In the relaxation zone

Johanna Elvidge of Marshalls explains how a zoning approach can help organise your outdoor spaces for relaxed ‘quiet luxury,’ and how different landscaping materials can help achieve your vision

Most often used as a term to describe the internal layout of a home, ‘zoning’ now has just as much purpose in the garden. And because people want to use their outdoor space for different purposes, it makes sense for self-builders to consider how to zone their gardens during the design and build space, rather than making retrospective updates later down the line. 

To support them, here are some different garden zones that are most appealing and popular, along with advice on the different materials, installations and design features that can be used to highlight an area’s specific purpose within a wider scheme.

Relaxing retreat 

In recent research by Marshalls, 27% of people said they use their outdoor space as a means of escapism and stress relief. The desire to create an area of tranquillity in outdoor living spaces has increased in popularity since the pandemic, when people needed a safe and relaxing space to unwind that wasn’t off limits.  

To achieve the ‘quiet luxury’ trend outdoors, use soft curving forms to create a grounded, relaxed and calm atmosphere. In terms of colour, warmer, earthly shades inspired by Mediterranean architecture and design are thought to tap into a peaceful aesthetic, so porcelain and sandstone products in these tones can help create the desired look and feel. 

Natural planting brings you closer to nature, while a water feature will provide a relaxing musical backdrop away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. As the healing powers of water are becoming more widely recognised – from stress relief to reducing inflammation – outdoor bathrooms, garden spas and reflection pools are becoming more popular in garden designs.

Embracing outdoor cooking & GARDEN GET-TOGETHERS

Outdoor cooking areas are perfect for alfresco socialising, with 26% of respondents to Marshalls research saying they have plans to add a dedicated outdoor cooking space to their garden.

While there are plenty of appliances like standalone barbecues and pizza ovens on offer, it’s becoming increasingly popular to use hard landscaping products to develop an ‘in-built’ outdoor kitchen that is hardwearing against the elements, looks attractive, and can be used all year round. You can use a mixture of bricks and slabs to build up your space – remembering to designate areas for food prep and serving. After adding utility supplies, you can then install integrated barbecues, grills and even working sinks.

More than a quarter of people (26%) use their garden to entertain friends and family. To do so, consider how to create a space which exudes positivity and togetherness.

While installations like seating areas, pergolas and fire pits are well documented for their ability to bring people together, 2024 will see highly decorative features added to gardens to create a talking point amongst your guests. For example, patterned paving and outdoor tiles are in demand, as they add a touch of style to a garden. Today, tiles and paving are available in patterns and finishes such as corten and terrazzo, while other recent garden designs have used these products to create step risers, lowered seating areas and even outdoor dancefloors.

Perfect for paws

Almost a fifth (19%) of people want to create a dedicated pet zone in the garden – one which offers a space to play and act out their natural instincts. However, it’s still key to ensure this zone lives up to every other element of your garden design.

Use fencing, bricks or stone to create a cordoned-off, safe space for your pet to roam, and consider adding integrated planters to inject some colour – just ensure the plants you select aren’t poisonous to pets. Add hard landscaping such as porcelain or pebbles to make the space easier to clean and maintain, rather than grass which can succumb to burying and browning. Allow plenty of room for the throwing of toys, as well as a clean water supply and space for an outdoor bed. Also, be sure to provide shade using trees and large shrubs so your pet can enjoy their outdoor living without the risk of overheating in summer. 

Nature meets nurture  

In the research by Marshalls, more than a third of people (36%) said they want to be able to grow their own fruits and vegetables. This also aligns with people wanting to spend more time in nature, nurturing their own produce, and improving their wellbeing. 

To achieve this, think differently about what you might normally have built to dedicate to planting flowers and plants, and instead create an ‘edible landscape’. Raised beds are popular for growing vegetables while adding trellises and other above-ground structures will help fruit trees and climbers to thrive. 

Gardens are an extension of our home, so by thinking about the different ways you might want to use your garden during the design and build process, you’ll be in better stead to create a layout which can cater to your multiple needs. The key is considering the different ways that landscaping products can help you achieve your vision – because with a little creativity, no zone is off limits. 

Johanna Elvidge is head of design at Marshalls