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Outdoor seating: the perfect perch

One of the greatest pleasures in the garden? Sitting back and doing nothing, perhaps cosily enveloped by an outdoor bean bag, gently dangling in a hanging seat or perfectly perched sipping an evening cocktail.

Here we review what’s on offer in the expansive world of outdoor furniture…. Pictures 1-8 from top left to bottom right.

1. Bespoke bench seat with built in storage.  A custom designed bench can incorporate storage space to suit your specific requirements, by having a hinged lid.  Gas struts can make lighter work of lifting the lid if a heavy material such as wood has been used in the construction.  I designed benches with built-in storage for a client in North London who wanted to make use of all available space in and out.

2. Koziol briq contemporary garden stool: useful for garden gatherings these stools can be stored easily as they are stackable, look great and offer that all important extra seating when numbers are more than expected.  The stools made of 100% recycled plastic and available in eight colours can also be turned upside down and used as storage or as occasional table.

3. 111 Navy Chair: this dining chair is unique.  Swedish designer Emeco and Coca-Cola collaborated to produce this chair that uses recycled plastic Coke bottles making it truly sustainable.  The chair has the look of aluminium but is in fact of course sturdy plastic.  Coca-Cola red pictured is one of six colour options.  The chairs would make a striking contrast to a solid wooden table.

4. Bean bag by Fatboy: these oversized bean bags are a bit of fun.  The bag pictured has a stonewash effect fabric that is 100% cotton and machine washable.  With both natural and vibrant colours to choose from it has the flexibility to work in most spaces.  Measuring 180x140cm the bag will virtually give you a hug.  A great piece for lazy days lolling in the sun.

5.Blooma Vintage rattan Chair: For something with a more classic look comes this rattan effect armchair with timber legs and a polyester cushion.  The chair is available as part of an affordable set including 2 chairs and a wooden coffee table.

6. Egg by Nanna Ditzel: The whicker hanging seat will add a spot of romance to your outdoor space. In my opinion the perfect place to spend the afternoon curled up with a good book.  The seat has a foam cushion with removable washable cover and the seat is a available with stand.

7. Bench by Gloster: I love this new invention of the traditional wooden bench.  Teak slats and an aluminium frame give this bench a contemporary feel and the gentle curve from seat to backrest certainly look comfortable.

8. Designed by Frédéric Sofia for Fermob these outdoor rocking chairs are available in staggering 24 vibrant shades.  The anti-UV coating should prevent the all important colour from fading.  The Luxembourg range also includes tables, armchairs and footrests.

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Eco home Bristol

Trip to a model Eco Home

 
Inspired by Bristol's new accolade of 'European Green Capitol 2015' I decided to check out more of what the city has to offer and made a visit to the model Eco-home at the Create Centre.
 
Create is located on Bristol's Spike Island, home to Aardman Animation and numerous creative enterprises. The Centre is surrounded by the impressive architecture of three former factories with Brunel’s suspension bridge as a backdrop.  An environment centre housing a library of reference material for the environment, exhibitions and gallery as well the Eco home.
 
I came across the Eco home while on a Sunday morning run. From snatched glances I saw it had a flat sloping roof, small shed with green roof and a small productive and ornamental garden surrounding.
 
I learnt that the very shape and positioning of the home have ecological benefits. The cube shape conserves more heat than a traditionally shaped home.  Facing south the sloping roof maximises exposure to sunlight, along with a higher proportion of glazing on these elevations.  Due to the construction of the home, the sloping roof, glazing and material choices, the bedrooms are located downstairs and the living space upstairs.  There is a wealth of information in the home including architect's drawings, material samples of insulation and blocks and wall cross-sections to demonstrate their construction and insulation.
 
We are aware now of the great benefits of wall insulation but it was an eye opener to read the cost savings.  Based on a three bedroom semi-detached house annual showed an annual saving of £380 for internal insulation, and external at £400.  By insulating this type of property around 2,000kg of carbon dioxide would be saved. External insulation of walls, for older houses with no cavity, consists of adding a decorative, insulating treatment to walls.  Thickness ranges between 80-140mm and may need planning permission.
 
Outside in the garden ideas included rainwater harvesting, which at its simplest is the collection of rainwater from roofs into water butts.  Paving was in the form of clay pavers  that are permeable allowing water to filter down gradually into the ground rather than allowed to run off hard surfaces and into drains.  SUDS (Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems) looks to better manage drainage by a number of means In the garden this could be in the form of permeable paving, a green roof on a shed or building, or by rain gardens.  Rain gardens are formed by creating small depressions in the ground, these are then planted and roof water or water from paved surfaces can be diverted to these areas and filter into the ground as well as being absorbed by plants.
 
As I turned the corner of the building I found an attractive pergola structure constructed from weathered steel, used in the building industry for reinforcement. The steel had been bent to form gentle arches which was very effective and in keeping with the industrial feel of the surroundings.
 
Strawberry plants were nestled into available space next to the quaint shed with its green roof of sedums.  Numerous herbs featured included Rosemary gave some evergreen structure through the winter months.  I'm keen to return to the garden as the year progresses as it'd be fabulous to see the small fruit trees blossom and the herbs take off.  Well worth a visit.
 
 Weathered steel pergola
 
 
 
 
 

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Small Urban Garden Design: Before & After

In the summer of 2013 I visited a potential client in Clapham London to look at how they could reclaim their outdoor space.  Read on for insight into the garden design and installation of this small, contemporary, urban garden.

Effective design of small spaces is a subject gaining increasing media coverage of late. Micro living looks at achieving affordable and often more sustainable housing whilst numerous tv shows look at de-cluttering our lives and making the most of what space we have.  Design of space is just as important in our gardens in order to achieve effective functionality while retaining aesthetic appeal.  In this London garden the space was limited and it was vital to make the maintenance manageable for the busy owners. 

The garden had a few issues to overcome. It was being dominated by an existing hedge that had grown very tall and wide. There was a ground cover of gravel right up to the house meaning that it travelled into the kitchen on feet.  There were no notable features to draw you into the space.  Matt and Eleri wanted to be able to entertain their friends in the space with Summer barbecues.  They also wanted space to recline and relax without dragging furniture in and out.
 
The design solution was to create a series of built-in beds, seats, barbecue and daybed, these would all be rendered and painted to give cohesion. The surfacing would be a hardwood decking which would be repeated on the bench and daybed. This would feel great underfoot on a summers day. The tired fencing on one boundary would be replaced and new slatted style fencing would be introduced from the top of the existing fence to a height of 2m. In the rear planter bamboo would give privacy to the overlooked garden allowing light to enter the garden. A restrained low maintenance pallete of evergreen perennials and a standard fig would give the garden a unfussy feel.
 
Clapham Garden Design
 
 
 

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brazier

Something to warm you this winter

Winter treats for the garden

As you cosy up inside this winter it is easy to forget or neglect your garden.  Our outside space can be enjoyed year round and this post celebrates the winter season; giving you inspiration by highlighting a few things that may tempt you outdoors or make you appreciate the outside from in.

Opportunities to spend time out in the garden over the winter months can be limited, however if you have a reason to celebrate why not enjoy a glass of mulled wine or cider in the warmth of an outdoor fire.  Cast Iron brazier available from the RHS.

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Encourage wildlife into the garden with these stylish bird feeders.  The design friendly, ceramic bird feeders will attract local birdlife and add an unusual element to your outdoor space.  The small opening means that smaller species of bird benefit as those larger find it difficult to access.

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Outdoor hanging string lights can be used in so many ways and make a space look so inviting.  Lighting up your garden can be costly however these lights are a low cost option.  They come with a range of different power supplies included battery, solar panel or plug-in transformer making them highly flexible and easy to use.

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Natural light in winter is a wonderful thing, casting long shadows, creating reflections or back lighting .  Carefully situated sculpture or perhaps a tree or multi-stemmed shurb can create drama in the garden.  This David Harber sculptural sphere, constructed from slate, is just beautiful in its own right but even more so when strong natural light comes into play.

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I am a big champion of ornamnetal grasses for a number of reasons, in terms of our gardens in Winter Miscanthus sinensis is a winner.  One of the great things about grasses is that they add movement to the garden in even the gentlest of breezes.  At around 1.5-2m in height Miscanthus sinensis is a large grass that will create impact, its fluffy seedheads ideal for catching the light at early morning and dusk.

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An invigorating start to 2015

Coats, gloves and hats were donned and we hopped in the car to begin the new year surrounded by fabulous landscape.

The destination in question Lynmouth & Lynton, on the coast of Exmoor National Park.  Here we enjoyed bracing walks along the coastline and met the local residents including feral (but friendly) goats and wild ponies.

The ‘Valley of the Rocks’ is a dry valley featuring spectacular rock formations.  The landscape provided inspiration to novelists and poets such as William Wordsworth.  The journey in and out of Lynmouth features some surprisingly steep gradients but it is well worth a visit.

Wishing you all the very best in your own adventures over the coming year!

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