Lifestyle

FIVE EASY WAYS TO SPEND MORE TIME OUTSIDE

Spending time outside doesn’t always mean going for a bushwalk or planning to meet friends at the park. As great as these things are, they aren’t always achievable on a regular basis. But what is possible is snatching a few minutes to potter in the garden, read in the sun or cook on the barbecue. If you’re ready to spend more time outside, take a look at your daily habits and you might be surprised where you can find pockets of time to escape to your outdoor space.

There is a reason why we often crave time outdoors, and that’s because it’s good for us. Fresh air, sunshine and the presence of plant life calm the mind and have also been linked to improved memory retention, creativity and general wellbeing.

Even if your calendar doesn’t allow for long stretches of time outside, these simple hacks will lure you outdoors more often and create more balance in your lifestyle.

 Butterfly House by  Surfacedesign , Inc. Photography by Marion Brenner.

Butterfly House by Surfacedesign, Inc. Photography by Marion Brenner.

1. Use your outdoor space for the things you love

If you have an outdoor space at home but don’t feel compelled to use it, you’ll inevitably end up spending your leisure time indoors. If you love entertaining, then it makes sense to create an outdoor area where you can socialise with friends. Or if you’re a cook and don’t have space for an outdoor kitchen, even growing a few herbs will create a meaningful connection with your space.

Activities you can use your balcony, courtyard or garden for include:

  • Cooking

  • Gardening

  • Reading and relaxing

  • Children’s play

  • Entertaining

  • Creative hobbies

Decide how your outdoor space can enrich your lifestyle and make some changes accordingly. If, for example, you want a place to read and relax, you’ll likely get more enjoyment from the space if it’s furnished with an outdoor lounge rather than a dining setting.

Even the inclusion of something as simple as a side table to sit your morning coffee on can make your outdoor space better suited to your lifestyle.

Related: Entertaining in a small outdoor space

2. Rethink your daily habits

 This open window seat creates a natural indoor/outdoor connection. Image via  Homes to Love . Photography by Maree Homer.

This open window seat creates a natural indoor/outdoor connection. Image via Homes to Love. Photography by Maree Homer.

If you only use your outdoor space when guests come to visit, you aren’t alone. Most people don’t think to go outside during the week. Life gets busy and it feels easier to eat dinner on the couch while catching up on Netflix.

But there may be other pockets of the day that you could be spending outside. We recently started having breakfast outside in our new outdoor area. It’s nice and cool at this time of morning and the simple ritual sets a lovely tone for the day.

From chatting on the phone to checking emails and stretching in the morning, there are a lot of ways to take your daily life outside. In fact, for activities such as emails and work, studies have shown that concentration can improve in a natural setting.

3. Address any privacy issues

When you feel like the neighbours have a prime view of your living space, it’s only natural to want to stay away from prying eyes. Privacy issues are a common concern for people with balconies and courtyards in built-up areas.

You can create more privacy by:

  • Creating a vertical garden to muffle noise

  • Using screening plants such as hedges and bamboo

  • Installing permanent structures such as sliding screens, shutters or a shade canopy

When you feel more comfortable in your outdoor space, you’ll start to enjoy spending time outside again.

4. Fight back against the elements

Like privacy, the elements are another reason why you might choose to avoid spending time in your outdoor space. Too much sun, not enough light at night and wind are the main issues we see time and time again.

If there is a specific reason why you aren’t spending as much time outside as you’d like, look at your space to determine why. Let’s say you want to use the space for entertaining but it doesn’t have adequate lighting. By identifying this issue and addressing it, you can start using the area when and how it suits you.

Factors such as wind and sun protection are especially important considerations on rooftops and balconies, as these types of spaces are more exposed to the elements. Incorporating awnings, pergolas and wind barriers in these spaces will ensure you don’t let your precious outdoor space go to waste.

5. Create a connection between indoor and outdoor spaces

 Spark Modern Fire  Image via  dwell . Photography by Coral von Zumwalt.

Spark Modern Fire

Image via dwell. Photography by Coral von Zumwalt.

If you’ve ever tried to make changes in your lifestyle, you’ll understand the importance of visual cues. If you want to start exercising regularly, for example, then having your exercise gear out and within eyeshot every morning is one of the most effective ways to stick to the new habit.

The same goes for getting outside and enjoying your outdoor space. If there’s a natural connection between your indoor and outdoor areas, you’re far more likely to make use of your garden, courtyard or balcony.

Ways to achieve this include:

  • Using the same or similar materials across indoor and outdoor spaces for continuity

  • Linking indoor and outdoor spaces with large windows and glass doors

  • Positioning plants so they’re visible from indoor spaces

  • Bringing nature inside with an internal courtyard

We recently renovated our home and garden, and as a result we’ve been spending so much more time outside. In fact, we now look for opportunities to head outside. Here’s a preview of our new garden.

For more, download your free ebook, Small Spaces, Big Ideas. It’s got all our favourite design and planting tips to get you inspired.









CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE: DESIGN-INSPIRED GIFTS FOR GARDENERS

Following the popularity of our Christmas gift guide last year, we’re back for the 2016 edition. Use this list to find inspiration for the plant lover, home decorator or summer adventure enthusiast in your life. Or, share this link with your friends and family for a not-so-subtle hint of which gifts you’re hoping to find under the Christmas tree this year. Happy gifting!

01. Timber Wall Art by You

A piece of homemade wall art is the ideal way to keep the Christmas budget in check. Geometric prints like this are simple to create and also very on trend. By experimenting with different colour palettes, you can personalise the gift to your to loved one’s taste. Alternatively, if you don’t have the time or inclination to get crafty, you can order this artwork from Etsy.

02. Cloak Planters by Grafa

Planters don’t get much more sophisticated than the Cloak collection by Melbourne-based Grafa. Made from copper and brass, this range of planters is coated to ensure the exterior stays in pristine condition for many years to come. Grafa is regarded for its tasteful use of brass and copper, and these planters will be sure to please any design enthusiast.

03. Potted Cactus

For a small gift such as a secret santa, a potted cactus is a lovely sentiment. Mini cacti such as prickly pear and mammillaria are the plants of the moment, and they won’t require much attention from the recipient. Gifting the cactus in a neutral pot such as the white ones pictured above is a safe bet if you aren’t sure of your recipient’s taste or decorating style.

04. Outdoor Beanbag Cover by Independence Studios

There’s nothing more relaxing than sinking into a beanbag for some time out with a good book – especially when said beanbag is designed for outdoor living. With this printed number, you can lounge around in style in your outdoor space or at the park. It’s a large, relaxation-sized 140 x 140 cm and is made from waterproof and UV-proof fabric.

05. Black Sands Beach Umbrella by Sunday Supply Co.

Add a dose of style to your summertime adventures with Sunday Supply Co.’s vintage-inspired umbrellas. With earthy tones, an animal-style print and a generous two-metre canopy providing plenty of shade, the Black Sands umbrella is ideal for the beach, park, pool or to create shade in your outdoor area. The matching carry case is a nice bonus too.

06. The Hose Pot by Unearthed

The humble hose may be one of the most important tools in any garden, but that doesn’t mean you want it on show when it’s not in use. A sophisticated solution, The Hose Pot keeps your hose discreetly tucked away and kink free. It’s made in a range of colours or for a customised gift, you can elect to have it finished in your choice of colour.

07. Raw Earth Hanging Planters by Angus & Celeste

Hanging plants are the perfect way to add life to a small space, and the modernist Raw Earth Planters from Melbourne’s Angus & Celeste will complement most decorating styles. These indoor/outdoor hanging planters are made from stained porcelain in a range of neutral and muted tones. When you gift this planter, we recommend potting it up with devil’s ivy, maidenhair fern or rhipsalis for an extra special present. 

08. Boxcar Planter by Revolution Design House

For those who are still testing the limits of their gardening abilities, succulents and cactus are the perfect place to start. The Boxcar planter is designed to house a trio of these hardy plants, and is made in a range of colourways. We love the playful pop of robin egg blue on this planter and cut of the walnut that brings out the wood’s grain.

09. Entrance Mats by Armadillo&Co

We’ve long believed that an entrance sets the tone of a home, and what better way to make a positive statement than with a beautifully textured, ethically produced entrance mat by Armadillo&Co? These rugs are handmade from hemp using fair trade practices, so you can feel good about your gift giving. They’re also durable enough to use in outdoor spaces as well as inside.

10. Brass Watering Can by ZAKKIA

Brass is a timeless material that’s incredibly durable, which is good news because this stylish watering can from ZAKKIA will never fall out of favour. Made from solid brass, the watering can is handmade and designed at ZAKKIA’s Sydney studio. At just 14 cm high, it’s just the right size for accessorising any interior space.

11. Insulated Drink Bottle by S’well

When you are out in the garden, at the park or exploring the outdoors, a well-designed drink bottle is a must. New York-based S’well creates insulated drink bottles and this Waikiki palm print is our pick of the range. It keeps cold drinks cool for 24 hours and hot drinks warm for  up to 12 hours. And the best part? S’well supports UNICEF to provide children around the world with access to clean drinking water. You can buy the water bottles from S’well’s US site or in Australia from Beezer.

12. Plant Stands by Ivy Muse

When an Ivy Muse plant stand is paired with a draping plant such as devil’s ivy, decorating magic happens. These retro-inspired stands were one of the most popular design pieces this year, and will be appreciated by anyone with a penchant for styling with plants. If you’re feeling generous, be sure to check out the striking Saturn Hanger too.

Like the gifts you see here? Then we’d love you to share your Christmas gift giving with us on Instagram by tagging us @thesmallgarden! Wishing you a very merry Christmas – Tom and Carolynn.  

HOW TO HOLIDAY-PROOF YOUR GARDEN THIS SUMMER

Your bags are packed, the playlist is ready and your out of office reply is happily switched on – it’s time for a summer holiday. The last thing you need on holiday is to worry about your garden at home, so here are our top tips for keeping your garden in top shape while you are away.

As gardeners, we become very attached to our plants, and that’s why the thought of leaving them untended over summer may give you a sense of dread. Thankfully, there are a number of things you can do to ensure you come home to a happy and healthy garden after a holiday.

By tending to these simple caretaking jobs before you leave, you’ll enjoy a blissful escape free from any anxiety about the welfare of your beloved plants.

1. Install a watering system 

In spaces such as small gardens or courtyards where there’s a garden bed and grass, a watering system is the easiest way to ensure your plants don’t go thirsty while you’re off sipping cocktails. Set the timer on the system before you leave and it will take care of the rest. When using an automatic watering system, remember to check that the back-up battery is on and that you’ve installed a new battery.

2. Give indoor plants a bath

To keep your indoor plants watered, sit them in a bath or large sink. Give them a thorough watering and then fill the bath or sink with a few inches of water. This will allow your plants to look after themselves, though be mindful this only works for indoor plants that don’t require a lot of sunlight.

   
  
 
  
    
  
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   To keep indoor plants happy while you are away, leave them in a bath with a few inches of water. This also creates a humid environment for the plants.  Image via Michel Le Belhomme

To keep indoor plants happy while you are away, leave them in a bath with a few inches of water. This also creates a humid environment for the plants. Image via Michel Le Belhomme

Related Reading: Bring nature inside with indoor plants

3. Put away loose items

Summer is storm season, so make sure you put away any loose objects such as cushions. Pull in any awnings and umbrellas so they don’t get damaged, and cover outdoor furnishings with drop sheets to protect them from the elements. It’s also a good idea to disconnect the gas bottle from your barbecue and leave it in a shaded spot until you return.

   
  
 
  
    
  
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     Before your holiday, pack away any umbrellas, awnings and soft furnishings. This is particularly important for exposed spaces such as balconies and rooftops. Image via  williamdangar  

Before your holiday, pack away any umbrellas, awnings and soft furnishings. This is particularly important for exposed spaces such as balconies and rooftops. Image via williamdangar 

4. Mulch the garden

In summer, mulch is a garden’s best friend. It not only helps your plants to retain moisture, it also keeps the roots of your plants cool and adds nutrients to the soil as it breaks down. Give your garden a good long soaking before you leave and then spread a thick layer of mulch over the surface.

5. Place container plants out of direct sunlight

If you have planters, container plants or potted succulents, put them in a shaded outdoor area and give them a good watering before you leave. Your succulents should look after themselves and to keep all other container plants watered, make your own DIY drip watering system. To do this, fill an empty soft drink bottle with water and punch a couple of pin holes at the top of the bottle. Turn the bottle upside down, sit it in your pot and it’ll slowly water the roots – this may not look stylish, but it works! If you go away regularly, it’s a good idea to put heavy pots and planters on wheels so they can be moved easily.

Related Reading: A guide to container gardening

6. Take down your hanging plants

Hanging plants can suffer without regular attention. Before you go away, take down your hanging plants and give them a good watering with a wetting agent such as Wettasoil. This will wick the water to the roots, helping your plants to retain moisture. Then sit them in a saucer of water and they’ll stay happy and healthy.

7. Weed gardens and cut back your plants

To allow your plants to conserve energy, cut back any dead or overgrown foliage before you leave and remove any weeds from your garden bed to ensure water goes where it’s needed. This will allow your plants to grow new, stronger foliage while you’re away.

   
  
 
  
    
  
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   Planted with succulents and varieties of agave, this drought tolerant garden is ideal for anyone who is regularly away from home. Image via  HomeBNC

Planted with succulents and varieties of agave, this drought tolerant garden is ideal for anyone who is regularly away from home. Image via HomeBNC

8. Ask a neighbour

If you have a neighbour, friend or family member who is willing to look after your plants, try to make their life as easy as possible. Make a list of detailed watering instructions (remembering not everyone is a natural green thumb), group any potted plants together so they are in one convenient place and leave your watering can in a spot that’s easy to find. To say thanks to your helper, bring them back a present from your holiday or gift them a plant of their own.

9. Consider installing astroturf

In summer, grass requires a lot of upkeep and if you’ve only got a small space, it can be a lot of effort for little reward. There are a lot of quality astroturf products now available that require no maintenance and look great year round. Astroturf is becoming increasingly popular among people who travel regularly and need low-maintenance gardens and also with those who have shaded outdoor areas where grass simply won’t grow.

   
  
 
  
    
  
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   In this courtyard, astroturf has been used to create the ultimate low-maintenance space. Image via  Desire to Inspire . 

In this courtyard, astroturf has been used to create the ultimate low-maintenance space. Image via Desire to Inspire

What’s your favourite way to prepare your garden before going on holidays? Share your tips below.

Find more small space gardening ideas by downloading your free ebook, Small Spaces, Big Ideas. It’s ideal summer reading.

ENTERTAINING IN A SMALL OUTDOOR SPACE

Summer is in the air and the relaxed mood of the season is ideal for outdoor entertaining. Even in small spaces, there are plenty of ways you can use your outdoor area to gather friends and family for a dinner, party or celebration.

The greatest benefit of entertaining in a small outdoor space the feeling of intimacy contrasted with the openness that outdoor areas offer. Small spaces encourage guests to mingle with one another, lifting the mood and excitement of your party.

When entertaining in a small outdoor area, there are a number of tricks you can use to maximise space and ensure your guests are relaxed and comfortable. Here are our top ten tips for entertaining in a small space.

 Image via  eye-swoon

Image via eye-swoon

1. Rearrange your furnishings

Before hosting an event, ensure you have sufficient space to accommodate your guests. To create extra space, clear away anything that isn’t necessary and then reposition the remaining furniture. Removing large chairs, side tables and decorative pieces that restrict space will allow you to arrange the remaining furniture so there is enough room for guests to move around.

2. Host a cocktail event

When space is tight and you have a large guest list, consider hosting a cocktail-style event. Guests are more than happy to stand and mingle at these types of events, negating the need to provide seating for every person on the invite list. It is always a good idea to have some seats at a cocktail event, so that people can rest if they need to. 

3. Consider the flow of foot traffic

People tend to hover around drink stations and food tables, which can cause congestion if you position in them in places where other guests will be moving around. If you have tables for food, drinks, signature books or gifts, position them away from spots such as doors and walkways. By spacing out these tables, you can ensure that guests won’t all congregate in the one spot.

4. Embrace shared dining

In small spaces it’s not always possible to have a large dining setting. Rather than trying to squeeze too much onto your table, consider providing a series of small courses for guests to graze on. This allows you to place smaller amounts of food in the centre of the table and means that guests will only require small plates, which leaves room for drinks and napkins. The other benefit of shared food is that it encourages your guests to interact with one another.

 Images via  apartment34

Images via apartment34

5. Don’t go overboard with the styling

The great thing about entertaining outdoors is that the sun, breeze and plants provide your guests with plenty of sensory stimulation. This means you don’t need to go overboard with props and decorations that will make the space feel small and cluttered. Instead, choose a simple styling theme that enhances the laid-back feeling of being outside. Raw materials, neutral tones and hues such as blue and green all create a calming atmosphere during the warmer months. By hanging any additional plants and decorations, you can style an area without taking up precious entertaining space.

6. Consider shade and lighting

There’s no telling what the weather will do in summer, so ensure you have some form of shade for those scorching days. If you don’t have a shade structure, umbrellas are an easy way to provide an escape from the sun. Hanging parasols are ideal for small spaces as the stand is positioned to the side, which leaves more space for guests to enjoy the shade.

In summer, it’s not uncommon for daytime events to carry on well into the evening. To ensure your party doesn’t have to end when the sun goes down, consider whether your space has enough lighting. Festoon lights are a great way to not only provide extra light, but also add to the ambience of the setting. 

 Images via  eye-swoon ,  Pottery Barn

7. Leave space for guests to relax around a table

When you are relaxing around a table, there’s nothing worse than having to continually pull your chair in for people to pass behind you. To ensure guests can push their chairs back from the table and relax after a meal, allow enough space for people to walk around your furnishings. This may mean clearing away things such as pot plants that could create congestion.

8. Get creative with seating

When it comes to providing seating, you don’t always need larger chairs. Consider small stools, folding chairs or even large floor cushions and rugs for people to relax on. The benefit of using small and lightweight seats is that they are easy for guests to move around as they mingle and start talking to new people.

 Images via  Happy Wed ,  Rue Mag

Images via Happy Wed, Rue Mag

9. Assign cups to guests

Cups are one of the biggest sources of clutter at an outdoor event, as people often forget which cup or glass was theirs and then grab a new one. Rather than running around picking up forgotten glasses that are taking up table space, create a system for guests to remember which cup is theirs. There are a few ways to do this: ask guests to write their name on disposable cups, lay out glasses of different shapes, colours and sizes, or provide charms for wine glasses.

10. Create room inside for handbags

One easy way to save space outside is by providing a place for guests to leave their belongings indoors. Clear away a space in your home where your guests can leave handbags, umbrellas, containers and any other belongings they have brought with them. This saves guests from leaving their things on chairs and under tables outside.

Related Reading: Summer outdoor entertaining

Get more space-saving ideas in our free ebook Small Spaces, Big Ideas.

 

OUR TOP 10 OUTDOOR PRODUCTS FOR SMALL SPACES

When it comes time to revamp your space, styling has a dramatic impact on the final result. To help you find the right pieces for your garden, courtyard, balcony or rooftop, we’ve rounded up ten of our favourite outdoor products on the market right now. From accessories to furnishings and shade solutions, this guide will get you inspired to update your outdoor area.

01. Custom Living Wall Sculpture

Transform a plain wall into a focal point of your outdoor area with this living piece of outdoor art. The concrete disc is filled with air plants and succulents, meaning it’s low maintenance and will thrive in most conditions. This one is by Boxleaf Design and Concreteworks in San Francisco, but there’s no reason why you can’t try making your own.

02. Hyde Hanging Parasol

Shade is a critical consideration as we come into summer and this parasol from Danish design company Cane-line is as stylish as it is functional. It is made from durable materials, rotates to follow the sun’s movements and the hanging design means that the parasol’s stand won’t invade the centre of your entertaining zone. Cane-line may be Dutch, but their products are sold in Australia – check the website for a list of Australian retailers.

03. Voyager Lanterns

Lighting is another feature that allows you to spend more time outdoors. Inspired by design from the colonial era, the Voyager Lanterns by Gloster are a charming addition to any space. The teak lanterns can be moved as you need them (making them ideal for a spot of glamping as well) and are operated with rechargeable batteries. You’ll find them at Cosh Living.

04. Ord lounge

If you want to create a space for lounging, the Ord modular lounge from Eco Outdoor is the ultimate investment piece. It is made out of large weatherproof blocks that can be arranged to suit the shape of your space. Find the configuration that works in your outdoor area and then enjoy sinking into your new lounge.

05. Willow pot range

Pots have a dramatic impact on the final look of an outdoor space. Create a contemporary look with the Willow range from The Balcony Garden. They come in a range of sizes and are made from a blend of fibreglass and concrete that is lightweight but also really tough. Our pick of the range is the muffin top, which is far more attractive than it might sound.

06. 70’s Love Seat

It’s no secret that we are big fans of Byron Bay Hanging Chairs. All of their products are handmade from natural rattan and the 70’s Love Seat is perfect for idle summer days. The double hanging chair is roomy enough for two, or perfect for spreading out on your own. Not only are they whimsical, hanging chairs are also space savers, which is a perfect solution for small areas like balconies and courtyards.

07. Jak & Jil range

Slimline furniture like this setting from Tait is well suited to smaller outdoor areas, as it creates the illusion of space. In addition to the dining setting, the range also extends to bar tables and stools, which are great for restricted spaces such as balconies. The wire frame creates a striking form and ensures that the furniture is lightweight but durable. And the best part is you can have fun mixing and matching from the range of colours.

08. Southie Side Table

When space is tight, opt for side tables rather than a large dining table. The terracotta Southie Side Table by Robert Plumb is handmade by a Sydney potter using clay sourced from across New South Wales. Once it has been sculpted, the table is then finished in the colour of your choice. You can also speak to the studio about making the tables in custom shapes and sizes.

09. Armadillo&Co Indoor Outdoor Collection

Rugs make any space more appealing, and that goes for outdoor areas too. Armadillo&Co creates handmade, ethical rugs. The Indoor Outdoor collection features three designs in neutral tones, all made from a recycled PET fibre that will withstand exposure to water and sun. For information on Australian stockists, visit the Armadillo&Co website.

10. Wall Planters

These stylish planters are a different take on the idea of a vertical garden. Made from powder coated aluminium, they are lightweight and simple to attach to any wall. Hang one or two as a feature, or cluster a number of the planters together to create a lush wall. Find them at The Unearthed Garden.

Want more outdoor styling ideas? Download our complete guide to small space garden design!