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Contemporary garden ideas: 18 garden styling tips

If lockdown’s given us anything, it’s a renewed appreciation of our outdoor spaces. Whether yours is a low maintenance patio, simple wooden deck or compact-but-bijou balcony, show how much you care by giving it a well-deserved glow up. We tracked down influential stylist Lucy Gough – the visionary behind our garden photoshoots – and asked her for her top garden styling tips to transform your space into a fabulous year-round destination using accessories, lighting, plants and, of course, gorgeous garden furniture.
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1. Keep things soft underfoot with an outdoor rug

“Once you get your head around it, a rug for the garden is such an obvious idea. It’s an easy way to transform a simple seating area to a chill-out-in-style zone, and if your dining set is on a tiled surface, an outdoor rug makes it so much easier to pad around barefoot.”

2. Use statement plants to play with proportion

“There’s more to styling your garden than getting creative with garden furniture ideas. Just like any room, it’s the finishing touches that really make a difference. I love to add lots of taller and wider statement plants like agave, hardy palms and even bamboo for a cool tropical feel and to create multi-level visual interest.”

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Garden Ideas Outdoor Mirrors

3. Bring the inside out with a garden mirror

“Garden mirrors are one of my new favourite contemporary garden ideas. Lean a window-shaped one against a fence and you’ll instantly make your garden feel like a lovely living room, or repurpose an old bedroom mirror – exposing it to sun, wind and rain will soon give it a fantastic patina.”

4. Cover up with a stylish canopy

“Even a little sun can do a number on your skin. A garden canopy or freestanding parasol will provide plenty of shade for your garden dining set or seating area, and you won’t have to squint as you clink wine glasses across the table.”

Garden Ideas Nova Paragola
Garden Ideas Nova Whitstable Fire Pit

5. Get outside all year round with a fire pit

“Who doesn’t love a fire pit? As a garden styling idea, they’re a win-win – stylish (they look fabulous) and practical (ideal for chilly evening gatherings). Go as big as you can for maximum sociability and easier marshmallow toasting.”

6. Be siesta-ready with a contemporary sun lounger

“Outdoor dining sets are great for entertaining but if you want to put your feet up and snooze in the sunshine, you’re going to need a sun lounger. For the perfect Hollywood poolside look go minimalist-chic with dark grey rattan, light grey cushioning and even a built in pillow.”

Nova Camber Sunlounge
Garden Ideas Norfolk Leisure Ravello Dining

7. Create ambience with fairy lights or garlands of lightbulbs

“Clever lighting choices can make a boring room beautiful. Garden lighting is one of my favourite garden styling ideas for the exact same reason. Create a magical ambience with outdoor fairy lights or choose bigger bulbs for a more contemporary look. Garden lighting also gives you more hours of garden use per day.”

8. Choose all-weather dining furniture

“Make life easier by investing in a good-quality all-weather or weather-resistant outdoor furniture that can stay outside all summer – or even all year round. Unless you have an extra-large garden shed for dozens of large and squishy chair cushions you’ll be glad you did.”

Garden Ideas Nova Camber Round Dining

9. Accessorise with pops of colour

“Most gardens are pretty neutral – brown wooden fences, grey patio tiles and so on. Lift the mood by adding colourful cushions to your garden sofa. Indoor cushions are fine – just remember to bring them back inside at the end of the evening.”

10. Stick to a planting colour theme

“If your new contemporary garden furniture inspires you to look again at your entire garden, think about planting that emphasises a bold modern look. Go for an on-trend colour palette of green, brown or grey with cacti, grasses and succulents and avoid traditional floral brights.”

Garden Ideas Rugs Miami Border Leaf Rug

11. Be eclectic with outdoor textures for floors and walls

“If you love layering living room textiles like rugs, upholstery and soft furnishings, try the same homely effect in your garden. Mixing and matching outdoor textures like wooden decking, concrete tiles and a brickwork patio will make your space feel warm and inviting.”

12. Maximise floor space and friend space with a corner sofa

“For space-saving sociable seating, you really can’t beat a corner sofa. (They’re also pretty nice for some solo stretching time). Be sure to look at today’s garden corner seating ideas in rattan and aluminium and go for one with deep seats and a stylish low back. Don’t forget the garden coffee table.”

Garden Ideas Nova Camber Compact Corner Set

13. Channel lush Ibizan style with vertical canes

“Garden canes are really cheap but they’re a great way to cover a wonky wall or boring garden fence and add texture. Position them in tight rows and fix them to each other and to the fence behind with plastic cable ties. The finished look makes it easy to pretend you're back in Ibiza.”

Garden Ideas Nova Camber Corner Set

14. Paint a fence in terracotta – the perfect canvas for plants

“Nothing says Mediterranean garden like terracotta. Paint a traditional garden fence this lovely warm shade for the perfect backdrop to your statement plants and stylish-yet-neutral garden furniture. Untreated wood really soaks up paint so get a bit more than you think you’ll need or use primer first.”

15. Cluster your planters for greater impact

“If your outside space is a terrace, deck or patio, you might think you need to scatter your planters around the place to increase the feeling of green. Actually, the reverse is true. Garden designers tend to arrange planters in small asymmetric groups to create interesting focal points and deliver maximum impact.”

16. Be perfectly on trend with grey garden furniture

“Grey is this summer’s garden furniture colour, and I love it. It’s modern and sophisticated and just gives any space cool contemporary garden style. It’s also practical. Dark grey sofa cushions won't show dust or dirt (as much) and look great accessorised with cosy colourful throws.”

Garden Ideas Norfolk Leisure Capri Garden Lounge
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17. Bring your indoor furniture outside

“Almost any piece of indoor furniture can work just as well in the garden, as long as you protect it from the elements with a furniture cover or commit to bringing it inside at the end of the day. If you’re hosting a summer drinks party, a console table or drinks trolley is a glam look.”

18. Be stylishly practical with a garden occasional table

“Once you’ve decided on your garden seat ideas, whether a sofa set, corner sofa or sun lounger duo, don’t forget to match it with an occasional table like a garden coffee table or side table. After all, you’ll need a handy surface for your phone, book, drink and – fingers crossed – sun lotion.”

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Garden Ideas Nova Palermo Coffee Table

We hope Lucy’s contemporary garden tips inspire you to great things in the garden. And we’d love to see them. Share your terrace, patio and garden styling ideas on Instagram with #MYFVHOME.

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