Garden Design for Outdoor Living

We all love an outdoor lifestyle, and in this respect, the backyard is an important area to most people, even those who really don't care much about gardens. A well planned backyard can provide a versatile outdoor living area, with the advantage of having the facilities of your home within easy reach. A good outdoor living area has both an attractive and relaxing atmosphere, and also contains all of the facilities needed to make outdoor living pleasurable. Areas of shade and sun, adequate ventilation for the passage of cool breezes on a hot day, somewhere to shelter from rain, surfaces which remain dry or dry out fast after rain, seating, tables and bbq facilities, all help create the ideal outdoor living area.


As with most things in the garden, you get what you pay for, and with unlimited money, a great deal can be done in an outdoor living area. With a little imagination, however, it is possible, for those on limited budgets (most people!), to come up with some cheaper alternatives. For example, climbers on chicken wire strung between pine poles will eventually give much the same affect as a solid brick wall supporting climbers. An inexpensive table looks little different to an expensive one when covered with a table cloth. If the budget won't stretch to paying a bricklayer to build a bbq, then a home made bbq can be made using weathered bush rocks, cement, and the base plate from a discarded lawn mower. These are just a few of the possibilities.

Outdoor living areas should be thought of basically as outdoor rooms. Their roof is defined by such things as pergolas, overhanging branches and the sky. Walls are defined by fences, walls and shrubbery.

As with an indoor living room, where the outlook or view from windows enhances the room, the outlook from an outdoor living area will enhance that area. It should be designed to block out unsightly views and frame attractive views. This can be easily done by the careful siting of fences, shrubs, climbers on trellis, or outdoor features such as arches and pergolas.


In many cases outdoor living areas are not used to their full potential due to one or more problems. Rainy, cold or extremely hot weather can discourage you using an area, but with forethought and some clever adaptations, outdoor living can be extended throughout most of the year. Even in cold climates a section of the garden may be enclosed with transparent walls and/or roof effectively bringing part of the garden inside. Transparent polycarbonate materials available today are very tough, resisting hail and storms, but allowing light through. This type of outdoor room, while great in winter, can become overheated in summer though. To avoid this problem have plenty of large doors or windows for ventilation, and preferably some form of shading. There are many commercially available roofing systems for outdoor areas, many of which can be simply adjusted to provide more shade and/or weather protection, or more open conditions as required.

There are a number of other ways to provide shelter from the sun and weather in your garden. Verandas are often a natural extension to the design of your house. These can be roofed to provide a strong degree of protection from the elements, open to provide a sunny living area or partially roofed to give you some protection while still having that outdoor feeling.

Gazebos, and pergolas will also offer some degree of protection, and perhaps provide a feature that draws the attention. Such outdoor buildings can be used to provide an outdoor living area that offers the appearance of some degree of separation from your house.

Garden umbrellas and tent like structures with open walls are readily available in tough, durable, UV resistant materials. A wide range of colours are generally available: natural tones that will help them merge readily into the garden, or perhaps bright colours that draw the eye and make the area a focal point. These offer varying degrees of protection from sunlight and weather, and have the advantage of being fairly easily moved as required, or easily packed up and stored away till needed again.

Using Plants For Shade & Protection

Shade and protection can also be supplied by the careful selection of suitable plant species. It is important to remember that plants are living things and will require some level of care to get the best from them.

The degree of shade and protection that they provide will also change as the plant grows and as the seasons change.

Deciduous trees can be grown to provide summer shade, but let sunlight through in winter when you need it the most. Be careful that you don't plant too many deciduous trees near your house though, if you aren't prepared to spend some time cleaning out dead leaves from spouting.

You must also be careful that any trees you choose to plant, both deciduous and evergreen, will not have invasive roots that will cause damage to the house, garage or pathways; or will not be dangerous, for example by dropping branches onto buildings, vehicles or the outdoor living areas.

You must also be careful that you don't get too much shade. This may have the effect of making the outdoor living area too dark and gloomy. Other smaller plants may have difficulty in growing and the area doesn't dry out readily.


Garden furniture is a garden feature that sets the tone or style that you are endeavouring to create. For example, in a cottage garden you could choose romantic cast iron tables and chairs painted in a heritage colour, or furniture made from Cedar, teak or Jarrah that has been designed to blend with the garden but still remain a feature.

Garden furniture comes in all shapes, forms and prices; items from $10 or so to several thousands of dollars, so selecting furnishings can be a challenge. Furniture can be made from a variety of different materials including:

PVC, timber, metal, glass (table tops), fibreglass, and various fabrics or a mixture of these materials. Plastic and fibreglass materials are popular in modern gardens and homes .This furniture looks good on paved patios as part of the outdoor entertaining area and around swimming pools. The quality, comfort, and durability of this furniture does vary greatly. Some will deteriorate under UV light, some are very uncomfortable to sit on, particularly in hot sticky weather; others are extremely comfortable, resist every extreme of weather and last for decades.

Timber furniture is often best suited to informal garden styles such as the native garden which requires a rustic appearance or for a softer appearance in a fern garden or even in undercover swimming pool areas that are surrounded by ferns or palms. This type of furniture also varies a lot in both comfort and quality. Some expensive, durable timbers such as teak and jarrah will last a lifetime, while other woods (eg. radiata pine) may rot after one season if not properly treated with preservative.

Cast iron furniture has become very popular in recent years particular for cottage gardens or gardens that take on a more formal appearance. It is heavy and not the best to be moved about frequently, but it is solid, and can last a very long time if looked after. There is sometimes a problem with rust, particularly in seaside areas, but that can be treated.

Often materials are combined (eg. glass as a table top on a metal or timber frame, or fabric to as a seat supported by a metal, pvc or timber frame).

This style of furniture is excellent for not only conveying a style but is often more easily transported around the garden making your whole garden a place of enjoyment. You can shop around for this style of furniture as there are often bargains to be had, where as teak jarrah or cedar are often expensive even though it is on special on occasions.

When purchasing outdoor furniture you need to consider how much seating you need for family or friends. Consider portability for the times you need a lot more. and keep stackable or foldable chairs stored. Look at the comfort of the furniture, it may look great but could you sit on it for a long time, and will it fit in to the garden décor. Your garden features such as a low walls could become part of the seating when you have a lot of guests. Garden furniture is not only a functional item in the garden but part of the overall garden design .


The BBQ is an important feature of the outdoor life style. The BBQ is often built in to our outdoor entertaining areas. They can be permanently built into the entertaining area or are moveable, and able to be wheeled or carried in and out of a shed or garage. The permanent BBQ is a fixture which you will always have to look at, so it should be carefully planned and located in a part of the garden where it both looks good and is functional. Think carefully about prevailing winds and don't build it where smoke will always blow over the washing line or into the outdoor living area.

Portable bbq's such as a kettle oven or gas bbq on wheels have the advantage of being able to be moved out of site when required, moved to a different location if preferred, and sold if you ever wish to upgrade to a better BBQ

Whatever you use, a bench or table is needed close by to sit food, tools and the obligatory stubby on. This makes the job of cooking both easier and more pleasant.

Need Help?

Take advantage of our personalised, expert course counselling service to ensure you're making the best course choices for your situation.

I agree for ACS Distance Education to contact me and store my information until I revoke my approval. For more info, view our privacy policy.