This is just my interpretation of some of the outdoor living trends I see around the traps.
Make of it what you will. Here I give my overall view.
In later posts, I’ll look at individual gardens from the various shows to highlight the trends with some spectacular examples.
As I see it, our lives are still colored by the current economies of the world. Many of us are struggling and the rest of us are approaching our lives with caution. Heavy spending on lifestyle is not really on the agenda and saving is.
As a part of this, our homes are becoming increasingly more important. And so we are changing the way we live to make sure our homes really are where our hearts live. Just because we’re saving doesn’t mean we’re not refurbishing our homes. We’re just being clever about it.
And this feeling of home is strongly supported by a feeling that this planet also needs care. And caring for our environment starts small, in the home.
Finally, we’re all really very busy, so although the home is becoming even more central to our lives, it doesn’t mean we want to spend every moment looking after it – our home needs to look after itself to a degree.
Some of these lifestyle trends have been growing faster and faster for many years and my take on these is outlined in ‘Overall Themes’ below. Others are stylistic reflections of where we are now and will change over the next year or two. The section on ‘Style’ gives my take.
Thrift with panache
Recycle, up-cycle, thrift shop goods are all important. This is an eclectic style, mixing new and contemporary with used and old – very old in some cases.
I love this table seen in Meyer – the table and chairs must have come from a thrift shop – the new product for sale was shown off to perfection.
The Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show this year gave examples of this look in almost every exhibit. Some exhibits even held this as a core theme. Used materials don’t have to look used. Some of the exhibits were very smart.
Conserve what’s important to the planet in your local area. In most parts of Australia, this is water and so water harvesting and water hardy gardens are becoming more important.
Use the best natural materials you can afford
Where you can, use the best natural materials available. Natural local stone and gravel, recycled brick, weathered metal, all featured in exhibit gardens.
Probably the most striking material used in many gardens in the Melbourne Show was weathered metal, cut out into shapes and with decoration to give it that Gothic look.
Using the best you can afford, especially for structural elements of your garden, will save in the long run because they will always look great and will weather all the use you can throw at them. This applies even if you are renting and need to make your garden in containers so you can move it as you move on.
Shop locally and grow your own
Even if it is just a pot of herbs, growing your own vegies is a trend on the rise. How great to eat fresh organic food from your own balcony or garden and the taste of fresh herbs can lift the simplest meal.
And, support your local farmers by shopping at the local community market or join your local land share group to grow food in areas otherwise unused and unloved. Keep the food miles down and enjoy the different taste of fresh and seasonal.
Ways to make this move easier and easier were scattered around the Melbourne Show.
Make it easy and, even if it’s not, make it look easy (comfortable)
Everything came down to making looking after the garden easy. Plant selection was limited to a few hardy and easy to look after species. Seasonal color and vegetables were added in small easy to manage bursts. Surfaces were simple to look after. Color and texture were added with paint, natural materials and clever plantings. And nothing was overdone.
Simplicity and uniformity were key to every exhibit.
And everything looked inviting and comfortable.
Well there were exceptions. I can’t imagine the mattresses on some of the daybeds were all that practical. But then, there are ways around keeping mattresses dry in the market today.
The shorter term trends that reflect these large movements lie in the way we use ‘Color and Decor’ these days. These are the things which define the Style of the year.
We’re definitely moving away from minimalist into something more colorful, earthy, organic and textural. But order and strong form still hold everything together. And where has the Gothic look come from?
In most garden books, garden style will be divided into things like Cottage, Formal and Informal.
I can’t do this. It’s too restricting. And I don’t think most modern garden designers limit themselves in this way.
In Melbourne, every garden used elements of all these traditional styles mixed with styling trends used in interior design and art. This is how modern outdoor living spaces are put together.
If there is an over reaching style it is ‘easy to live in’.
Every garden in the Melbourne Show had a strong underlying theme. Each also had a strong formal structure in the way the usable spaces, linking paths and garden beds were designed. Every garden had a strong limited selection of plants which were used in blocks to give texture and enhance form. Decoration in the form of furniture, water features, garden art or special planting was limited and carefully chosen to support the theme.
But then this formality and limited color and plant palette was softened in almost every case with curves and balls, bubbling water, soft blousy planting, use of texture, natural materials and soft inviting cushions. And each had a focal fireplace of some kind.
I have to say also; nearly all the gardens had a touch of the Gothic about them. I guess this reflects the movies we watch, the books we read and the fashion trends in the high street today. Weathered metals, used materials, decadent planting and places to sleep or chill. If colour was used at all in Melbourne – it tended to be red or orange.
Take the inside out
This is not a theme I’ve come across too much but it must form the core of every outdoor living space design. Usually, inside living spaces will flow out into the garden or onto the patio or balcony. And the easiest way to link them is to carry the most important styling elements so they flow out also.
If permanent features like paving, walls, screens are in materials which complement the house and the internal decor, they will give you the easiest area to work with in the long term.
This will mean you can change outdoor decor in the future, and still keep the area looking as though it flows from the house.
Color in plants reflects this theme. Hot plants are those with black, amber or deep red foliage paired with lime. Soothing greens with striking shades of tropical colors work well. Amber Heuchera paired with orange or pink flower carpet roses make a fantastic statement. If you are to use flowers, go for rich gem colors. Above all remember, the statement made by plant texture is almost more important.
Jason Hodges in his garden Spare Change dealt with this really well.
Keep an eye on future posts to see how it is done.
Only finally select your decor items.
Use these sparingly to enhance your theme. Strong items used in Melbourne included:
- Wall panels
- Cut out weathered metal
- Fountains and water features
- Recycled or ultra-modern furniture
- Specimen and feature plantings
- Plant containers – there are some amazing pots out there
- Garden statues
Images of Garden Decor litter this site. Keep your eyes out for the pieces you love.