Plan an Outdoor Retreat

Well, we are still in lockdown and likely to be so for several more weeks. So far, our Lockdown projects have included Home Office Hints & Tips, mixing up your Accessories for an Instant Uplift, and creating a Book Nook. Now, the weather is hinting at the summer to come so it’s time to get our gardens ready. This week, as part of our Lockdown Living series, we are planning to turn our gardens into a luxury outdoor retreat.

While we may not be able to undertake any major projects just yet, we can start planning exactly what we want in our gardens and how we want them to look when the time comes. After all, a high end outdoor retreat takes thought and consideration. Before you start, decide whether you intend to tackle your entire garden or concentrate on just one part of it. It may be easier to plan a simple terrace to begin with – but you will need to keep in mind how the rest of your garden will eventually work around it.

outdoor retreat, large garden room with gym equipment
Image © Norwegian Log Buildings

Outdoor Retreat Mood Board

What better way to start planning your outdoor retreat than with a mood board? We showed you a while ago how to Create a Moodboard for your interiors, and the principles are much the same. We strongly recommend that you read that post alongside this one as it goes into more detail. Also, check out our Garden Trends feature to find out what’s hot out of doors this year. With an outdoor retreat mood board, instead of choosing paint colours, furnishing fabrics and flooring, we are looking more at plants, colours, exterior fabrics and paving.

Outdoor retreat, Mediterranean garden with cypress trees, lavender, sea holly, grasses
Image © RHS

First Steps

Before starting your mood board, think about your garden as a whole. Will it be one continuous space with a single focal point, or a series of separate ‘outdoor rooms’? The beauty of creating a mood board (or several) is that you can play with ideas, colours, furniture, planting and paving until you achieve the look that you want. Whether you are designing on paper or computer, just keep moving things around, swapping items in and out until you are happy.

outdoor retreat, garden from Chelsea Flower Show, blue, purple and white
Inspiration from the professionals at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Getting Started

At this stage, we are simply looking at a wish list. What would you like to include in your outdoor retreat? Will it be sleek and contemporary or more traditional? Start collecting images and samples of everything that you love: luxury garden furniture that you’ve always wanted; statement trees and plants; a garden room; a pool or pond; the perfect paving. Will your colour scheme be cool and understated or a riot of colour? Search online for images of gardens that inspire you. Then, we suggest starting with a single focal point – it could be a fabulous tree, a fountain or an outdoor dining room. Start with this as your centre point and start bringing in the features you think you want. You may find that some fit and some don’t. You may change your mind about your focal point. This is why a mood board is so useful. We have created two very simple outdoor retreat mood boards, each with a very different feel.

Contemporary Mediterranean Outdoor Retreat

Our Contemporary Mediterranean Outdoor Retreat would encompass a series of separate areas or ‘rooms’ set around a central, sleek and ultra-high-end seating area, the focal point of which is the furniture itself. An uber-contemporary sofa with chairs, benches and coffee tables is set against cool marble and pale paving. To keep it on trend, the white paving is softened by including low-growing plants among the pavers. The seating area is then surrounded by Mediterranean-style gardens with cypress trees, olives and herbs. An outdoor dining area is centred around a magnificent, gnarled olive tree. As we move further from the outdoor living room, our pool area still uses gorgeous, contemporary furniture but the decking and surrounding woods give a wilder, more unkempt feel. The colour scheme throughout is in shades of purple and blue. We have used the blue-green of olive trees, rosemary and sea holly with true blue flowers such as agapanthus, cornflowers and lavender. This is the element that will thread throughout the separate areas to create a cohesive garden design.

Green & White Outdoor Retreat

This outdoor retreat has a more traditional feel, with lush, green foliage, swathes of white flowers and the warmth of natural wood. This trend of using a simple, limited colour palette helps to create a calm and relaxing space. Our Green & White Outdoor Retreat is a single outdoor space with a fabulous garden room as its focal point. It could be a gym, a yoga studio, a home office or a beautiful summer house. We have included statement plants such as large tree ferns and giant mop-head hydrangeas, interspersed with hostas, daisies, white lavender and a herb garden. This time, our paving is laid with grass between as an on trend alternative to formal landscaping. Our luxury garden furniture is more traditional but supremely comfortable and with lots of space to kick back and relax. We’ve included shade and lighting – both equally important in any garden design, allowing you to make the most of your space throughout the day and the year.

Next Steps

Image © Mainwood Architects

Once you are happy with your mood board, it’s time to actually plan your outdoor retreat. You may decide at this point to bring in a professional or, if you are feeling creative, there are plenty of online tools and apps to help you. You will need accurate measurements of your outdoor space and any furniture, decking, paving or features you intend to include. With planting, this is more difficult as you need to allow for growth. We would suggest you start with just a few quick, rough hand-drawn sketches to fix in your mind where you think your features, focal points and garden furniture will go. Then, once you’ve put in your garden measurements and any fixed features (such as the house, garage, walls, existing features or plants that you want to keep), it’s time to nail down your design.

Image © Gardena

Start with your focal points, followed by any statement features. For us, this would mean the contemporary terrace and the olive tree, or the garden room. Plan paved areas and decking so that they are the right size for your furniture. Work out where your outdoor furniture will go – and make sure it will fit. Then plan where your major trees and plants will work best. Many apps allow you to choose from a library of items to help with this. Some will also create a 3D image, showing height of furniture, features and plants. It all depends how adventurous you want to be. Finish by filling in either with planting or decorative hard landscaping. If you’re handy at DIY, and can get hold of the materials you need, you could make a start on your outdoor retreat. If not, at least you will be ready to get started as soon as we’re allowed back out.

Contemporary Outdoor Furniture

Traditional Outdoor Furniture

Show Us Your Outdoor Retreat

We would love to see any of the fabulous projects you are undertaking during lockdown. Whether it’s an Outdoor Retreat, a Book Nook, a Home Office or mixing up your Accessories to give your home an instant uplift, please share your pictures with us. We would love to feature them in a future gallery.

Image Credits: Many thanks to Norwegian Log Buildings, Royal Horticultural Society, Bradstone, Paramount Plants, Eleonas Hotel Crete, Gardena, Mainwood Architects, Garden Gate Magazine, French Grey, Fired Creations Fused Glass, and John Shortland.

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