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How to inject colour & personality into your outdoor space

Using the colour wheel for more than just planting

Dramatic gardens and landscapes really boil down to a successful combination of three elements; texture, contrast and of course, colour.

Naturally, this does not stop at the planting, with hard landscaping, art and water all potential components to be thrown into the mix.

But a quick ‘open gardens’ tour soon reveals that many outdoor spaces are often seriously let down by the poor selection of furniture within them. Perhaps the budget got spent before that element was decided upon or the brief studiously ignored it, however the choice of furniture and in particular the colours, should always be part of the weaponry used to make a desirable impact.

Some outdoor furniture manufacturers such as the Lyon-based Fermob (so much more these days than the ‘iron manufacturer’ that its name derives from) offer a wide choice of standard colours, virtually off-the-shelf (23 in 2016). Combine this with diverse styles and it powerfully enables a wide variety of options to mix and match or contrast with the planting and landscaping scheme.

But how to use it?

Perhaps the easiest and safest option of all is to choose furniture of one colour or a even monochromatic blend of different shades. Dramatic effects can still be achieved with this approach. But to carry it off successfully and really add to the outdoor space, the colour choice really needs to be bold and preferably not a neutral shade unless the rest of the space is a riot of colour.

If your client wants to play safe with colour, try mixing different chair styles of the same colour. Often a colour pallet is available across many different styles from the manufacturer, but do check to make sure it is the same colour which usually has a number and name. The effect can actually look like a carefully curated collection of gorgeous junkyard classics particularly if close attention is paid to the chair legs.

However, more adventurous souls can opt for a combination of colours just as you would in a bed or border. If you still want to play safe, choose darker neutral shades such as shades of russett, greens or greys for the table (particularly if large) and then use the colour wheel to combine chair colours for maximum impact. Analogous colours or complementary colours work well as the palettes manufacturers use are often designed to work together. For instance, all the colours within the Fermob palette can be found in nature. They are refreshed every year with one or two new ones and thus it is not difficult to ensure that the furniture sits beautifully at home in its space.

In winter time when much of the brighter natural colour has gone, the furniture is then a beacon of hope to remind one of spring and summer bliss to come.

Use your furniture partners experience much as you would a plant nursery to advise what works well in specific spaces and ask them to create 3D visuals of the combinations for you.

Using the right colours throughout your space will make an ordinary scheme a great one.

We would love to hear about your experiments with using furniture colour in the garden - send us some pictures please!

This is an extract of an article written by me for Landscape and Urban Design Magazine and due to be published in their August/September issue.

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