Turn your garden space into the great outdoors

With some proper planning and investment, your outdoor space can be an extension of living area

For many years I’ve been trying to convince my clients to put some of their budget towards their outdoor space when planning a renovation or extension of their home. This is what you will be looking out onto, and if considered as part of an overall scheme, it can feel like an extension of your home, enhancing your living space.

Here in Ireland many people have their own outdoor space, which is a luxury that in the past we tended to take for granted. When I lived in London, at the merest hint of sunshine the parks would be packed with picnickers and people enjoying the outdoors. This was simply because most people lived in apartments and did not have a garden of their own.

But according to a recent survey carried out by Houzz Ireland, the online resource for home design and renovation, we have finally woken up to the potential in our own backyards. The 2016 Landscaping Trends Study reveals that about nine out of 10 homeowners are planning landscaping projects, which include substantial updates or complete overhauls, with over half stating that outdoor living was the key influence in their outdoor project.

I love spending time in my garden and one of my earliest gardening memories is of planting roses which had come from my mum’s family home in Galway. I love roses but you don’t often see them in contemporary gardens, which is probably because they require a good bit of minding. The Houzz Survey confirms my suspicion stating that having an easy-to-maintain garden is the top consideration among Irish upgraders. Gardening is no longer the top use of outdoor space, with 70 per cent of those surveyed preferring to relax and spend time with family and friends than tending to their gardens.


Garden makeovers also have a significant impact on Irish outdoor living, with 77 per cent of homeowners reporting that they spend more time outside as a result of the upgrades.

The popularity of Bloom is testament to this newfound love of our outdoor spaces. This year's show was positively teeming with budding gardeners of all ages and the show gardens had something for everyone. One garden that I particularly loved was the gold medalwinning The Designers Backyard by Oliver Shcurmann, of Mount Venus Nursery.

Speaking to Oliver he said he wanted to show how people could use what they have to create something wonderful, even in a small space.

Oliver used mirrors as a clever way to make the garden feel larger and his use of weathered materials and accessories made the garden feel like it had evolved over time. One of the big influences for Oliver was to create framed views, to give the sense of viewing the garden through a window. This is the key to creating a truly great connection between inside and outside.

Whether you are building a new extension or simply adding some large sliding or folding glass doors to allow ease of movement from inside to out, it’s vital that you consider the views from inside the house as well as the outside space itself.

Denise O’Connor is an architect and design consultant