting schemes. It’s important to make sure your choice of paving is suitable for outdoor use to prevent it cracking due to frost, or becoming too slippery when wet. Man-made materials such as porcelain or concrete are hard-wearing choices, or opt for natural stones like sandstone, granite, limestone or slate. 

26. Try your hand at upcycling

If you want to ensure your space is truly unique, then simple DIY and upcycling projects are the way to go. Sewing skills can be put to good use for seat cushions in pretty prints and of course a lick of outdoor paint in a well chosen shade is something we can all manage to do! These recycled oil drums have been painted and turned into unique outdoor seating. We’ve got lots more tops on how to use salvage for garden upcycling ideas in our feature. 

27. Put in some steps

Having a garden on different levels can be more visually appealing than everything at one height. Steps can add another dimension to your layout, so think about putting in a raised section at one end of the garden. This is particularly good for sloped gardens too, as you can create a series of levels rather than one continuous slope, which can be impractical for seating areas or as play spaces for kids. 

28. Open up the space 

Every outdoor space would benefit from a garden mirror! You’d be amazed how much it can open up even the smallest of spaces. Positioning is key, you want it to reflect light from the sun to brighten the area but you don’t want it shining in your face while you’re trying to enjoy an alfresco lunch. Be wary too of too much light hitting your plants in case this damages the leaves. 

29. Design an area for cooking 

Let’s face it, one of the best things about having a garden is being able to fire up one of the best barbecues. If this is the case for you then putting in a designated area for cooking makes good practical sense. It can be as simple as installing some storage to keep everything in one accessible place, from charcoal to condiments. Extra surface space is also handy for outdoor cooking and will save you walking back and forth to the kitchen to fetch what you need. Head to our guide to creating an outdoor kitchen for more advice. 

30. Keep it sleek

If you’re starting a house extension project, this can be the perfect time to think about how to plan your garden design too, especially if you’re going to be removing side access to the rear garden. The last thing you want to do is build a sleek new extension and then have to cart machinery and landscaping materials through your house to complete the garden at a later date. Plan for the work to be completed at the same time to minimise the inevitable upheaval. 

If your extension design is quite modern, it’s a good idea to continue the contemporary look and feel in your outside space too for a cohesive look. Pristine clipped hedges are a useful way to zone a seating space, plus they’ll soften the look of hard landscaping or the rendered finish of an extension.

31. Introduce a country cottage feel…

Robust, traditional materials like timber, stone and brick lend themselves to a more rustic style garden. A pretty pastel outdoor sofa and chairs can set the scene and a climbing rose is classic cottage garden essential. Choose a fragrant climber and train it up a wall for quintessential country garden look. Head to our feature on cottage garden ideas for more inspiration. 

32. …or keep it modern and chic

If the traditional country garden look is not for you, keep it clean and contemporary with modern garden ideas and go for a sleek furniture set and a timeless monochrome palette. Paint fences and walls in similar tones for a smart backdrop to your space. If you only have a small balcony or courtyard garden with no room for flowerbeds, pack the space with pot plants instead to introduce some much needed greenery to your scheme. 

33. Enjoy the vacation vibes

Not being able to jet off to other countries as easily has meant that there’s been a growing appreciation for our outdoor spaces. Have a relaxation area where you can recline with a book or simply lie there and soak up the sun (remember your SPF in summer). Outdoor heating, such as the best patio heaters or fire pits, means that you can enjoy your garden well into the evening and in the cooler months too. 

34. Choose smart paving

If you’re thinking of laying a paved area or decking you might want to consider choosing a light shade to open up the space. Paler colours reflect light, making an area seem more spacious without seeming empty. A good tip is to check what colour it turns to in the rain as you may not like the look of it, and if you live somewhere where weather can be unpredictable it makes sense to consider this.

35. Design a secluded spot

How you approach your garden space should be similar to how you would approach designing the layout of a living room inside. Think what the best layout would be, what furniture you’d like and how to accessorise the space. If you’re someone who likes to relax outside with a glass of wine then choose a low-maintenance set up with easy-to-grow container plants. If you find yourself forgetting to water plants, then look for what watering technology is available to keep your plants lush and healthy.

36. Make use of every corner

Reassess your garden and see if there’s any potential in a neglected corner in terms of using the space differently by adding an extra area for outdoor living, relaxation, a yoga workout or your mindfulness moment – whatever it is that takes your fancy. Style it up to suit the mood, so if you’re after the feel of a garden retreat add plenty of comfortable cushions, festoon lighting and a firepit or barbecue to turn the space into something special. We’re all spending much more time at home now so it’s a case of using your imagination to extend your living space in a way that works for you.

37. Add lighting for a magical effect

As the sun sets, garden lighting ideas can transform your outdoor space, changing the atmosphere at the flick of a switch. Not only will it allow you to enjoy being in your garden for longer, but you’ll also benefit from views of your outdoor space from inside the house at night. Combine a range of lighting options, such as festoon and fairy lights, for maximum impact. Portable options, such as LED candles are also a great way to boost your garden lighting, creating a softer, more intimate ambience. 

More garden design ideas: 

  • Compact garden? No problem. Head to our small garden ideas
  • Our modern garden ideas are perfect for creating a contemporary look
  • Prefer a more romantic scheme? Our cottage garden ideas are perfect for you

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