08 May 7 TIPS ON CREATING DISTINCTIVE OUTDOOR SPACES THAT FLOW
Whether your property is large or small, chances are good that you have several different gathering or entertaining spaces in your backyard. A patio outside the back door, a deck somewhere else, possibly a pool, plus different garden spaces with structures, plants, and accessories — any or all of that can result in a truly memorable series of outdoor spaces, or it can all fall flat or appear chaotic. So, what’s the best way to create distinctive landscape spaces that flow together? Read our top 7 tips to find out!
Top 7 Tips to Create Cohesive Outdoor Spaces
1. Maintain a similar style. I love a good eclectic look, but do it incorrectly and “eclectic” suddenly seems messy, disorganized, and chaotic. To avoid all of those (the horror!), aim to maintain a similar style throughout your gardens and spaces. Love a minimal contemporary style? Don’t suddenly throw in kitchy cottage garden. Have a tropical oasis? Refrain from adding an area with desert plants and another with a zen garden.
2. Use color. That being said, color is a great unifier. Your outdoor spaces can be a bit different from one another as long as there is something that they have in common, like color. Choose a color palette and, by and large, stick with it.
3. Create pathways that encourage flow. I visited a garden a few years ago that had no grass in the front yard, but rather a series of garden beds (some were islands, others were borders). The space in between the beds became decomposed granite pathways that pulled everything together. When you have a number of distinctive outdoor spaces, you’ll need to plan how to get from one to the other. Pathways are a great way to do that, as long as you promise to not create a maze in the process.
4. Give the eye a place to rest. Larger properties or even small ones with a lot going on in them need to have places that are restful to the eye. This could be an expanse of lawn, evergreen background plants, or a lovely border garden. This tip goes hand- in-hand with #5, so keep reading.
5. Choose a few strategically placed focal points. Not everything can be a focal point! When you make every single feature a Wham! Pow! moment, your eyes and those of your
guests become fatigued and overwhelmed. Focal points include any kind of structure (pool, gazebo, deck), some plants (an amazing ornamental tree, chartreuse shrubs, or any plant that is highly architectural), or an accessory/decorative item (a fountain, a large piece of artwork, a colorful or decorative fence) — choose a few, give them adequate space to command attention, and then go back and read Tip #4 three times.
6. Use repetition thoughtfully. The most effective outdoor spaces repeat an element here and there so they eye recognizes that everything is cohesive. When I plan a number of different garden beds in a backyard, I have a list of similar plants that I use in each bed. Mind you, the beds are not identically planted, but I repeat a few well-chosen plants and combine them with other, different plants. Color and style can be used in the same way — you may have a sun bed and a shade bed on either side of a patio; choose a color scheme and pull plants and accessories in those shades to pull everything together.
7. Remember seating. There’s almost nothing more frustrating than having a variety of beautiful outdoor spaces without a way to sit and enjoy them. Tuck in a space for a bistro table and chairs, a swing hammock, or a well-placed large boulder for sitting so you or your guest can take in the surrounding beauty.
Pro Tip on Using Your Lawn to Complement Your Outdoor
Many people have an area for a lawn in the landscape, with various structures and gardens surrounding it. When you’re planning out your space, consider starting with the shape of lawn first, rather than simply putting grass in after the fact. This creates a graphic shape that all other features and spaces relate to. Some lawn shapes to inspire you:
- Square or rectangular: These bold shapes are ideal for modern or contemporary landscapes.
- Oval or round: Oval and rounded grass areas are still bold and clean, but with a bit of softness that is suited for many different landscape styles.
- Serpentine: This type of lawn shape is much more informal, lending itself well to cottage gardens, tropical gardens, and eclectic gardens. Serpentine lawns meander a bit, wrap around island beds, and continue around corners.