Small changes to outdoor spaces that make a big difference

Matt Leacy from Landart Landscapes walks us through some of the best ways to lift your outdoor area before summer arrives

Need to lift your outdoor area before summer botanical garden, flora, flower, flowering plant, garden, landscaping, outdoor structure, plant, shrub, spring, walkway, yard, green
Need to lift your outdoor area before summer rolls around?

You don’t need to break the bank to get your outdoor spaces primed and ready heading into summer. There are plenty of small changes that can add significant aesthetic and financial value to an outdoor area.

Expand and enlighten with tiles

“When executed properly, patterned tiles can inject openness and light into an area – completely transforming an outdoor space. These can be added to garden beds, staircases, patio paving, flooring, fireplace designs and outdoor kitchens to create a beautiful and practical design feature,” says Matt.

“These decorative tiles are best used in areas where the indoors meet the outdoors, especially in a dining area, bringing with them a seamless transition from the indoors to the backyard.

“Whether Mediterranean, Moroccan or Californian, patterned tiles with simple designs are a great go-to for creating a statement look. Try picking out a pattern that incorporates white so that it will more easily match patio furniture, while still bringing a unique aesthetic to the outdoors.”

Inject colour without flowers

“Adding colour to the garden doesn’t always have to come in the way of annuals or flowers,” says Matt. “There are other ways to achieve this that require minimal garden knowledge and, better still, less maintenance.”

“One area that is commonly forgotten, but frequented many times a day, is the front door. By adding a pot with some hardy, planted colour at your front door, you can create an amazing transformation with little effort. I suggest using a lightweight imitation concrete pot or low bowl as this will juxtapose with most styles of home.

“There is an array of hardy, coloured foliage plants on the market, so the selection process can be tricky. Either choose two plants that contrast in colour and texture, or choose one plant and cover the pot with it. Keeping it simple will mean there is less likelihood of clashing colours.”

Outdoor zones, furniture and features

“The very first thing I do when designing a backyard is to imagine the family doing their favourite things outdoors,” says Matt.

“I then create specific zones for each activity to add purpose to the space. Whether it’s an outdoor kitchen, a beautiful dining set, a fresh garden, or a small nook on the porch, these little spaces will combine to create a place where the family will actually prefer to spend their time.”

“If you don’t already have one, I suggest investing in a timber deck,” suggests Matt. “It makes the yard a fantastic place to hang out with family and friends, plus naturally adds a homey feel. Creating different levels as well as zones in a yard will bring out those great spaces to relax. You can also try putting in square stepping stones, which are easy and instantly decorative.”

“Don’t forget about outdoor lighting – you’ll need task lighting around a kitchen if you have one, and dimmer, more relaxed lighting for the conversation areas,” says Matt.

“Candlelight or fairy lights can add that little magic to make the backyard a truly inviting place. You can also create shady spots for daytime relaxation with mature trees, umbrellas, or pergolas. Pergolas look great with growing vines as well.”

“A sunken lounge is also a clever way to make your garden space appear larger than it actually is – and they’re the perfect place for catching up with friends and family as you sip away at your favourite beverage,” adds Matt.

“At the same time, they create privacy and intimacy, as they allows you to drop below the eye-line or fence line of neighbours.”

A touch of copper

“Placing a statement copper piece in your outdoor area adds character, charm and something unique to draw the eye to. In particular, copper works well for light fittings, outdoor showers, fireplaces, water features and bespoke pots,” says Matt.

“One of my favourite things about using copper outdoors is that it acquires a beautiful patina over time. This look works particularly well for light-fittings and shower heads, as the patinas allows them to subtly settle into the garden.”

“If the polished copper look is your preference, I suggest keeping copper pots and fittings under shelter so they weather more gradually,” says Matt.

“Just about any plant looks good with cooper, tall leafy plants such as a Kentia palm, or fiddle leaf fig work really well. Silver foliage plants also contrast beautifully. 

For example, Kalanchoe ‘silver spoons’ have a really interesting texture and shape that offsets copper perfectly.”

About Matt Leacy

Founder and Creative Director of Willoughby-based Landart Landscapes, Matt Leacy has more than 20 years’ experience in design, construction and maintenance services across landscaping and pool installation for both residential and commercial properties. 

A qualified horticulturalist and former President of the LNA Master Landscapers Association, Matt is a regular media commentator and column writer and also co-hosted Channel Nine’s Garden Gurus and three seasons of Domestic Blitz, as well as recently featuring in ABC TV’s Dream Gardens.

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