Let’s go outside

Ronan O’Dowd from AG Outside Rooms shares his top tips for maximising your outside space and unlocking the potential of your garden, from tranquil sanctuaries to vibrant entertainment areas

There was once a time when gardens across the nation sat largely unused – except for the sporadic barbecue upon the first glimpse of the sun. However, despite our questionable weather, homeowners are now embracing al fresco living and viewing their gardens as a true extension of their house – another room to eat, drink, play and relax in.

As the days get longer and the temperature rises, there has never been a better time to revamp your outdoor space (which can also help maximise your home’s kerb appeal).

Consider the house

Your house plays a critical piece of the puzzle when designing your outdoor space. The design and architecture of your home can help influence the space outdoors, for example, a cottage-style garden complements a country home, whereas a minimalist garden helps set off a more modern building.

It is also important to define your requirements – do you want a cosy retreat for relaxation, a vibrant entertainment area, or a family-friendly play zone? By clarifying your garden’s purpose, you can shape the design and functionality of your outdoor space.

Another top tip for self-builders is to be realistic about the level of maintenance in terms of plants and hard landscaping you can commit to. If you want a beautiful but low-commitment garden, ensure you consider this when designing your outdoor space.


Shine a spotlight on your garden by using ‘hardscape’ elements to improve kerb appeal. Introducing curves and circles as well as different laying patterns and a range of colours and heights will add depth, interest, and colour to your garden. You could also give a new look to a border with tidy edging such as our bullnose kerb setts to retain your planting.

Think about proportions

If your garden is flat, plants will add more kerb appeal than small, pretty flowers. Use repetitions (midsize shrubs to line a path or a row of shrubs) and choose pieces that are inspired by and complement the shape and size of the house. Choosing plants that reflect the shape and lines of the house will create an instant impact.

Embrace nature

If the clean-cut look isn’t your thing, then why not embrace nature? Gather stones and rocks in their natural state – jagged edges and all. Incorporating water features offset by large stones makes for an interesting addition to your garden.

Feast on nature

Edible gardening has grown in popularity – irrespective of whether you find yourself in an urban enclave or a country garden.

Living walls and herbs in window pots are great if you are short of space and if you have a large garden why not try and grow your own vegetable patch? Not only do they look great, but they can also be used in daily living.

Upgrade your BBQ area to a full outdoor working kitchen

Nothing says ‘wow’ like an outdoor kitchen area, meaning you won’t have to step inside and lose a moment of the fresh warm summer air. One option is to combine walling and flag ranges to create fully functioning outdoor kitchens and bars. For example, flagstones can create beautiful sleek countertops while the walling is ideal for workstations and storage.

BE INSPIRED BY your favourite destination

Rest and relaxation doesn’t have to wait until your next holiday. Create a garden inspired by your favourite destination and you can escape all year round.Vanquish the stresses of everyday life with a tranquil zen paradise, or opt for something bright with a striking Moroccan paradise.

Go grass free

If you want a low-maintenance approach, introducing paving, flagging and retaining wall systems may be the answer to your problems. These are easy to keep and provide a flat surface which can be great for family occasions. It also means children can play in all seasons without the risk of muddy feet!

Ronan O’Dowd is landscape designer at AG Outside Rooms