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Creating outdoor living spaces with Harriet Parsons

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As we're all settling into summer and embracing the outdoors, many of us are creating our dream gardens, with indoor - outdoor living spaces becoming hugely popular. We spoke with award-winning landscape designer Harriet Parsons on how to create your perfect outdoor space and her top tips to keep in mind when designing your garden.



Blurring the lines between the inside and out is a growing trend for 2021, what are the key points to keep in mind when extending an indoor living space into the outdoors?

We aim to create a space that is a natural extension of the house taking into account existing doors, windows and materials. We also pay particular attention to how the space is accessed and viewed from inside.

Where do you look for inspiration when it comes to garden design?

Nature.

What are essential pieces to invest in when creating a garden?

We encourage clients to invest in year round structures whether that's a wonderful tree, topiaries or a stunning wall which, amongst other things, will act as a setting for any outside living space. Furniture and pots will then follow.

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What are your tips for choosing the best outdoor furniture? What materials should you look out for?

Here are a few questions worth asking when choosing your outdoor furniture...
  • Consider what it will be used for i.e.: lounging or dining.
  • If possible, try it out. Is it comfortable, is it easy to get up from?
  • Is the furniture a suitable size for the space?
  • Consider its intended location. For example, glass table tops under trees may not be advisable.
  • If it’s in full sun will it get uncomfortably hot?
  • Is weight an issue and is the furniture easy to move?

What do many people overlook when putting together their outdoor living space?

What it looks like from the house, in the winter and without cushions. It's worth thinking practically about things such as, where to store the cushions and will it need much maintenance?
From an aesthetics point of view, will it need covers? These may not be very nice to look at. And will it block views you’d prefer to keep? For example, will you be looking at the back of a sofa? How easy is it to walk around? Leave enough space for people to walk behind even when chairs have been pushed back.

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What furniture or pieces would you recommend to anyone looking to easily level up their outdoor living game?

Dress your table. Add a table cloth, candles, lanterns or flowers. Rugs, sheepskins or cushions can also be used on benches or chairs. They needn’t be new, items from the house can be temporarily bought outside to make the most of sunny days and evenings.

Without delving into a huge redesign, what are some low maintenance ways to get your garden ready for summer?

  • Clean the terrace or hard landscape
  • Remove anything that’s dead
  • Ensure the lawn edges are crisp
  • Declutter the outside living space
  • Add some furniture, visible from the house, to entice people into the garden

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For smaller gardens that are limited on space, how can you create a space to entertain while ensuring those natural elements still shine through?

Where space is limited we incorporate seating into essential features. For example we ensure the edges of retaining beds are high and wide enough to be used as a bench. Within our studio we're developing some furniture which will fold out of the trellis.

What garden design trends are you excited about and incorporating into your own garden this year?

We are most excited about the increasing demand for water within the garden. Whether that's a lake, swimming pool, pond or rill. This is brilliant for the environment. I’ve got a new garden, so the first thing I’m going to do is put in some water!

Find us on Instagram @sharvellproperty